On the Set with….the 2017 Edition!

Among our most popular posts here are the “On the Set” series showing legendary figures of Old Hollywood at work on the set of their films. It’s high time we posted a new round of photos – all in living color of course!

On the set of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923) director/producer Cecil B. De Mille (on the left) introduces the U.S. Secretary of War John Weeks to the Pharoah Rameses aka Charles De Roche:

The original Rin-Tin-Tin (1918-1932) and his owner Lee Duncan enjoy sunset on the beach in 1929:

John Barrymore at his magnificent Tower Road home in the Hollywood Hills circa 1930:

Clara Bow gives some swimming suggestions to her niece and nephew circa 1928:

Bette Davis and her dog do a bit of fishing on the San Clemente River in 1933:

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert join director Edmund Goulding and crew for a picnic lunch during outdoor filming on LOVE (1927):

Marion Davies is directed by Sam Wood on the set of THE FAIR CO-ED (1927):

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is the center of attention at the Hotel Manila in the Philippines during the filming of AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY MINUTES (1931):

Joan Crawford takes some movies of her own during filming for THE UNDERSTANDING HEART (1927):

Frank Borzage directs Spring Byington and Errol Flynn in THE GREEN LIGHT (1937):

Lupe Velez enjoys the beach during filming for HELL’S HARBOR (1930):

Producer/Star Mary Pickford with Allan Forest and Anders Randolf on DOROTHY VERNON OF HADDON HALL (1924):

Rootin’ tootin’ cowboy Humphrey Bogart (!) plays a Mexican bandit in VIRGINIA CITY (1940):

Glamorous Gloria Swanson is unglamorously washed ashore in MALE AND FEMALE (1919):

Director William Desmond Taylor, whose 1922 murder has never been solved, almost seems to be looking for his killer circa 1920:

Finally, Rin-Tin-Tin again in a stunning pose that feels almost 3-D:

An Interview with Mary Pickford at Pickfair


Mary Pickford (1892-1979) was a multi-talented film star and producer, a founding partner of United Artists in 1919, and a co-founder of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927. For all of that, she was a wonderfully unassuming person and everyone who ever met her instantly liked her. On May 25, 1959, Mary gave this wide-ranging interview at her legendary home, Pickfair, located near Los Angeles. She discussed her early life and family in Toronto, her start in films, and her impressions of many of the greats she worked with including D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Ernst Lubitsch, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and others. Click below to spend 45 minutes with one of the most accomplished women of the 20th century:

Mary began appearing in films in 1909 and quite a number of her early films survive. Below, a still from ESMERALDA (1915), one of the lost ones:
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Mary’s younger brother Jack became a silent screen star in his own right but his troubled private life was riddled with substance abuse and he would not fulfill his early potential. Mary helped Jack in every way she could:

Pickford was tireless in her fundraising efforts to sell war bonds during America’s involvement in the First World War. This extended to her making propaganda films to support the war effort such as this 1918 release:

Mary speaks about director Cecil B. DeMille in our interview. She made two films for him, THE LITTLE AMERICAN and A ROMANCE OF THE REDWOODS (both 1917), but the collaboration was not a happy one:

Despite widespread resentment against Germany and Germans after the First World War, Mary brought famed German director Ernst Lubitsch to Hollywood to direct her in his first American film. But Mary was used to directing her director by then and the film, ROSITA (1923), was an unhappy experience as she observes in the interview:

ROSITA was a departure from Mary’s screen character and she went further in the plush costume drama, DOROTHY VERNON OF HADDON HALL (1924), based on a popular novel of the time:

The arrival of sound films in the late 1920s shook the status quo of the studios but Mary won the Best Actress Academy Award for her first talkie and most financially successful film, COQUETTE (1929):
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Mary co-starred with her husband Doug Fairbanks Sr. for his talkie debut in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (1929):
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Mary pursued numerous projects during the 1930s including radio broadcasting. Here she runs through the script with bandleader Al Lyon, director of the Coconut Grove Orchestra, for the debut of Mary’s show, Parties At Pickfair, on February 9, 1936:
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Mary was able to obtain top film stars for her show including Errol Flynn:
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Mary Pickford received a second, special Academy Award in 1976, which was presented to her at Pickfair. She passed away in 1979 and was survived by her third husband, actor and bandleader Charles “Buddy” Rogers, whom she married in 1937 following her divorce from Fairbanks. Despite her plans for turning Pickfair into a museum as she discusses in the interview, after her death it was eventually sold to Pia Zadora in 1988, who had it torn down claiming termite infestation. Years later, Zadora stated that Pickfair wasn’t razed due to termites, but because of ghosts.

(Pickford Interview courtesy of the Internet Archives at https://archive.org)

Silent Screen Stars on Radio: Part 2

Some months ago your blogmeister posted a thread called “Silent Screen Stars on Radio” that proved very popular. I promised a possible sequel so here it is. Radio during the 1930s became a veritable haven for silent screen stars, regardless of whether they were successful in talkies. Let’s start our tour with one the most popular stars of the silent screen, Norma Talmadge. Norma made only two talkies then decided to retire from the screen in 1930 with her wealth intact. Here is Norma in her final film, DUBARRY, WOMAN OF PASSION (1930):
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She was married to George Jessel for several years during the ’30s and appeared with him on his weekly variety show, “Thirty Minutes in Hollywood.” Legend claims that Norma left sound films because of a pronounced Brooklyn accent but fortunately her radio work vindicates her vocally. Here Norma co-stars with Gilbert Roland in her first talkie, NEW YORK NIGHTS (1929):
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Let’s listen to an excerpt from the March 6, 1938 broadcast with Jessel and a ten-year singing prodigy, Josephine, who asks Norma about her film career:

Gloria Swanson was one of the greatest stars of the 1920s and her transition to talkies was not only successful but revealed her excellent singing voice. However, times were changing quickly in the early 1930s and the fickle public shifted its attention to newer attractions. La Swanson produced her own films and by 1934 she realized it was time to move on to other pursuits. But she was never gone from the public scene for very long, which may explain her spectacular return to films in SUNSET BLVD. in 1950. Here is Gloria making a very early broadcast circa 1928:
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Let’s join Gloria as guest on Eddie Cantor’s show on March 9, 1938. This being a live broadcast, the performers keep rolling, mistakes and all:

Now for something completely different. Conrad Veidt was one of the most popular international stars during the silent film era, first gaining notice in the groundbreaking THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919). Connie, as he was called, traveled from Germany to Hollywood in 1926 at the request of John Barrymore, who wanted him to play the crafty King Louis XI in Barrymore’s new epic, THE BELOVED ROGUE (1927). Here is an original autographed portrait of Connie taken about the same time:
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Veidt returned to his native Germany in 1929 where he continued his career, by then starring in sound films, until he fled his homeland in 1933 with the rise of Hitler. His career continued uninterrupted in Britain, though he struggled mightily to learn English, and eventually returned to Hollywood in 1940 where he donated most of his earnings to the American and British war effort. One of his most impressive films at that time was A WOMAN’S FACE (1941) with Joan Crawford in the title role:
Connie said that this film was his favorite, even more so than CALIGARI, and described his role as “Satan in a tuxedo.” The public agreed because he was asked to recreate his film role not once but twice on radio. Here is the first broadcast, a half-hour version from April 19, 1942, with Bette Davis playing the Joan Crawford role, and Bette’s old co-star from her early days at Warner Bros., Warren William. All three stars donated their salaries to the Motion Picture Relief Fund:

The great director D.W. Griffith was rarely heard on radio but made an exception when another great director, Cecil B. DeMille, asked him to appear on DeMille’s show, Lux Radio Theater. The 1930s were a difficult time for Griffith although he was regarded by the film industry as the most influential of the pioneer filmmakers. He was given a special Academy Award but would have much preferred to be given a film to direct instead. No doubt he would have been pleased with this commemorative stamp issued in his honor decades later:
Let’s join D.W. on June 29, 1936 as Cecil B. DeMille welcomes him:

Marion Davies is remembered today as the mistress of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and as the inspiration for the character of Susan Alexander, the untalented mistress of Orson Welles’ CITIZEN KANE (1941). Welles would spend his later years explaining that he felt Marion Davies was one of the most talented stars of Hollywood, in both silent and sound films, and he made the Susan Alexander character untalented so nobody could claim that she was suppose to be Marion, but alas, it didn’t work out that way.
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Let’s hear Cecil B. DeMille again as he converses with Marion Davies and Brian Aherne at the conclusion of the November 29, 1937 Lux broadcast of PEG O’ MY HEART that Marion had made as a film in 1931. I believe this broadcast turned out to be her last professional appearance, after having made what proved to be her final film earlier in the year. Also, it was said that Marion spoke with a stammer, something that was never heard in any of her sound films. However, you can hear that she is having some difficulty getting through her scripted remarks:

Finally, we have not one but two Barrymores, John and Lionel. The brothers started making films back in 1912 and possibly earlier, to supplement their theater earnings. By the 1920s, the Barrymore Brothers were starring on the New York stage and in big budget films too, although they worked separately during the silent era. Here is one of their joint stage appearances in 1919 in THE JEST, which F. Scott Fitzgerald immortalized in his first novel, This Side of Paradise.
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John in one of his spectacular swashbucklers of the silent screen:
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The talkies held no fear for either Lionel or John, in fact Lionel directed as well as starred in them. Alas, this talkie comedy from 1930, with John and a very young Loretta Young, is lost:
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By the early 1940s each of the Barrymore Brothers had his own weekly radio show but Lionel also made guest appearances on John’s Sealtest Show, which headlined Rudy Vallee, who was responsible for hiring John for the show:
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The Sealtest Show was a slapstick comedy series where the stars and guests were satirized. But just to let listeners know it was all in fun, John and Lionel took time out to perform a scene from Shakespeare’s RICHARD III. Here Rudy Vallee introduces the scene on the May 1, 1941 broadcast:

I passed over shows with all-but-forgotten silent screen stars such as Bert Lytell and Aileen Pringle but just let your ol’ blogmeister know of any requests. And thanks for stopping by.

Tyrone Power & Annabella in BLOOD AND SAND – 1941 Live!

We will be visiting the Twentieth Century-Fox studios in our next post for a promised Hollywood party. But leading up to it, let’s check out one of the most beautiful films this studio produced during the Golden Age.

BLOOD AND SAND, or Sangue y Arena to use its original Spanish title, was an international best selling novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez in 1908. Your blogmeister read this book recently (as a free ebook) and found this century-old tale quite contemporary. In effect, the matadors of yesteryear were the rock stars of their day. The story of the rise and fall of a young matador was a natural vehicle for Rudolph Valentino in 1922, following on the heels of his breakthrough film, THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921), which was also based on an Ibanez novel. A generation later, this story of the bullring was refurbished for Tyrone Power and given the Technicolor treatment. Here is an original poster for its Spanish release:

This morality tale was as big a hit with audiences in 1941 as the Valentino version had been two decades earlier. Within only a few months of its premiere, Tyrone Power and his actress wife, Annabella, reported to the Lux Radio Theater to perform an adaptation for millions of listeners worldwide. Just click on the arrow below to hear the complete hour-long live broadcast of October 20, 1941:

Tyrone Power had successfully starred in the remake of Doug Fairbanks’ 1920 hit, MARK OF ZORRO, the year before in 1940. So playing Juan Gallardo, the ill-fated matador of BLOOD AND SAND, seemed a no-brainer – and it was:

Annabella played the role that Linda Darnell had in the film, the sweet but long-suffering Carmen, wife of the unfaithful Juan. Here she is in a boyish role for SUEZ (1938):

Annabella met Tyrone Power during the making of SUEZ and they married shortly afterwards. Here they are with Loretta Young on the right in SUEZ:

Young Gallardo is flush with his new-found success and is easily infatuated by femme fatale Dona Sol, played by Rita Hayworth:

Success in the bullring brings other distractions, especially when Juan’s Friend, Manolo, played by Anthony Quinn, becomes his rival:

Hayworth’s role as the seductress was her big break and thereafter she seemed to play a variation of Dona Sol in most of her subsequent films through the 1950s:

Ernest Hemingway memorably called the sport of bullfighting “death in the afternoon,” usually death for the bull, sometimes death for the matador, sometimes for both:

Carmen decides to visit Dona Sol to ask if there’s any truth to the gossip about her relationship with Juan. Alas, Carmen finds him living with her:

Things begin to turn ugly as he hears gossip:

The 1941 BLOOD AND SAND is available on dvd and is easily one of the best Technicolor films you will ever see. Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 version is also available on dvd and holds up very well against its talkie remake. The Valentino charisma helps enormously:

Rudy with director Fred Niblo on the set. Check out Rudy’s costume:

Does this look familiar? Yes, it’s Rudy’s costume as it exists today. Your blogmeister only guessed at the color when I colorized the photo above sometime ago but we came fairly close:

BONUS: Rudolph Valentino Sings! Rudy died in 1926 just before sound films arrived so how well he would have fared in talkies will always be one of the great “ifs” of film history. However, Rudy did leave us two sound recordings that he made in May 1923. He sings in both so we still don’t really know how well his speaking voice sounded or, indeed, how well he spoke English. At any rate, this is one of them:

Valentino as Juan Gallardo enjoying his fleeting success:

Ronald Colman & Ida Lupino in Du Maurier’s REBECCA – Live!

Daphne Du Maurier’s best seller REBECCA became a natural for a film version and, indeed, producer David O. Selznick, barely finished making his monumental GONE WITH THE WIND, hired British director Alfred Hitchcock to do the job. Today, we can’t imagine anybody else but Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine in the leading roles but, in fact, Selznick negotiated with Ronald Colman to play Maxim De Winter before “settling” on Olivier when Colman decided against accepting the role. When the film became one of the biggest hits of 1940, Colman may very well have regretted his decision.

However, radio came to the rescue in early 1941 with a full hour adaptation of REBECCA with none other than Ronald Colman playing Maxim De Winter. The Joan Fontaine role (Du Maurier never gave this character a name) was played by Ida Lupino, an actress who was then tackling challenging roles on the screen. Judith Anderson (later Dame Judith Anderson) repeated her screen role of Mrs. Danvers. If you are a fan of this film (and who isn’t?), you’ll be fascinated by this radio version.

Just click the arrow below and within a few seconds you’ll be hearing the commanding voice of Cecil B. DeMille introducing REBECCA and its stars exactly as heard live on Monday, February 3, 1941, in a broadcast heard from coast to coast, and via shortwave around the world:

Cecil B. DeMille hosted the Lux Radio Theater for nine years and was credited with boosting the show’s ratings to as high as 50 million listeners per broadcast:

Ida Lupino strikes a pose reminiscent of Joan Fontaine in REBECCA:

A dapper Ronald Colman in the 1920s:

By 1940, it was almost forgotten that Colman had been a major silent film star before the talkies arrived. His breakthrough film was BEAU GESTE (1926):

During the silent era, Colman played swashbucklers and was teamed with Vilma Banky in a series of romantic films. Sound films revealed his unique “velvet voice” and Colman effortlessly transitioned from the silent screen to the talkies:

Ida Lupino’s ambition went beyond acting and by the late 1940s she was one of the very few women directors in Hollywood:

Ronald Colman and Ida Lupino starred together onscreen in the 1939 film, THE LIGHT THAT FAILED, based on the story by Rudyard Kipling and directed by William Wellman. This excellent film’s continued absence from home video is a puzzling omission:

Stayed tuned through the end of this broadcast when legendary movie producer David O. Selznick is interviewed by Mr. DeMille. It is rare to hear Old Hollywood producers and directors speak for themselves.

Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland in GREEN LIGHT – Live!

Film buffs know that Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland made eight popular films together between 1935 and 1942. Some are considered all-time classics such as CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), and DODGE CITY (1939), pictured at left. Less well-known is the fact that Errol and Olivia were favorite guests on radio at that same time. Typically, they appeared separately but the big ratings came with joint appearances in adaptations of their films.

Our new post focuses on the radio version of one of Flynn’s earliest films made in 1937, GREEN LIGHT. The movie is available from the Warners Archives as a MOD (Made on Demand) dvd. Olivia did not co-star in this film but for radio she portrayed the character played by Margaret Lindsay in the film, thereby adding a very special ninth work to the Flynn-de Havilland canon.

On Monday night, January 31, 1938, Errol and Olivia joined host Cecil B. DeMille (on the left below) in the live network broadcast of GREEN LIGHT. Venerable actor Sir C. Aubrey Smith (on the right) provided superb support to the young stars. The gentleman next to DeMille is a newspaper editor who was heard during the show’s intermission:

Click on the arrow below and within five seconds you will be transported back in time to hear the complete one-hour live broadcast of GREEN LIGHT exactly as it was heard from coast-to-coast, and via shortwave around the world, on January 31, 1938:

GREEN LIGHT is an inspirational drama based on a popular novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, a Lutheran minister. He is perhaps best remembered today for the novel, and later film, THE ROBE (1953), among other works. In the story, Errol Flynn plays a successful young surgeon whose career is ruined when he is forced to take the blame for a botched operation that was actually caused by a prominent older doctor. To make matters worse, he meets and falls in love with a young woman who turns out to be the daughter of the lady who died in the operation. Anita Louise plays the love interest in the film, and Margaret Lindsay played Dr. Flynn’s faithful nurse and gal Friday, Frances Ogilvie. Olivia de Havilland plays the part of Ogilvie in the radio broadcast:

GREEN LIGHT was a welcomed change of pace from Flynn’s swashbuckler roles but at age 28, he was not yet mature enough as an actor to give his character, Dr. Newell Paige, the nuances that a more accomplished actor might have brought to the role. However, Flynn’s personal charm and charisma make up for his lack of gravitas as an actor. A photo from the film with a beautiful setter (I think) as Flynn’s companion:

Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays the role of Dean Harcourt, a well-known clergyman who advises those who seek his counsel on the mysteries of faith and life. Harcourt is considered the alter ego of author Douglas. On radio, Sir C. Aubrey Smith commandingly played the character. Apparently, one had to be knighted to play the role:

The story climaxes when Flynn joins a colleague in Montana who is researching a treatment for spotted fever. Believing that his infamous reputation bars him from having anyone’s respect, Flynn uses himself as a guinea pig to experiment with an antidote for spotted fever. But life has many strange turns and twists, as Dean Harcourt advises, and when all seems lost we receive a “green light” to move forward. From left to right: Errol Flynn, Walter Abel, Margaret Lindsay, Anita Louise, and Henry O’Neill as the surgeon who actually botched the operation:

This may be a stretch but in some respects GREEN LIGHT’s story is a sort of parable of Errol Flynn’s own life. Over the next few years, Flynn became an established star, and seemingly had everything most people would desire. But in 1942 he was prosecuted for statutory rape, i.e., the two women involved were under-age. The trial was handled as a humorous(!) diversion to the terrible war news of the day (in 1942, America was actually losing World War II). Flynn was acquitted of all charges but, as his friend actor David Niven later observed, Flynn seemed to go into a “spiritual decline” because the notoriety of the trial turned his name and reputation into a laughing stock. Unlike Dr. Paige in GREEN LIGHT, Flynn was not able to reverse his downward spiral and even today his name is synonymous with living well but not wisely.

Marlene Dietrich – Live in 1937!

Marlene Dietrich became a star with the classic 1930 German film, THE BLUE ANGEL, were she played a siren who ruins men’s lives. In the 1960s she headlined at luxurious nightclubs where she was known as the “World’s Most Glamorous Grandmother.” In between these career bookends she became an American citizen, and when the Second World War came, she not only joined scores of other stars to entertain the troops in camps around the world, Marlene actually joined the U.S. Army for four years!

But the 1930s is the era that saw Marlene Dietrich in her prime, if not at her peak. Most of her 30s films are available today on dvd, yet it is largely forgotten that she also starred on live radio in adaptations of her famous movies. OHIC is pleased to present the broadcast version of Marlene’s 1933 film, The Song of Songs, where both she and Lionel Atwill repeat their screen roles. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. performs the role played by Brian Aherne in the film, and show is hosted by Cecil B. DeMille.

Click on the arrow below to hear the complete one-hour live broadcast of the Lux Radio Theater exactly as heard coast to coast and by shortwave around the world on December 20, 1937:

While you are listening, OHIC provides some examples of the stunning artwork used to promote the film:

The two sides of this movie herald, above and below, indicates how THE SONG OF SONGS was promoted in South America:

An older but no less glamorous La Dietrich still broadcasting:

Jean Harlow – Live!

I suppose the first time any of us hears the name Jean Harlow, we learn two things at once. First, that she was a beautiful blonde movie star of the 1930s, and second, that she died at the age of 26. Thus, Miss Harlow rarely has a chance to be “living” for us, if you know what I mean. After all, Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo (see our previous post) were contemporaries of Harlow who left their screen careers circa 1940 and basically disappeared. Both enjoyed very long lives post-Hollywood, so why couldn’t we have the same expectation for Jean? But no, her name is barely introduced to us and it is embraced by tragedy. Yet, like Rudolph Valentino before her, or Marilyn Monroe after her, through her films Jean Harlow proves to be an endlessly fascinating embodiment of love and mortality. Perhaps to put it more bluntly, an irresistible combination of sex and death.

The Warner Bros. Archives released a terrific dvd set of Jean’s films earlier this year but, after all, films are carefully rehearsed, reshot if there are mistakes, and carefully edited to delete other shortcomings. So while Jean certainly was living when she made her movies, we know there’s no “anything can happen” possibility of a truly live performance. That brings us to our current post on OHIC – a rare, truly live performance by Jean Harlow on the Lux Radio Theater in December 1936 less than six months before her death. Jean did little radio work and this broadcast seems to be the only one that has been preserved. The story is MADAME SANS-GENE, based on a popular 1890s play, turned into a famous opera by Giordano, that Gloria Swanson made into a successful (and now lost) silent film in 1925.

In the 1960s, Sophia Loren starred in a remake of this story of a feisty young woman during the French Revolution who confronts washing laundry and dealing with Napoleon with equal disregard.

This network radio broadcast was heard live by at least 30 million listeners from coast to coast, and by shortwave around the world. The host is Hollywood pioneer director Cecil B. DeMille, and Jean Harlow’s co-star is Robert Taylor. It was no coincidence that their new film, PERSONAL PROPERTY, was just going into movie theaters for the holidays. The imposing-voiced Claude Rains plays Napoleon with the same authority as he did earlier in 1936 in the Marion Davies film, HEARTS DIVIDED.

Here then at just a click of the button below is the complete hour-long live broadcast of MADAME SANS-GENE as heard on December 14, 1936:

A rare photo of the prinicipal cast rehearsing for the broadcast – from left to right Robert Taylor, Jean Harlow, Claude Rains, and C. Henry Gordon:

While you’re listening, enjoy some OHIC color transfers of Jean Harlow:

Jean seems more concerned with that overhead microphone than with the famous and feared gossip columnist Louella Parsons:

Later in 1937, Louella Parsons published this souvenir biography:

Jean and Clark Gable heat up the screen in RED DUST (1932), the first of several films they made together. Gable has the strange distinction of starring in the final films of the two most famous “goddesses” in film history: SARATOGA (1937), Harlow’s last film, and THE MISFITS (1961), Marilyn Monroe’s last film. It was also Gable’s last film, in fact he predeceased Marilyn:

Jean seems dressed for playing horse polo here. I can’t place the film but it may be from BLONDE BOMBSHELL (1933), a pre-Code satire on a sexy Hollywood star who looks just like Jean Harlow:

On the set of CHINA SEAS (1935) with co-star Wallace Beery and his daughter, Mary Ann, who had a small part in the film, and director Tay Garnett:

A promotional coin from Popsicles:

Jean Harlow made quite a number of good films during her brief life but legend will always claim first and foremost that her most memorable performance was as the sultry vixen in Howard Hughes’ First World War epic, HELL’S ANGELS (1930). Incidentally, it is the only film with color footage of Jean. Although she was virtually unknown at the time, look who dominates the poster art:

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