By the time Jean Harlow starred in Bombshell she had already been in 12 movies within the last 4 years. Among them Red Dust, The Public Enemy, Platinum Blonde and Red Headed Woman. She had crafted herself as a siren starlet, reckless, oversexed, and yet somehow…very enduring. Like any good actress in the 30’s she knew what people came to movies for and made sure that what was they got. Underneath the facade however was this lovely, childlike woman, maybe a little too smart for her britches, who really just wanted to make pictures.
In Bombshell, Jean seems to break out of her mold a little bit to remind everyone ( even if it does feel like a little typecasting) that actresses have feelings too, and thoughts all their own. Always able to deliver the comedic timing ( which we saw in Libeled Lady) Jean tackles this “fed up actress” script like the pro she is.
Firmly placed under the thumb of her publicist, Hanlon ( LeeTracy), Lola Burns ( Jean Harlow) is made to transform from one woman to the next with ease, all while supporting her freeloading family, fending off suitors, deciding whether or not she wants to be a mother, and all those other things that actually fill a woman’s life, regardless of whether or not she’s an actress on top of that. When her chance to impress the nuns from the orphanage goes bottoms up thanks to everyone else in her life, she decides she is through and declares that she quits!
Heading off to the wilds to rest her soul and retreat from stardom she finds she is bored out of her mind, but insists that all is as it should be. Along comes Franchot Tone, a sincere fellow who seems to share her interests and “doesn’t know” she is a starlet. Let the games begin. Lola is swiftly pulled along by the hopes of matrimony and her new life, when in drops Hanlon, pleading for her to return.
I love Jean in this film. The Red Dust scene pulls you in so that it feels like her real life. The longing to be a mother feels very real, and you wonder if Jean had these inklings during her short career. But what is perhaps most appreciated in this film is that it’s a no holds barred account of the starlet life. No one does this better than Jean. While this isn’t Personal Property, my absolute favorite Jean film, it definitely makes my top 3. Enjoy!