Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy 99th Birthday Jean Harlow

Hard as it might seem to imagine when reading this blog, but there was a time before Chinese films for me.

And perhaps my first non-monster movie/non-dinosaur/non-comic book obsession was Jean Harlow.

I'm sure the first thing I saw was Dinner at Eight (1933) on WTTG Channel 5's all night movie program some Friday or Saturday night in the 1970s.

I was lucky enough to grow up around an Archie Bunker-like grandfather -- but a Democratic Archie at least! -- who preferred the films of the 1930s over anything more modern, having worked in a movie palace in that golden era.

So, I knew who Jean Harlow was, I knew who Wallace Beery was, and I certainly knew most of Jean's regular costars, like Una Merkel, if not by name, than certainly from seeing them in scores of 1930s films.

But, I think I was about 11 or 12 before I finally caught Bombshell (1933) on cable.

Growing up in a country that venerates the dumb blonde -- and I was a child of the 1970s so I had Suzanne Somers and Farrah Fawcett thrown at me by the media on a daily basis -- I was so happy to finally see an altogether different kind of blonde; Jean's tirade in the clip below is still one of my very favorite sequences of film.

The film is largely a comedy but suddenly at this moment it turns a bit dramatic, though Frank Morgan is still funny. And, right on the verge of the scene being too serious, Jean ratchets up the indignation and kind of rides it for another minute -- her breath control as an actress with this much dialogue is just amazing!

Maybe next year, in 2011, when it would have been her 100th birthday, this film and a few more will finally be out on DVD.

Jean flips out in Bombshell (1933) -- start at 3:51 and go until 5:20!