My top flips into my Flipboard magazines this week, whether the articles are new or old. Read more of my magazines at my Flipboard profile.
Harlean, Jean, and Serious Mommy Issues: The Truth Behind Jean Harlow by Carley Johnson at The Black Maria
Carley’s personal site is called “The Kitty Packard Pictorial,” and I first “met” her when she asked me (then writing for Row Three) to contribute to a Jean Harlow blogathon she was organizing for what would’ve been Harlow’s 100th birthday. This year would have been Harlow’s 103rd birthday, and it’s no surprise to find a simply wonderful piece about her from Carley. I’ve enjoyed the Harlow films I have seen, but other than broad strokes, I wasn’t that familiar with her life. This focused biographical overview was enlightening and very saddening – and Carley writes with such poignancy that I was in tears by the end. It’s easily the best thing I read this week.
She was a natural comedienne with a gift for belting out the difficult, rapid-fire dialogue that made some of the best films of the mid 1930s truly unforgettable. She was not, even by her own admission, a great actress and because of this awareness Harlow worked hard at her craft and eventually would successfully hone her screen personality into one of the most enduring in motion picture history: the sassy, saucy girl from the wrong side of the tracks. But Jean Harlow’s on screen character belied the real girl underneath. She was not Dinner at Eight’s common-as-the cold Kitty Packard, nor Red Headed Woman’s amoral Lil Andrews. Born Harlean Carpenter on March 3, 1911, she was a shy dentist’s daughter with a heart of gold from a perfectly respectable middle class Kansas City family. She was an actress simply because it was her job and would have been quite happy darning socks for a household of little Harleans.