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


DEADLY ILLUSIONS: JEAN HARLOW AND THE MURDER OF PAUL BERN. Samuel Marx and Joyce Vanderveen. Random House; 1990.

Samuel Marx was a friend of Paul Bern's and worked at MGM as a story editor at the time of Bern's death. For years he accepted the story that Bern committed suicide because it turned out there was already another woman in his life and a scandal might have derailed both his career and his wife, Jean Harlow's. Paul Bern was horrendously slandered as a monster, abuser, and so on in a phony biography of Harlow as well as two films inspired by it. This book dispels the notions that Bern was impotent (he is described by one doctor  as being "underdeveloped," but not in an abnormal way)  and beat Harlow out of frustration, or that he had no interest in women to begin with. Marx makes clear that the often negative (for the time) rumors about Bern stubbornly persisted for decades with reporters taking the old bio and films as gospel. Dorothy Millette had been involved with Bern years earlier, when she had to be committed to an institution and Bern provided her continual support (and indeed performed many acts of kindness for others). Then Dorothy was released, however delusional, and made her way to Hollywood, expecting she and Bern would continue their relationship and he would groom her for stardom. Unfortunately  ... Marx and Vanderveen make a convincing case that Louis B. Mayer and underlings covered up the murder of Paul Bern in this interesting bio-crime story.

Verdict: Fast read with interesting information. ***.


angelman66 said...

This one looks good, too...Bill, do you think Bern killed himself or did Jean do the deed? Some people say she did, and MGM publicity director Howard Strickland covered the whole thing up...I need to read more before I can have an opinion...

William said...

Don't think our adorable Jean committed murder. I think she left the histrionics for the screen, LOL! It was another lady in Bern's life.