Jean Harlow is an all time favorite actress of mine, and this has led to my choice of writing today’s post. I want to countdown my five favorite films of this 1930s silver screen icon! I hope that this list will inspire my readers to give these films a chance.
Number 5: Libeled Lady (1936)
~This is one of the best known films of Harlow’s canon. Here she played as part of an ensemble alongside Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and her real life lover William Powell! It is a riotous comedy with a top notch cast.
Number 4: Red-Headed Woman (1932)
~This film was based on a novel by Katharine Brush, and the original screen play was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. However, Fitzgerald’s script was not used, and it was re-written by Anita Loos (author of Gentleman Prefer Blondes). The film centers on Harlow’s harlot character Lil, who sleeps her way into money. This is pre-code Hollywood at it’s best, and all of the events are played very tongue-in-cheek for laughs. This is also the film where Harlow covered her iconic platinum locks with a red wig!
Number 3: China Seas (1935)
~This film features Harlow and her greatest screen lover, Clark Gable! The two have incredible chemistry, and this film shows that chemistry well. It also features a lot of funny scenes with Wallace Beery. As a side note, this happens to be my husband’s favorite Clark Gable film!
Number 2: Hold Your Man (1933)
~Yet another pairing with Gable, this one is the story of a con man meeting a woman who runs cons of her own. Of course, the two fall in love. They must navigate their relationship as the cops catch on to their criminal activity. It ends up being a rather sweet romantic drama film!
Number 1: Red Dust (1932)
~Red Dust is my absolute favorite Harlow film by far! It is also probably my favorite 1930s film. The film starred Harlow and Gable (I know, another pairing of those two on this list), and they meet on Gable’s rubber farm in Indo-China. Harlow is a prostitute (not stated, but certainly implied) from Saigon who came in on the boat. The two begin an affair until she leaves on the next boat, however due to weather she ends up staying behind! This leads to a love triangle, and much drama. The chemistry between the stars is incredibly fiery in this film!
Note on these films: I want to acknowledge that since these films were made in the 1930s, there are several portrayals that are uncomfortable to watch today. While I can look past it because I grew up with old films, and I know how these things were done, I know it may be difficult for some people to view. I do not agree with the 1930s racist portrayals in Old Hollywood, but I view this as a window into the past (and a way to understand how life worked in that era). At the end of the day, these films, like all art, are products of their time.
~I hope that you have enjoyed this countdown. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the page is Harlow and Gable in Red Dust. I found the image on nj.com.