Monday, October 19, 2009

Jean Harlow Films @ the Brattle

Okay, okay. I should have really titled this post Victor Fleming Films @ the Brattle but I didn't go to the Brattle because of Victor Fleming, I went because of my darling Jean Harlow. The Brattle Theatre was showcasing 2 Victor Fleming films, Bombshell (1933) and Red Dust (1932). Michael Sragow, author of the book Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master, was there to talk about his book and the Fleming films. The big coincidence here is that even though these are Fleming films, Jean Harlow happens to star in both. I wish I had stayed for Sragow's talk and Q&A, but it was a miserable day outside and a big crockpot full of beef stew was waiting for me at home.

I did however get to see Bombshell (1933) on the big screen with my beau Carlos and what a treat it was! Jean Harlow plays Lola Burns, a superstar blonde bombshell who graces the cover of every movie magazine read by her legions of fans. You'd think she has it all but she's surrounded by leeches. Her drunkard father and brother are gambling away her millions and her assistant (Una Merkel) is helping herself to Burns' wardrobe and everything else. The worst of them all is publicist/reporter Hanlon (Lee Tracy) who is so hell-bent on getting lots of juicy gossip and keeping Lola Burns on the headlines of newspapers that he willingly sabotages Burns' life whenever he can.

The film has a lot of rapid-fire dialogue. So much so, that it's very easy to miss a lot of great one-liners. It's a film that begs several viewings. In fact, they cram so much dialogue that when there is a moment of silence in the film it seems very strange, like the silence is out of place. The audience at the Brattle seemed to enjoy Franchot Tone's performance the best. He plays Burns' fake lover and the cheesy lines he uses to woo Burns made the audience laugh out loud.

Bombshell is not available on DVD and TCM shows it on occassion. So it's really a treat to have been able to see this on the big screen (I had seen it once before on a TCM Harlow marathon). I'm glad Carlos was willing to trudge through the cold rain, which later became snow, to see this hilarious film with me at the Brattle. And how lucky am I that there is a local repertory theatre like the Brattle that will show films like this to the public.


  1. wow they sure picked 2 good ones! Bombshell is totally insane and very funny! Lee Tracy is certainly of the fastest talkers in screen history. if you ever see it listed at TCM be sure and catch "Blessed Event" with him and Dick Powell (in his screen debut). Maybe you've seen it already? What can i say about Red Dust, it's one of my fave Gable films ever and it may be Harlow's best. she certainly looked awesome that's for sure! Victor Fleming...hmmmm, what do you say about the guy who directed Gone with the Wind AND Wizard of Oz both in the same year! plus he had an affair with Clara Bow...dont know how much cooler he can get, nope i just dont know ;)

  2. I love the part where Tone says he wants to run through Harlow's hair! These are my two favorite Harlow movies. I can't understand why they aren't on DVD; they're so much better than most of the stuff they choose to put out.

  3. Yay! I love anything starring Jean, though I think this movie was close to her heart since it was the film the most closely resembled her real life. Her mom and stepfather were a pair of free-loading vultures!!! Poor girl. She shined despite her sad life which was far too short.

  4. Jean Harlow has always been one of my favourites. And I love Bombshell. I love the rapid fire dialogue and the in jokes. It is funny how much pop culture clout this movie has--the popularity of the term "blonde bombshell," originally used of Harlow, stems from this film! It's only too bad it's not out on DVD yet.

  5. yup--two great ones!

    Harlow's Vantine is one of the great heroines, exploding all of those stale ideas about what a "bad girl" is

    and I could listen to that woman talk to her dog "Barko" (in Bombshell) forever!

  6. Artman - No I haven't seen Blessed Event. Thanks for the heads up! Victor Fleming had an affair with Norma Shearer too. Hee hee.

    KC - Yes the audience LOL'd at Tone's line for sure. That was a gem.

    Meredith - I hadn't thought of the connection between Harlow's real life and her Bombshell character but you are so right!!!

    Mercurie - And so many people don't know that Marilyn Monroe was inspired by Jean Harlow too. Harlow is definitely the original Blonde Bombshell.

    David - I prefer Harlow's Red Dust to Ava Gardner's Mogambo, hands down!!!

  7. I guess Vic was a busy bee huh? lol!
    i agree red dust IS a better film overall than mogambo but i really love Ava in that flm. it may be her finest hour actually, she steals the film imo (no easy feat considering the cast) and she looks absolutely incredible to boot. both films are worthy of multiple viewings though!


Leave me a comment! If it is a long one, make sure you save a draft of it elsewhere just in case Google gobbles it up and spits it out.

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook