Monday, February 25, 2002


I've always liked Jean Harlow as a personality, but in BOMBSHELL, she proves she can really act. Like many screwballish comedies, the movie wears out its welcome about halfway through, but Harlow more than carries the picture. She has some very good long-take scenes where she rises to wonderful pitches of anger or hysteria. She was only 22 when she made this film; I seriously doubt that any of today's actresses could give such a solid performance at that age--Paltrow? No. Cameron Diaz? No. Bullock or Roberts? I don't think so.

It also does some interesting stuff with self-reference that wasn't done much back then. The plot, about a star who lives with her leeching family and puts up with an overactive agent, has some reference points in common with Harlow's own life (especially the family situation). There's also a scene where the Harlow character, an actress named Lola Burns, is reshooting a scene in a movie to placate the Hays code folks. If I heard correctly, they call the movie RED DUST and mention Clark Gable, and the scene she re-shoots is reminiscent of a real scene she did in that real movie.

Other quick notes about it: I think I don't much like Lee Tracy, or maybe it's just that I always see him play unlikeable characters. His character is hateful, but we're supposed to like him by the end--I did not. And there were a few racy jokes, the best one involving Louise Beavers, as Harlow's maid. She comes in wearing an evening wrap instead of a negligee, telling Harlow that her negligee had "got all torn up" the other night. Harlow replies, "You're mighty hard on your negligees on your days off." Beavers smiles. In acknowledging that servants (and black women in particular) had sex lives, it was ahead of its time. The presence of some solid supporting players (Frank Morgan, Franchot Tone, Una Merkel) is also a plus.

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