Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


BOMBSHELL: The Life and Death of JEAN HARLOW. David Stenn. Doubleday; 1993.

After a scurrilous supposed biography of Harlow was published by Irving Shulman, there appeared two biopics about the star that were, unfortunately, in the same vein. Before "Bombshell" was published, there was Eve Golden's "Platinum Girl." a well-researched tome that refuted much that had been said and written about Harlow. "Platinum Girl" was published by Abbeville Press, while the more prestigious Doubleday came out with "Bombshell," automatically giving it more attention, although it is probably no better than Golden's tome. As for "Bombshell," it is a compact, well-written and very entertaining look at a talented lady whose screen image was not what she was actually like in real life (although her penchant for going without underwear and stripping un-self-consciously at the drop of  a hat might give one pause). The book explores Harlow's three failed marriages; the death of second husband Paul Bern (was it really necessary to include a crime scene photo of this tormented man's dead body?); her rather twisted relationship with her obsessive mother; and even a bit about her career. Not being a film historian or critic, Stenn doesn't deal that much with Harlow's actual films or her work on-screen. Still, this is a mostly credible look at the tragic life of this star who probably never had that much desire to even be in the movies. Harlow's films include Dinner at Eight and Reckless.

Verdict: Solid movie star bio. ***.


angelman66 said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Bill, I will definitely get this one. Will be great to compare and contrast to the Shulman version...especially the Paul Bern mystery...

William said...

Shulman's version is basically pure fiction, but it stuck for a long, long time.