It was during a session for the Louella Parson's radio show (where Powell and Loy were performing some scenes from their popular film The Thin Man) that Powell introduced these two cinema queens to each other. Powell and Harlow were an 'item' at the time (a full post on that latter).
I thought, My God, I've never seen such beautiful skin. That creamy complexion and platinum hair really knocked you out. She was being very careful and shy, since this was her first time out in public with Bill. Jean was beautiful, but far from the raucous sexpot of her films (Being and Becoming, 124).Shortly after their meeting the two co-starred in their first film together, Wife vs. Secretary (1936) with Clark Gable, followed shortly by Libeled Lady (1936) with Powell and Spencer Tracy. However, it wasn't during either of these films that these two legends of the silver screen really became friends but rather during the filming of After the Thin Man (193).
At the premiere of Libeled Lady (also in the photo is Arthur Hornblow, Myrna's husband).
They were shooting exteriors in San Francisco. Bill, Jean, and Myrna went up by train together. Upon arrival, Bill and Myrna were told by the management of the St. Francis Hotel that the Flyshaker Suite had been reserved for them. They had assumed that they were married, which isn't difficult to believe after seeing their on-screen chemistry (which was up to five films by now). The rest of the hotel was booked, except for a small hall bedroom. "There's nothing for you to do," Jean said, "We'll just have to put Bill downstairs."
That mix-up brought me one of my most cherished friendships. You would have thought Jean and I were in boarding school we had so much fun. We'd stay up half the night talking and sipping gin, sometimes laughing, sometimes discussing more serious things...
Jean was always very cheerful, full of fun, but she also happened to be a sensitive woman with a great deal of self-respect. All that other stuff - that was all put on. She wasn't like that at all. She just happened to be a good actress who created a lively characterization that exuded sex appeal (143).
Arriving in San Francisco (note the book Jean is holding).
It was also during this trip that Myrna realized the extent of Jean's love for Bill.
... a total childlike love, full of the exuberance and wonder that characterized her. She wanted marriage but he was afraid to marry her [he was , she was 2]. He loved her, but he'd been married twice... and both marriages had gone bust (142).When Jean died suddenly in 1937, Myrna was devastated. "It was horrible, an awful blow; I loved Jean deeply. I felt a sickening mixture of grief, guilt, and frustration because I hadn't been able to do what might have saved her: get her away rom her mother for an examination [Jean and her mother were Christian Scientists]. With proper treatment, the cerebral edema that killed her would never have developed in a twenty-six-year-old girl."
So as not to end on a sad note, Sarah Burford of Curious Pip has drawn several sketches of what she imagines Myrna and Jean did when they "hung out." She frequently creates dolls and draws sketches, postcards, and paper dolls of both Myrna and Jean (and other 1920s/30s actresses such as Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, and Claudette Colbert) to sell on Etsy - they go quick! If you are a fan of either of these actresses you will ADORE her creations! Check out her "Day in the Life of Jean Harlow" sketches as well as some of her Jean Harlow dolls and Myrna Loy/Nora Charles dolls.