Monday, March 28, 2016

The Homes of Jean Harlow

Movie stars, due to the nature of their work, tend to move around a lot. The same is true of Jean Harlow, our Star of the Month of March.

Harlow was born in turn-of-the century Kansas City, Missouri. Jean's first residence was the second floor of a modest, gray stone house, located on 3344 Olive Street (torn down in the late 1930s). Her father's dentist office took up the ground floor.

When Jean was four, the family moved to 4409 Gillham Road, which had a park nearby. Her father's offices were located in the "Waldheim Building in downtown Kansas City, where he maintained his practice for the next thirty-six years" (Golden, 16). It was here that Jean began "collecting" pets, including ducks, lambs, pigs, and the usual dogs and cats. She spent her summers at her maternal grandparents 25-room country retreat, Red Gables, which overlooked the Kaw River and was located near Bonner Springs.

The family moved again when Jean was eight, this time to an 18-room red brick house at 1312 East 79th Street. The estate was located on five acres of land, perfect for Jean's growing menagerie.

This is what came up on Google maps. I have no idea if it is the same house, but it's the right color!

In 1921, Jean's parents divorced. Jean and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where her mother once again tried to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an actress. During their stay there they lived first in a rented room in a Sunset Blvd. mansion and later at 1302 North La Brea Ave., which was right down the road from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her mother then remarried and since her dreams of becoming a actress were not coming true, they moved back to Missouri.

In 1927, a teenage Jean eloped with wealthy orphan Chuck McGrew. After a honeymoon cruise with his grandparents, the newly-weds headed back to California. They rented a Beverly Hills bungalow  at 618 North Linden Drive, just two doors away from 'It' girl, Clara Bow ( No. 512). Barely giving them time to settle in, Jean's mother and her husband followed, moving in with the young couple.

It didn't take long for Jean to get noticed by Hollywood, and she was soon in the movies that her mother had longed for. This, along with the arrival of Mama Jean, was too much for Chuck, and the two divorced not long after.

Jean and her mother then rented a bungalow at 300 North Maple Drive, Beverly Hills. It was during this time that Jean met MGM exec. Paul Bern.

Jean lived briefly in an apartment at 152 Peck Dr. in 1931.

After Jean began to make it big in the movies, her and Mama Jean moved again, this time at 1353 Club View Drive in West Los Angeles. Mysterious occurrences have happened here.

After Bern and Harlow married in 1932 (in the living room of her Westwood home), they lived in Bern's Bavarian-style house, located at 9820 Easton Drive in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. Two months later, Bern committed suicide, causing a huge scandal, as Harlow was suspected of murder. The house is also supposedly haunted. More on that along with lots of photos of the house here.


With all the money Harlow was making, Mama Jean began building herself a mansion at 214 South Beverly Glen Blvd. in Holmby Hills. The house was two stories and had four bedrooms. It had a Gregorian fa├žade, French interior, and outdoor pool with two dressing rooms. She spent $25,000 furnishing it with such things as a walk-in fridge, polar bear rug, a portrait of herself, ermine covered toilet seats, and for her Baby, an ermine covered headboard for her bed.

In 1933, Jean married another MGM man, Hal Rosson. The two were friends, but it was really a studio marriage to help Jean avoid a scandal. After they were married, they moved to adjoining third-floor suites at the Chateau Marmont hotel on Sunset Blvd. Seven months later, they divorced. Shortly after, she met fellow actor William Powell. She switched between "her" home on Beverly Glen Blvd. and Powell's Beverly Hills home at 809 North Hillcrest Road, which he joked was a "combination of Regency, Beverly Hills Gothic, and early Chester A. Arthur." Jean helped decorate the newly remodeled home, which contained a lot of gadgets. This post goes into more detail.

Powell's pool

Harlow's last residence was 512 North Palm Drive, located between Sunset Blvd. and Wilshire. She leased it for $300 a month. The house was 4,400 sq. feet and has 5 bedrooms and 5 baths. Two doors down, at No. 508, is the 1950s residence of Marilyn Monroe, where she lived with Joe DiMaggio.

The house as it looked in 1937, the year Jean Harlow died. Source.


Golden, Eve. Platinum Girl: The Life and Legends of Jean Harlow. 1991.
Stenn, David. Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow. 1993.
Artunian, Judy & Mike Oldham. Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten. 2004.

Online Sources:
The Platinum Blog - "Today" photos of Club View home
Paradise Leased - An Afternoon in Harlow Heaven - lots of 'then' and 'now' photos
Haunted Houses - Harlow's Westwood Home
House Crazy - Benedict Canyon home
And...scene! - William Powell's Beverly Hills Home
Dear Mr. Gable - final home
LA Bartender - The Original Platinum Blonde - final home
Seeing Stars - final home
Classic Movie Favorites - Jean Harlow's Homes (of course I didn't come across this one till I was nearly done with my post)


Monday, March 21, 2016

Netflix Monthly Movie: The Robe (1953)

The First Picture on the New Miracle Curved Screen !
The Greatest Story of Love, Faith, and Overwhelming Spectacle!

This months Netflix movie is The Robe (1953) starring Richard Burton, Victor Mature, and Jean Simmons. It tell the story of a Roman soldier Marcellus (Burton), whose job it was to crucify Jesus. He wins the robe worn by Christ by casting lots. But when he wears it, it puts a curse on him, or so he thinks. After the crucifixion, he is sent back to Rome, but he is haunted by what he has done. He goes back to Judea to find the Robe and destroy it, so as to destroy its hold on him. During his journey, he meets believers and followers of the dead Christ, Christians. One of these is his former Greek slave, Demetrious (Mature), who is now  follower of Peter. It is he who carries the robe of Christ.

You're afraid, but you really don't know the reason why. You think it's his robe that made you ill. But it's your own conscience, your own decent shame. Even when you crucified him you felt it.

Marcellus too becomes a Christian. Upon returning to Rome, Marcellus must now face Emperor Caligula.

Directed by Henry Koster (It Started with Eve, The Bishop's Wife, Harvey, The Singing Nun), this was the first movie filmed in Cinemascope and it is truly a spectacle. Complemented by glorious Technicolor and lavish sets of the powerful Roman Empire, it is a film well worth seeing. It is a long film - it runs 135 minutes - but it does not feel long. The sweeping and intense musical score by Alfred Newman complements the picture perfectly. This is a great film for the whole family to watch during this Holy Week.

Simon Peter (Michael Rennie) & Marcellus (Burton)


So sure was the studio of the films success, a sequel titled Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) was immediately put into action. Victor Mature reprised his role as the Greek slave and follower of Simon Peter. The film takes place right at the end of The Robe, in the year 53 AD. A third film was made about Simon Peter, The Big Fisherman (1959), with Howard Keel in the title role.

Burton & Mature

It is the first motion picture in Cinemascope to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award.

Diagram of the curved screen.

The second movie to begin shooting in Cinemascope, but the first to be released (Sept. 16, 1953). The first film to go before Cinemascope lens-equipped cameras was How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) and was released Nov. 4, 1953.

Opening at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, September 24, 1953.

Acclaimed by many film historians as a triumph in the art of motion-picture music, Alfred Newman's reverent, intense film score failed to garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Score for a Dramatic Motion Picture (though Newman still took home an Oscar that night - for his adaptation of music for the Irving Berlin-Ethel Merman frolic, Call Me Madam (1953). Angered by the Academy voters' snub of Newman, distinguished film composer Franz Waxman, an Oscar winner for Sunset Blvd. (1950) and A Place in the Sun (1951), resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The film won Oscars for Best Art Direction - Set Decoration in the color category and Best Costumes, also in the color category. In addition to Best Picture, it was also nominated for Best Actor (Burton) and Best Color Cinematography. It also won a Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama.

At one point the producers considered making Marcellus older and casting Laurence Olivier.

Darryl F. Zanuck originally offered the role of Marcellus to Tyrone Power in a bid to get him to renew his contract with Fox. Power instead opted to star in the play "John Brown's Body" on Broadway.

Burt Lancaster was originally cast in the role played by Victor Mature.

Janet Leigh was considered for the role of Diana (Simmons).

Director Henry Koster chose Donald C. Klune - his 2nd assistant director - to play the role of Jesus in the film (his face is never seen). Klune would thus sign all the extras' vouchers and finish the paperwork while still in costume. He also had to eat lunch in his dressing room, as the studio thought it would be inappropriate for "Jesus" to eat in the commissary at Fox.

The opening shot after the title credits (and the background "red robe" curtain parts) is actually a scene lifted from this film's sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954).

The set of Cana, the village of Galilea where Marcellus Gallio meets Peter, was a redress of sets originally built for Algiers (1936), that had stood on the studio backlot for seventeen years. The sets were later used in Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954) - this film's sequel - as the Christian neighborhood in Rome where Demetrius lives in the beginning of the movie. The well with the old broken columns can be easily recognized.

Based on the book of the same title by Lloyd C. Douglas

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Donovan's Reef (1963)

Baby, right up your alley.

That's what I thought when I heard about the "Dot" Blogathon honoring Dorothy Lamour hosted by Silver Screenings and Font and Frock. Okay, so I didn't really, but it's a good quote with which to start this post!

The quote comes from the John Ford film Donovan's Reef, which has been a favorite film of my family's for years. We lovingly refer to it as "Boolah Boolah," which are the first words of the opening song, in English, "Pearly Shells." Back before DVD's, we would listen to Mom describe this magical John Wayne movie set in Hawaii that we had never seen before. We wondered if we would ever find a copy to watch. Then one day, while visiting my mom's brother several states away, we found the old recorded VHS. Were we excited! We could hardly wait to see it! And it did not disappoint. It quickly became a favorite and we now own several copies - some things are just too hard to pass up.

"Who is in this wonderful film and what makes it so good?" you may ask. Let me tell you. As I already mentioned, this is a John Wayne film (we are huge Duke fans over here. My brothers and I grew up watching The Quiet Man most Saturday mornings). Wayne plays Michael "Guns" Donovan. He lives on the, sadly fictional, Hawaiian island Haleakaloha (Hah-lee-ah-kuh-low-ah), where he runs a saloon, Donovan's Reef. Also residing on this island paradise are Dr. William Dedham (Jack Warden) and his three children - "little half-casts," Father Cluzeot - pronounced "clue-zoh" (Marcel Dalio), the Marquis Andre de Lage, governor of this "wretched island" (Caesar Romero), and Miss LaFleur (Dorothy Lamour). Other assorted character include Mr. Eu (pronounced "you"), the always off-duty Sergeant Monk, Sister Angelique and Sister Mary Margaret, and the Australian Navy. There is just one more character to make the cast complete: Gilhooley.

Gilhooley, the kind of guy that has a woman in every port (played hilariously by Lee Marvin), and Guns Donovan fought together in the war along with the Doc. They also happen to share a birthday, Dec. 7th. Do they get together every year to celebrate together? Nope. In true John Ford fashion they have an annual birthday brawl.

Funny promo shot. The Sisters do not approve.

Gilhooley abandons the ship he is serving on and swims ashore. The women of the island greet him with kisses and leis. The men, however, are less than happy to see him, especially Fr. Cluzeot (you can see his entrance here).

He then seeks out his friend, borrowing a white suit while he's at it - "Something you can be buried in!" Miss LaFleur is very happy to see him - "You've come back to marry me!" she says as she throws her arms around him.

While the Doc is out ministering to some of the other surrounding islands, word comes that his older daughter, Amelia by his first marriage (wife died soon after childbirth) is coming to the island on a business matter. The Doc has never seen his daughter and his daughter doesn't know that he married again - to the Princess Manulani who died in childbirth. Worried at how she might react to her half-cast siblings, they decide to have the children pretend to belong to Donovan until the Doc returns so that he can tell Amelia himself. Elizabeth Allen plays the snobbish Bostonian perfectly. She turns up her nose and men like Donovan and claims that if he is an example of fathers she is glad she never knew hers. She has a change of heart however when she does meet him and sees with her own eyes all the good he has done for the people of Haleakaloha. Also during this time she falls in love with Donovan and figures out that "his kids" are really her half siblings. She welcomes them with open arms.

The cast in another promo shot.

So where else does Dorothy Lamour come in? Miss LaFleur works at Donovan's Reef. She has some of the best lines in the film.

Amelia runs into Fleur at a shop while looking for a bathing suit. Fleur is looking at a wedding gown. "Are you contemplating matrimony?" Amelia asks. "What young girl my age doesn't contemplate matrimony" Fleur shoots back (she is quite obviously in her 40s).

In another scene, Fleur is singing at the bar. When she is done, she does to sit with the Marquis. He orders her champagne. Fleur quickly says "No no no no, my voice. A slug of gin, if you please." You really have to hear her say it. Her line delivery is comedy at its best.

She also sings "Silent Night" for the Christmas pageant.

She starts singing at 2:50

There's another humorous scene at the end of the film but you'll have to watch it for yourself.

Though Lamour isn't in much of the movie, it just wouldn't be Donovan's Reef without her. I wish I could include a compilation of her clips in the movie, as my little review really doesn't do her justice, but I have no idea how to do that. It's hard to describe comedy.

A behind-the-scenes photo with the Duke.
Miss Lamour's contribution is slight, but she obviously
appreciates the free-and-easy spirit of the whole wacky affair.

Fun Facts:

Lamour's muumuu was borrowed from John Ford's wife, cutting down on costume costs (I'm guessing the yellow one).

Donovan's Reef was filmed mostly on Kaua'i, Hawaii.  The home of the French island governor is the Allerton Estate home and former summer residence of Hawaiian Queen Emma near Poipu Beach, now a part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (without the scenes of boats and canoes on the Wailua River, which were edited and merged with scenes filmed at the Allerton Estate). Other locations on the Island included Waimea Canyon, Hanamaulu Bay, and Ahukini Pier.

John Wayne's son, Patrick Wayne, appears briefly in two scenes, one at the bar where he breaks up a fight, and at the Christmas pageant.

The yacht in the film belonged to John Ford. It was named the 'Araner,' a name used in the film for one of the ships.

This was John Wayne and John Ford's last film together.

Don't forget to read all of the other posts on Dorothy Lamour!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Marathon Stars: Vivien Leigh

When I first heard of The Marathon Stars Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and The Wonderful World of Cinema, I immediately started to think of what movie stars I hadn't seen that many films of. Aside from the few I have, as of right now, no real interest in watching, it seemed like every star I thought of I had seen 4+ films. I would think, "Oh, what about him? Whoops, forgot about that film!" Finally I came up with about 10 stars and after seeing who had the most accessible films (TCM, library, YouTube, Netflix) I decided on Vivien Leigh. After all, I really did need to see Gone With the Wind.

I had only seen Vivien Leigh in Waterloo Bridge (1940) - after reading Back to Golden Day's post on it. As I was looking at her filmography, I was surprised at how few films she was in - 20 total. Leigh's Scarlet O'Hara is such a "larger than life" character that you imagine her as being a dominating star in many films.

Here are the films I watched in the order I watched them (I will not be giving summaries of the films but merely my reaction to them):

1. Anna Karenina (1948)

It's a story that has been done many times. Garbo did it. Recently Keira Knightly did it. But I had never seen it or read it until the Leigh version popped up on Netflix. I put it in my list and let it sit there for a while. Then, with the excuse of this blogathon, I watched it. 

A good movie, though the snow was obviously fake. I did feel cold though! It was difficult to be completely sympathetic to Leigh's character since she should have put the happiness of her child above herself.

Playing Chinese Checkers between takes.

2. Gone With the Wind (1939)  

The epitome of Golden Hollywood. A Legend and a Classic from the moment filming began. This is a film that should be at the top of the list of must-see films for the movie connoisseur. Yet it took this blogathon to make me watch it from start to finish.

GWTW was much better than I had expected. Of the scenes I had seen, I had gathered that this was an extremely depressing movie and I had no sympathy for the spoiled Scarlet O'Hara. After viewing the film in its entirety, it is still depressing, but not because it has a sad story-line but because the characters seem so real and you feel for them. De Havilland's performance was wonderful like all of her performances. I was also struck by Gable's performance, especially as a father. It's kind of difficult to imagine a macho man like Gable acting like that but he did and very believably. I only wish he would have lived to see the birth of his real-life son in 1961.

Again, another character of Leigh's that is difficult to sympathize with. I can't stand women who steal men from their real loves.

3. Fire Over England (1937)

Leigh only has a small part in this film (she is 5th billed) but she inserts as much passion as she can into her role as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I (Flora Robson). Of course, it can't be too difficult to be passionate about someone when that someone is the man you're in love with - Laurence Olivier.

Vivien Leigh Films on YouTube

Dark Journey (1937)

This blogathon made me curious to know what other stars I had seen in three or less films so I made a list (definitely not complete in the Silent film area). There was a lot more than I realized! Some I feel like I know but it's only because I've seen them in the same movie so many times, like Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in White Christmas. I really just know the "Hanes sisters." Below is a little chart of stars according to number of films seen (I know I've missed a few). Now to get as many stars off this list as possible!


Behind the Dress: Jean Harlow & the Bias-Cut

Today's Behind the Dress post doesn't actually cover just one dress, but all the white satin, bias-cut gowns that Jean Harlow wore. Yes, she wore them, they never wore her.

In Edith Head's Hollywood by Edith Head and Paddy Calistro, Head claims that it was she who put Jean Harlow in bias-cut satin for the first time. The film was Saturday Night Kid (1929) starring Clara Bow in her second talkie. In Head's own words:
She was Jean Harlow, a second-stringer in those days, but once Howard Hughes convinced her to bleach her hair [it was a honey-blonde color at the time] she became a star within a year. Of course, when I worked with her I just thought of her as another actress, but I was impressed with her sensuous body and I made the most of it with white satin, cut on the bias. I was afraid of how Clara would react, since Jean really upstaged her in that slinky white gown. Most stars would have resented sharing a big scene with such a sizzling, voluptuous creature as Harlow. Not Clara. She was simply fascinated by her. I won't take credit for Harlow's screen image, but I think I'm entitled to say that what she wore in those scenes inspired others to take a second look and realize her knockout potential.

Calistro adds a little more backstory: "The dress that Edith made for Harlow was actually an adaptation of French couturiere Madeleine Vionnet's latest design. No one had used the sexy bias cut in an entire gown before Vionnet, but it took Hollywood to turn the look into a classic - the slip dress. Harlow wore it, Lombard popularized Banton's version, and Dietrich slinked around in on. It became the uniform of the sex symbols. The gown, with its bodice styled exactly like the top of an underslip, complete with thin little straps, was especially alluring because it was worn with no undergarments. Since fabric cut on the bias - diagonally across the weave - has a gentle, inherent stretch quality, the slip dress clung to every curve and crevice of a woman's body" (16).

That was the only time Head costumed Jean but it set the tone for her following film roles. A Jean Harlow film just isn't complete without a clinging satin gown of some kind.

A fictionalized account of Edith and Harlow's meeting is included in the recently published book Platinum Doll by Anne Girard (which I will be reviewing later this month). It mentions that the dress is grey. This is probably so it would photograph white. A white dress would have too much glare under the strong lights on the set.

To end, here are some photos of Jean throughout her career wearing her signature slinky gown. Just click on the photos to enlarge. Enjoy!