Jean Harlow epitomizes the essence of old Hollywood glamour and stardom. Although she died young, she has an immortal presence that has lasted for over 70 years. Perhaps it’s because we never saw her grow old. Her youthfulness, beauty, and sexuality are all perfectly preserved as if she were truly alive and breathing. Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) is a loving and dedicated tribute to “The Baby.” The book is filled with photos from author Darrell Rooney’s personal collection (one of the most complete Harlow collections in existence),and a well written biography by Mark A. Vieira that only a fan could compose. Vieira describes Harlow as intelligent, well-read, friendly, and loving–and always seeking love.
Harlow rose to stardom in Hollywood rather quickly, had a solid work ethic, and always did what the studio asked of her. Although she often portrayed women of a certain character, audiences absolutely loved her. This proved to be especially true when her second husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, committed suicide. A scandal of this sort was considered a career killer, but not in Harlow’s case. She had achieved ultimate star status and was granted a level of immunity.
In addition to various marital/relationship troubles, Harlow had a controlling and demanding mother. Jean Bello regularly took advantage of her famous daughter, often without Harlow even recognizing it. Vieira largely portrays Mother Jean and her husband Marino Bello (Harlow’s step-father) in a less than positive light, as he should. All accounts state that the Bellos were greedy, manipulative, and exploited Harlow for their own personal gain.
Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) is one of the most beautiful and thoughtfully designed books I have ever read. From her first days in Hollywood, to her final photo shoot with friend Clark Gable, and ending with her devastatingly premature death, Rooney and Vieira manage to capture the essence of Harlow’s spirit. The photo for the front cover features a goddess-like Harlow in a slinky satin gown–her trademark. What lies within that cover exceeds even the highest expectations. Each page is filled with lovely photos, some rare, of Harlow and her family, friends, and co-stars. The attention to detail is noticed in even the smallest touches, like the design for the page numbers, font, and coloring.
I did not want to put this book down. I stayed up very late to finish it, and when I was done I was in tears. It haunted me. When I fell asleep I dreamed of Harlow’s death. When I woke in the morning, I felt like I had been right there with her. As I wrote in my review of the stellar Judy: A Legendary Film Career, I am often hesitant to embrace so-called “gift books.” Many times, these types of books feature low quality photos and text. Fortunately, that is not the case here. Harlow in Hollywood is an essential for Jean Harlow and classic film fans alike.
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Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937)
Angel City Press
Full disclosure: I received a copy of Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) directly from the publisher Angel City Press. I thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.