D.O.B.: March 13, 1911 (Kansas City, MI)
D.O.D.: June 7, 1937 (Los Angeles, CA)
Cause of Death: Uremic poisoning
Location: Forest Lawn Glendale; Great Mausoleum
Harlean Carpentier was the daughter of a successful dentist and his wife. In 1927, at the age of 16, Jean ran away from home and married a young business man named Charles McGrew who was 23. The couple pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles not long after they were wedded and it was there Jean found work as an extra in films. The marriage she had with McGrew turned out to be a disaster, so she divorced him. The union lasted barely two years. The divorce enabled Jean to put more of her efforts into finding roles in the film world.
Jean's big break came in 1930, when Howard Hughes was involved in a remake of his World War I epic, "Hell's Angels". It was the appearance of Jean that helped the movie to become a big smash. Not long after the film's debut, Hughes sold her contract to MGM, for $60,000 where her career took off to unprecedented heights. In 1931, Jean's appearance in "Platinum Blonde" solidified her role as America's new sex symbol.
1932 saw Jean paired with Clark Gable for the filming of "Red Dust". It would be the second of six films with the dashing Mr. Gable the first being "The Secret Six" in 1931. During the filming which took 44 days to complete at a cost of $408,000, word came that Jean's new husband, Paul Bern, had committed suicide. The death of Bern threatened production. Louis B. Mayer had even contacted Tallulah Bankhead to replace Jean if she were unable to continue. However, it proved to be unnecessary. The film was released late in 1932 and immediately became a hit. She was becoming a superstar.
In "Dinner at Eight" (1933) Jean was at her comedic best as the wife of a business tycoon (Wallace Beery) trying to take over another man's failing business played by Lionel Barrymore. Later that year Jean portrayed Lola Burns in Victor Fleming's hit "Bombshell". It was a Hollywood parody loosely based on Jean's real life experience, right down to her greedy stepfather.
In 1935, Jean was again teamed with Clark Gable for the production of "China Seas". It was her films with Gable that created her lasting legacy in the film world. Unfortunately, during the filming of "Saratoga", Jean was hospitalized for uremic poisoning. On June 7, 1937, Jean died from the disease. She was only 26. The film had to be finished by long angle shots using a double. Gable said he felt like he was in the arms of a ghost during the final touches of the film.
"Saratoga" (1937) Movie
"Libeled Lady" (1936) Movie
"Bombshell" (1933) Movie
Visit Lisa Burks' Wonderful Jean Harlow Site...
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