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Jean Harlow was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter in Kansas City, Missouri in 1911. Her parents were unhappily married, and her mother devoted her entire life to her only child Harlean, whom she called "Baby". When she was 11, her parents divorced, and she moved with her mother to Hollywood, where her mother wanted to become an actress, but she had little success, and two years later they returned to Kansas City. In 1927, when Harlean was 16, she married an heir to a fortune who was two months under 21, the age when he would inherit the money. Once he did, they moved to Beverly Hills. Harlean was noticed by Fox executives and took a screen test under her mother's maiden name of Jean Harlow. She was given some bit parts, and then signed a contract with Hal Roach, and she was in three Laurel & Hardy movies, but then separated from her husband and left Roach, and moved in with her mother and mom's new husband. After some more minor roles, she was signed to play the female lead in Hell's Angels, which was already shot. But the movie had been made as a silent, and Howard Hughes made the decision to re-shoot the entire movie with sound, and since female star Greta Nissen, had a heavy Norwegian accent, she was replaced by Jean Harlow! Hell's Angels was a great success, and everyone noticed Harlow, especially in a color sequence where she wore a skimpy body hugging practically transparent dress! Harlow was under contract to Hughes, but after a major role in Platinum Blonde, she was signed by MGM, where she appeared in a series of romantic comedies, and some steamy sexy dramas, including Red Dust with Clark Gable. Harlow's personal life was a mess. She had gotten involved with MGM screenwriter Paul Bern, who was 22 years older than her. During the filming of Red Dust, Bern committed suicide, leaving a cryptic suicide note (or was he murdered?). Harlow soon married again, but that marriage was brief, and she had numerous affairs, most notably with William Powell. She also had to contend with numerous relatives who sponged off of her, most notably her mother, who was called Mama Jean. Harlow made a total of 16 movies at MGM between 1932 and 1937, and many of them are really excellent movies. One of her best roles was in the multi-star Dinner at Eight in 1933. Tragically, she became sick during the filming of Saratoga, and she died of kidney failure, at just 26 years of age! Harlow was the original blonde bombshell, and one of her movies was called "Bombshell" and was also released as "Blonde Bombshell". She exuded a combination of sexiness and innocence that no other female star ever did (at least until Marilyn Monroe came along two decades later). I highly recommend seeing her movies. She may not have been a great actress, but she is always very entertaining to watch!
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