Tag Archives: Clark Gable

Femme Fatales | Jean Harlow

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatales Jean Harlow Red-Headed Woman

Harlean Harlow Carpenter (March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937) (via doctormacro.com)

“When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

Jean Harlow, commonly called ‘the Blonde Bombshell’ or ‘the Platinum Blonde,’ was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter on March 3rd, 1911. So much has been said about her illustrious career and iconic sex appeal that I won’t claim this article to be an exhaustive biography– But! I would like to dwell for a few paragraphs on some of (what I found to be) the most interesting aspects and intricacies of her incredible life. I hope you’ll appreciate the reflection and forgive me the authorial liberty I take in ignoring broad strokes of her history.

In retrospect, the commanding presence of this little blonde lady from Kansas City Missouri during the 1930s is indeed remarkable. At that point in American Film, she was undoubtedly the most sexually magnetic actress on the silver screen– and having achieved this reputation at such a young age her future had the appearance of all the worldly splendor fame provides. Sadly renal failure at age 26 robbed her of this, and robbed the clamouring masses likewise. (Renal failure, for those curious, is when your kidneys no longer adequately filter waste products from the blood).

As a child in Kansas, she was nicknamed “The Baby,” and this sobriquet stuck with her until her death. Oddly enough, she didn’t learn that her name was Harlean and not “Baby” until she was five years old when she was enrolled in finishing school. When her mother and father divorced in 1922, “Baby” moved with her mother Jean to Hollywood (who hoped to become an actress herself, but was considered too old). Although she bounced back to Kansas, then Michigan, then Illinois, she would return to Los Angeles as a married woman in 1928. Her husband, Chuck McGrew, was heir to fortune, and she embraced the life of a socialite in LA (I’m told she did quite well for herself).

She made friends with an aspiring actress and was spotted and approached by Fox executives while sitting in her car outside a casting. Rather against her will, she was roped into auditioning and accepting several minor roles by her persistant mother (who at that time lived nearby). These films were not wildly successful and she struggled to gain traction, and it was during this time period that she was divorced from McGrew but everything changed in 1931 when she was cast with Loretta Young in Platinum Blonde.

In a stroke of marketing genius Howard Hughes publicity machine coined Harlow’s hair color ‘platinum’and created a bleaching craze accross the nation. As a result, “Baby’s” personal appearances were packed, excited affairs (and all this in spite of critical disgust for her acting ability).

Superstardom arrived at MGM– when she was signed for a contract and given the leading role in Red-Headed Woman (again with the hair, right?) She began to star opposite powerful leading men; six films with Clark Gable, a few with Spencer Tracy and William Powell. Apparently she even helped a few up-and-comers get started: Robert Taylor and Franchot Tone.

Let’s talk femme fatale appeal– MGM tried to change her public persona, they were angling for a more mainstream ‘apple pie’ look, but they couldn’t quell the nation’s hunger for the brash, poised, and sexual Platinum Harlow.

Her second husband, Paul Bern, was found shot dead in their home, and there were rumors that Harlow had committed the crime herself but none of the accusations stuck. The scandal only propelled her further into stardom.

She began an illicit affair with a married boxer named Max Baer (any of this starting to sound torn from the pages of the pulp rags?)– she was even censured in their divorce proceedings as an adultress. To save face, MGM arranged a marriage between Harlow and Harold Rosson (a cinematographer)– it worked, and Harlow and Rosson were able to discreetly divorce several months later.

During these subsequent scandals, Harlow was still acting prolifically and James Stewart (who was opposite her in Wife vs. Secretary) shares one of my favorite “Blonde Bombshell” stories:

“Clarence Brown, the director, wasn’t too pleased by the way I did the smooching. He made us repeat the scene about half a dozen times…I botched it up on purpose. That Jean Harlow sure was a good kisser. I realized that until then I had never been really kissed.”

In 1937 her health took a serious dive that ended with her in a coma. She never woke up. Like the beautiful sirens of Poe’s visions, she was stolen in the full flush of youth. Thus she’ll will remain in her beauty forever, whilst we are steeped in woe.

I’m proud to add her to the side-bar line up of immortal dames on noirwhale.com

“My God, must I always wear a low-cut dress to be important?”

Jean Harlow George Hurrell 1933 Dinner At Eight

by George Hurrell (Dinner At Eight, 1933) (via doctormacro.com)

Femme Fatale Jean Harlow

(via doctormacro.com)

Actress Jean Harlow

12th August 1932 by Clarence Sinclair Bull (via doctormacro.com)

American actress Jean Harlow

15th June 1932 (via doctormacro.com)

Hells Angels Jean Harlow

by Margaret Chute, Hell’s Angels 1930 (via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Blonde Bombshell

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Platinum Blonde

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow femme fatale

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Actress

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow film noir

(via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Smokes

(via thingscanhope.tumblr.com)

Jean Harlow Swim Suit

1934 (via doctormacro.com)

Jean Harlow Clark Gable Red Dust 1932

with Clark Gable in Red Dust 1932 (via doctormacro.com)

Femme Fatale Jean Harlow

(via shhshesabombshell.tumblr.com)

Jean Harlow Femme Fatale

(via marisacm55.tumblr.com)

*All biographical details obtained from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Harlow

*Quotes obtained from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jean_harlow.html

2 Comments

Filed under Femme Fatales

Femme Fatales | Lana Turner

The “Femme Fatale” segment on NoirWhale.com is designed to highlight the life and merits of exceptional film noir actresses. These women are the embodiment of the femme fatale archetype, and propel possibly the most recognizable and integral theme in the noir genre.

Femme Fatales Lana Turner

Lana Turner (February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) (via listal.com)

“A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.”

Lana was born Julia Jean Turner in Wallace, Idaho. As a girl, she was lovingly called “Judy” by family and friends, but changed her name when she became a professional actress at 16. Her father, John Turner, was a miner from Tennessee who was murdered at age 27. Money problems had forced the family to move to San Francisco, and John had started gambling in an effort to bring home extra earnings. It’s believed that on December 14th in 1930, he won a bit of cash at a traveling craps game and stashed it in his left sock. He never made it home. Later, his body was found on a street corner, left shoe and sock missing. Tragically, the murder was never solved.

Famously, Lana caught her big break at a Hollywood drug store. She was skipping a typing class and decided to stop into the Top Hat Cafe located on Sunset Boulevard for a Coca-Cola. She was spotted by William R. Wilkerson (The Hollywood Reporter), who then referred her to Zeppo Marx. Lana was signed and cast quickly in her first film: They Won’t Forget (1937). Her form-fitting attire in the film earned her the nickname “The Sweater Girl”– a nickname which she hated.

Ms. Turner became wildly famous in the 1940s and 1950s due to her roles in such films as: Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Johnny Eager (1942), and Slightly Dangerous (1943)– her popularity and extreme beauty casting her as a favorite pin-up girl for our servicemen overseas. But Lana didn’t truly become a femme fatale until after the war.

She co-starred opposite John Garfield in the immensely successful film noir, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) (a James Cain adaptation). Even though she received critical praise as an actress for the first time, she famously complained about Garfield’s appearance, saying “Couldn’t they at least hire someone attractive?”

In 1957, Lana began a relationship with mobster Johnny Stompanato, a man known for his good looks and ties to Mickey Cohen in the L.A. criminal underworld. She tried several times to end their affair, but Johnny wouldn’t have it. They argued incessantly, and he frequently beat her up.

“In the fall of 1957, Stompanato followed Turner to England where she was filming Another Time, Another Place (1958) costarring Sean Connery. Afraid that Turner was having an affair with Connery, Stompanato stormed onto the set brandishing a gun. Connery punched Stompanato’s jaw once and took away his gun. Stompanato was soon deported by Scotland Yard for the incident.”

On an infamous night in April 1958, Johnny and Lana had an especially violent argument at her house in Beverly Hills. As it escalated, Lana’s 14 year old daughter Cheryl began to fear for her mother’s life. Hefting a kitchen knife, Cheryl ran to Lana’s aid, stabbing Mr. Stompanato–killing him. The event was tabloid fodder overnight, but the courts ruled it justifiable homicide in light of Lana’s dramatic testimony. Observers have said, “her testimony that day was the acting performance of her life.”

Notoriously, Turner was married eight times to seven different husbands: Artie Shaw, Joseph Stephen Crane, Henry J. Topping Jr., Lex Barker, Fred May, Robert P.Eaton, and Ronald Pellar. She said late in her life, “My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.” (Joseph Stephen Crane is the father of her daughter Cheryl). Sadly, in 1982 Lana’s memoir revealed that she had been through three stillbirths and two abortions. She also acknowledges her struggle with alcoholism and attempted suicide.

In true femme fatale fashion, Lana Turner was a heavy smoker, and it eventually killed her. She died of complications from throat cancer in 1995.

Tragically, Lana didn’t only act in noir films, she lived a noir life. She added to the genre immensely with The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), but she couldn’t escape the genre in her personal life.

“A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend. A successful woman is one who can find such a man.”

Lana Turner in Color

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner in Red

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner in Pink

(via stirredstraightup.blogspot.com)

Lana Turner Femme Fatale

(via magicmonkeyboy.blogspot.com)

Actress Lana Turner

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Smoking

(via listal.com)

Smoking Lana Turner

(via listal.com)

Femme Fatales Lana Turner

(via lovethoseclassicmovies.blogspot.com)

Lana Turner Pin-up

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Pinup

(via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner

(via listal.com)

Sweater Girl Lana Turner

“The Sweater Girl” (via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Stephen Crane Cheryl

Lana Turner, Stephen Crane, and Cheryl

Lana Turner Ava Gardner

Lana Turner lights Ava Gardner’s cigarette (via lanaturner.org)

Lana Turner Clark Gable

Lana Turner and Clark Gable (via lanaturner.org)

John Garfield Lana Turner

John Garfield and Lana Turner (via listal.com)

The Postman Always Rings Twice Lana Turner

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) (via listal.com)

Lana Turner Johnny Stompanato

Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato (via latimesblogs.latimes.com)

Lana Turner Femme Fatale

(lanaturner.org)

*All biographical details were obtained from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lana_Turner

*All quotes were obtained from:

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/lana_turner.html

1 Comment

Filed under Femme Fatales