Jean Harlow, Horror “Almost-Icon” Birthday is March 3

A dull, wet, residually snowy day today in which, at least as far as news for this blog is concerned, the universe itself seems almost to have stopped.  So it has been for the last few weeks, although not necessarily that odd — publications and writing seem somehow to need to wait for warm weather at times, much like groundhogs and March hares.

But there is one item that might be reported, a curiosity as it were even if a little peripheral in itself to horror.  Today is the birthday of actress Jean Harlow, Hollywood’s original “Blonde Bombshell,” in 1911.  Dying young of a cerebral edema, a complication of kidney failure in 1937, she was nevertheless one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the mid-1930s, playing against such actors as William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Robert Taylor, and (six times) Clark Gable.  Her film credits include HELL’S ANGELS (the World War I flying film from Howard Hughes, prior to her moving to MGM), THE PUBLIC ENEMY (with James Cagney), PLATINUM harlow-jean-mediumBLONDE, RED-HEADED WOMAN, DINNER AT EIGHT, BOMBSHELL, and THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI.

But then there’s the movie she did not make, the one that might have made her a horror icon as well.  To quote the actress who did win the role:  “When [filmmaker Merian Cooper] learned that Willis O’Brien was doing animation with miniature figures at RKO, he began to entertain the idea of doing a homegrown studio-made movie and the thought of one great gorilla became bigger and bigger.  This one would be discovered in a jungle and brought back to civilization — to his downfall.  A girl (of course a blond girl) would be part of the discovering expedition.  For a while he had thought of Jean Harlow but recently had decided they could put a blond wig on me.”  (Fay Wray, ON THE OTHER HAND, A LIFE STORY, New York, 1989, p. 125)

And there you have it, a tale of the almost-first girlfriend of  KING KONG.


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