Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Jean Harlow

More than any other actress, I adore Jean Harlow.

That's she been sometimes unfairly overlooked by modern audiences is annoying.

While I think the idea that she is some sort of precursor to Marilyn Monroe is a silly one, I also have to acknowledge that, without Jean and her on-screen persona, there would never have been a Marilyn.

Still, Jean was worldly and sassy where Marilyn was innocent and sweet.

Marilyn Monroe, to her credit as an actress, was quite good at playings gals who had no idea how sexy they were; Jean played gals who knew exactly how sexy they were.

Not only that, they knew how to use it.

Jean excelled at playing the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold, an archetype that was probably tired even in the 1930s, but she brought a real vulnerability to those roles.

And a good deal of humor as well.

The audiences at the time surely understood that the girls Harlow was playing had all seen hard times and it didn't really matter what the backstories were for those characters; audiences accepted that those characters were using sex and wit as weapons to survive and succeed.

I'm sure that the first Jean film that I ever saw was most likely Dinner at Eight (1933) and that viewing as a kid was probably thanks to my grandfather's influence.

As of now, too few of Jean's films are available on DVD, with the most criminal omission being 1933's Bombshell.

I guess my hopes of her work hitting DVD shelves in time for her 100th birthday were unfounded.

Still, here's remembering the actress who so captivated me as a boy and who still amazes me as a viewer now.

Jean Harlow, March 3, 1911 - June 7, 1937.

Here's Jean playing a drinking game in 1935's China Seas...