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Jean Harlow, affectionately dubbed “The Baby” and the “Blonde Bombshell,” was the sex goddess of Hollywood before Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. With her blonde hair and shaved brows replaced with thin, sharp pencil lines, she was a trendsetter. Jean’s true calling was to be a wife and mother, but she was compelled to pursue acting by her ambitious mother, who aspired to be a Hollywood actress herself. Her blonde and sensual appearance, as well as her comic abilities, captivated her fans, propelling her to star in 36 films in less than a decade. She was the first actress to grace the cover of the magazine “Life.” She also attempted to write a novel, “Today is Tonight,” which was published posthumously by a family friend. She wrote the novel during the salary strike she waged against MGM, the colossal production company whose label she had risen to stardom. She had been exposed to illnesses since she was a child. She suffered a meningitis attack when she was five years old and scarlet fever at the age of fifteen. When she was still in her prime of youth and Hollywood stardom, she died of a serious renal failure.

Childhood & Adolescence

Harlean Harlow Carpenter was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1911, as the only child of Mont Clair and Jean Poe Carpenter. Her father was a dentist, and her mother was a member of a well-to-do family.

Miss Barstow’s Finishing School for Girls in Kansas City was where she attended school. Her parents divorced during her high school years due to her mother’s resentment.

Despite her mother’s restrictions, she sneaked out to meet her father. When her mother relocated to Chicago in search of a Hollywood career, she continued her education at Hollywood School for Girls.

Her mother returned to Kansas after being denied entry into Hollywood’s celluloid world. Jean contracted scarlet fever during her summer camp experience in Michigamme, Michigan, but recovered.

She was later enrolled in Lake Forest, Illinois’s Ferry Hall School. She met her senior, Charles McGrew, here

Career of Jean

While she waited for her friend, an aspiring actress at the Fox Studio, she was drawn into an acting offer. Although she declined their personal invitation, Fox executives recommended her to Central Casting.

She accepted the offer against her mother’s wishes after receiving the personal letter from Central Casting. She contracted with Central Casting under the name Jean Harlow, her mother’s maiden name.

She made her acting debut in the film “Honor Bound” as an extra. She was signed with a $7-per-day offer. She was offered a minor role in “Moran of Marines” in 1928. She appeared in films such as “This Thing Called Love,” “Close Harmony,” “The Love Parade,” and “Double Whoopee” the following year.

In 1930, she received an offer to star in Howard Hughes’ “Hell’s Angels.” Actor James Hall recommended her for the film.

The success of “Hell’s Angels” elevated her to international stardom, despite the fact that she received mixed reviews from critics. She appeared as an extra in films such as Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights.”

Jean rose to prominence as a result of her roles in “The Secret Six” and “The Public Enemy.” Howard Hughes loaned her contract to MGM in 1931, launching her career. Her appearance in “Platinum Blonde” established her as Hollywood’s sex idol.

In 1932, Paul Bern, an executive at MGM, was taken with her and arranged for her contract with Hughes to be purchased. Her performance in “Red Dust” exceeded MGM’s expectations.

In 1933, she starred in MGM’s all-time star film, “Dinner at Eight.” Her comic brilliance infused the film with life.

The following film, “Bombshell,” was a Hollywood parody of her real-life experiences. She articulated her own personal experience growing up under the thumb of a greedy stepfather and a domineering and persuasive mother.

In 1934, she demolished the coveted image of sex icon with her performance in “The Girl from Missouri.” She presented herself as an elegant actress, the image that MGM actresses are accustomed to.

She reunited with Clark Gables and produced chart-topping singles such as “China Seas” and “Wife vs. Secretary.” In a poll conducted by the “Motion Picture Herald,” she was ranked among the Top Ten.

In 1937, while filming “Saratoga,” she complained of exhaustion, stomach ache, and nausea. She was admitted to the hospital but died of uremic poisoning.

Significant Works of Jean

She gained popularity in 1931 with the release of “Platinum Blonde.” The film’s original title, “Gallagher,” was changed to the current title for publicity purposes. Jean received top billing in the film.

Her final film, “Saratoga,” was a romantic comedy directed by Jack Conway. The film drew a large audience and was a box-office smash in 1937.

Awards and Accomplishments

Nearly 50,000 people packed the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the opening day of her debut film, “Hell’s Angels.” Additionally, the film is known for its use of a two-color Technicolor sequence.

The American Film Institute ranked her as the 22nd greatest female film star, and Entertainment Weekly ranked her as the 49th “Greatest Movie Star” of all time.

Personal History and Legacies

She left home at the age of sixteen and married Charles McGrew, a senior at Ferry Hall School. However, the marriage lasted only two years, and in 1929, the couple divorced.

In 1932, she married producer Paul Bern for the second time. He was instrumental in securing the contract for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, more commonly referred to as MGM, but their marriage lasted less than two months.

She had a brief affair with boxer Max Baer but later fell in love with cinematographer Harold Rosson and married him in 1933. The marriage was annulled the following year.

She began a romantic relationship with actor William Powell in 1935. She even conceived his child but aborted it due to his and her mother’s opposition to having children.

In 1937, she proposed to William Powell with a sapphire ring as an engagement gift. She collapsed and was hospitalized during the filming of “Saratoga,” but died on June 7, 1937, of acute uremic poisoning.

Estimated Net Worth

Jean Harlow net worth: Jean Harlow was an American actress and sex symbol who had a net worth of $100,000 at the time of her death, which equates to approximately $1.7 million in current dollars after inflation.

Jean Harlow was born in March 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri and died in June 1937. She was signed by director Howard Hughes and made her film debut in 1930’s Hell’s Angels.


This American actress, dubbed the “Platinum Blonde,” had an affair with infamous mobster Abner “Longy” Zwillman. Zwillman’s financial assistance to Columbia Pictures’ Harry Cohn resulted in her being signed for two Columbia films.

This Hollywood sex icon was a devout Democrat who attended President Roosevelt’s dinner party. A video clip of the event, captioned “Good Evening,” is available on the You Tube resource.