Full page view
HISTORY

The 4 Nov 1963 LAT noted that Carroll Baker had been chosen to portray the late actress Jean Harlow in a biographical film. Baker had recently played “Rina Marlow,” A character based on Harlow, in the Joseph E. Levine production, The Carpetbaggers (1964, see entry). Ten months later, the 1 Sep 1964 NYT reported that at least three films based on Harlow’s life were in process, following the publication of Irving Shulman’s controversial 1964 book, Harlow: An Intimate Biography.
       Levine announced his provisionally titled project, Jean Harlow, with an elaborate press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, during which Baker entered in character, seated in a 1930s Isotta Fanchini automobile. Levine purchased screen rights to Shulman’s book for $100,000, although this would not discourage competitors, as Harlow’s life story was in the public domain. The producer admitted in the 2 Dec 1964 Var that the book was not very inaccurate and would not be a major influence on the screenplay. However, he was prepared to sue any competing production that incorporated elements of the Shulman biography.
       The article claimed that Baker had previously negotiated her role with columnist Sidney Skolsky, whose treatment on Harlow was being considered by Columbia Pictures. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation was also planning a Harlow picture, based on a scenario by veteran screenwriter Adela Rogers St. John. Both Skolsky and Fox had originally intended for their pictures to star the late Marilyn Monroe.
       On 21 Oct 1964, NYT reported that William Sargent’s Electronovision Productions had ... More Less

The 4 Nov 1963 LAT noted that Carroll Baker had been chosen to portray the late actress Jean Harlow in a biographical film. Baker had recently played “Rina Marlow,” A character based on Harlow, in the Joseph E. Levine production, The Carpetbaggers (1964, see entry). Ten months later, the 1 Sep 1964 NYT reported that at least three films based on Harlow’s life were in process, following the publication of Irving Shulman’s controversial 1964 book, Harlow: An Intimate Biography.
       Levine announced his provisionally titled project, Jean Harlow, with an elaborate press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, during which Baker entered in character, seated in a 1930s Isotta Fanchini automobile. Levine purchased screen rights to Shulman’s book for $100,000, although this would not discourage competitors, as Harlow’s life story was in the public domain. The producer admitted in the 2 Dec 1964 Var that the book was not very inaccurate and would not be a major influence on the screenplay. However, he was prepared to sue any competing production that incorporated elements of the Shulman biography.
       The article claimed that Baker had previously negotiated her role with columnist Sidney Skolsky, whose treatment on Harlow was being considered by Columbia Pictures. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation was also planning a Harlow picture, based on a scenario by veteran screenwriter Adela Rogers St. John. Both Skolsky and Fox had originally intended for their pictures to star the late Marilyn Monroe.
       On 21 Oct 1964, NYT reported that William Sargent’s Electronovision Productions had recently entered the so-called “Harlow Sweepstakes.” Meanwhile, Fox and Columbia cancelled their projects, and a proposed tribute film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was in limbo. An item in the 5 Oct 1964 LAT suggested that Levine was attempting to “buy out” two competing Harlow productions.
       According to the 6 Dec 1964 LAT, Levine staged another media event as he and Baker were departing for the European premiere of The Carpetbaggers. He hosted approximately 150 journalists at a party on the Queen Mary, after which twenty-one traveled to England with Levine as his personal guests. The 25 Nov 1964 DV reported that rehearsals would begin at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, CA, after Baker and Levine returned from Europe. The 17 Dec 1964 issue noted that Levine had already spent approximately $300,000 on the project, split evenly between screen rights to the source book, publicity, and “research and development” of the screenplay. Levine and Paramount president Howard Koch denied rumors that they were making a sexually explicit film, and foresaw no conflicts with either the Production Code administration or the National Legion of Decency.
       As stated in the 31 Dec 1964 DV, filming was delayed while screenwriter Blanche Hanalis made script revisions. Several months later, the 4 Mar 1965 NYT revealed that the screenplay, originally written by Sidney Boehm and Irene Kamp , was revised by John Michael Hayes at Carroll Baker’s request. He was compensated with one third of her fifteen percent share of profits.
       Principal photography began 24 Feb 1965, as stated in a 12 Mar 1965 DV production chart. The 7 Mar 1965 LAT reported that Levine launched the picture with a champagne-and-caviar breakfast at Paramount Studios for 250 members of the news media. Baker arrived in a 1931 Cadillac convertible, accompanied by at least two Russian Wolfhounds. As part of the ceremony, she and Levine placed their footprints in concrete. Two unidentified guests commented on Baker’s poor resemblance to Harlow, in terms of both appearance and sex appeal. A related article in the 26 Feb 1965 LAT noted that Howard W. Koch and Paramount founder Adolph Zukor were also in attendance. The reporter described the affair as “the most depressing event of the week.”
       Prospective cast members included George Jessel as Arthur Landau (3 Sep 1964 DV) ; Alec Guinness as Paul Bern (2 Oct 1964 DV) ; Gilbert Roland as Marino Bello (25 Nov 1964 Var) ; Peter Falk as “an agent” (2 Dec 1964 DV) ; Edmond O’Brien as Arthur Landau (6 Feb 1965 LAT) ; and Roger Smith as the love interest (18 Feb 1964 DV). Joining the cast were character actor Fritz Feld (25 Feb 1965 DV) ; silent film comic Billy Bletcher (2 Mar 1965 DV); Mike Mahoney and Steve Brodie (10 Mar 1965 Var); Phil Arnold (12 Mar 1965 DV); Larry Blake (7 Apr 1965 DV) ; Don Haggerty and Larry Mann (13 Apr 1965 DV) ; Janet Watson and Judy Shernen (14 Apr 1965 DV) ; and Ginny Baker, sister of Carroll Baker (13 May 1965 DV). The 10 Mar 1965 Var noted that the picture required as many as 250 background actors, with an average of fifty per day on set. A “large group of wardrobe people” would also be needed to supply period costumes. According to the 23 Apr 1965 DV, a full orchestra and 125 background actors arrived on set that day. The same number of actors would be required the following week. The film marked the screen debut of orchestra conductor Irvin Talbot, as stated in the 30 Apr 1965 DV. A news brief in the 12 Mar 1965 LAT noted that the crew included former MGM hair designer Sydney Guilaroff, who had styled Jean Harlow’s hair thirty years earlier.
       On 10 Apr 1965, NYT reported that filming was postponed when Carroll Baker’s health was apparently compromised by working long hours with no days off. The schedule was necessitated by Levine’s intended release date of 25 Jun 1965. Several days earlier, Levine encountered rival producer William Sargent at the Academy Awards banquet. “A heated exchange” ensued after Levine discovered Sargent’s identity, prompting Howard Koch to separate the two competitors. The 19 Apr 1965 DV stated that Baker had returned to work following an eleven-day absence. The 3 May 1965 DV later described a mishap on set, during which the actress tripped over a pair of wolfhounds. The incident was to be included in the final edit.
       The 18 May 1965 DV announced that filming was scheduled for completion the following night at Zuma Beach in Malibu, CA. According to the 23 May 1965 NYT, the $4 million picture was rescheduled to open in Jul 1965. A news item in the 13 May 1965 DV stated that Levine and Paramount were spending an additional $150,000 for advertising to differentiate the two Harlow films. The first six installments were planned for the following week’s editions of NYT .
       As the release date drew closer, the 27 Jun 1965 NYT reported that Levine had embarked on an “Operation Harlow” tour, during which he made personal appearances, held screening events for exhibitors, and conducted “merchandising forums.” A series of sneak previews was also scheduled, with the goal of stimulating “‘word of mouth’ interest.” The 14 Apr 1965 Var noted that Levine’s touring entourage included a group of “Harlow girls.” A news item in the 7 Jul 1965 issue announced a contest sponsored by RKO Theatres and Lerner Shops (later known as New York & Company), offering a trip for two to Hollywood, CA, as first prize. Contestants were required to attend the film’s New York City debut at either RKO’s Palace or 58th Street theaters and write a review in no more than fifty words.
       Harlow opened 21 Jul 1965 in New York City, followed by an 11 Aug 1965 opening in Los Angeles. Reviews were generally negative, with the 22 Jul 1965 NYT describing the picture as “a mishmash of slush and mawkishness.” Although the 7 Jul 1965 Var anticipated gross receipts of $6 million over the next two months, the film was ultimately labeled a “flop” in the 5 Jan 1966 edition. Red Buttons’s portrayal of Arthur Landau earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor.
       On 19 May 1965, DV reported that distributor Magna Pictures had filed a $2.1 million anti-trust suit against Levine’s Embassy Pictures and its distributor, Paramount Pictures, claiming the companies forced exhibitors to boycott Electronovision’s Harlow (1965, see entry). Damages totaling $6.3 million were also sought. As stated in the 11 Jun 1965 NYT, Sargent filed his own suit against Embassy and Paramount, as well as with Technicolor Corporation of America and five theater circuits. One of those circuits, National General Corporation, was charged with boycotting the picture to “protect its own Talaria electronic film process.” Paramount and Embassy filed “defense and counter-suits” totaling $1 million, as reported in the 28 Sep 1965 DV.
       The 30 Sep 1965 DV listed Harlow among five U.S. entries at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival in Brazil. The screening was subsequently canceled without explanation.
       The 16 Sep 1965 DV reported Carroll Baker’s plans for a five-year moratorium on scripted television “to protect her corporate percentage interest” in Harlow, which was estimated at $1 million. According to the 3 Nov 1965 Var, Baker filed suit against Paramount for reneging on an agreement to star her in the film version of Tropic of Cancer, based on Henry Miller’s 1961 novel. The suit was dismissed after studio documents revealed that Baker diverted John Michael Hayes from completing the screenplay with her invitation to revise Harlow. Production of Tropic of Cancer (1970, see entry) was postponed until 1969.
       The 2 Jun 1965 Var noted that revived interest in Jean Harlow resulted in the publication of a novel she had written thirty years earlier. Titled Today Is Tonight, the book debuted in the Jul 1965 issue of Mademoiselle magazine, followed by a hardback edition from Grove Press on 12 Jul 1965. The magazine’s fiction editor described the plot as “campy.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Nov 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Nov 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
18 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
9 Mar 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1965
p. 8, 10, 24.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
13 Apr 1965
p. 6.
Daily Variety
14 Apr 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
19 Apr 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Apr 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1965
p. 16.
Daily Variety
3 May 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 May 1965
p. 2, 4.
Daily Variety
18 May 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
19 May 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
31 May 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Jun 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Jun 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Jul 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1965
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
25 Aug 1963
Section E, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
4 Nov 1963
Section D, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1964
Section T, p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jul 1964
Section D, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
1 Aug 1964
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
5 Oct 1964
Section D, p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
6 Dec 1964
Section P, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1965
Section I, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1965
Section C, p.11.
Los Angeles Times
7 Mar 1965
Section B, p. 1, 41.
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 1965
Section C, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jun 1965
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
11 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
12 Aug 1965
Section D, p. 7.
New York Times
27 May 1964
p. 36.
New York Times
25 Aug 1964
p. 30.
New York Times
1 Sep 1964
p. 28.
New York Times
21 Oct 1964
p. 35.
New York Times
13 Nov 1964
p. 70.
New York Times
24 Nov 1964
p. 40.
New York Times
4 Mar 1965
p. 36.
New York Times
10 Apr 1965
p. 19.
New York Times
1 May 1965
p. 18.
New York Times
23 May 1965
Section X, p. 1.
New York Times
11 Jun 1965
p. 18.
New York Times
27 Jun 1965
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
22 Jul 1965
p. 24.
Variety
15 Jul 1964
p. 24.
Variety
16 Sep 1964
p. 13.
Variety
25 Nov 1964
p. 6.
Variety
2 Dec 1964
p. 22.
Variety
10 Mar 1965
p. 17, 77.
Variety
14 Apr 1965
p. 22.
Variety
2 Jun 1965
p. 5.
Variety
7 Jul 1965
p. 7, 19.
Variety
3 Nov 1965
p. 17
Variety
5 Jan 1966
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Asst cam
Col cons
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hair dsgn
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Stills
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Harlow: An Intimate Biography by Irving Shulman (New York, 1964).
SONGS
"Lonely Girl," words and music by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
sung by Bobby Vinton.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Jean Harlow
Release Date:
23 June 1965
Premiere Information:
Chicago opening: 23 June 1965
New York opening: 21 July 1965
Los Angeles opening: 11 August 1965
Production Date:
24 February--19 May 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures
Copyright Date:
24 June 1965
Copyright Number:
LP31139
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
125
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Jean Harlow, an aspiring actress in Hollywood in the 1920's, supports her mother and lazy stepfather, Marino Bello, by taking bit parts in the movies. Agent Arthur Landau recognizes that the platinum blonde actress could become a new sex symbol. He gets Jean better roles, including some in slapstick comedy, until she is signed by Richard Manley, an independent producer. Jean needs more money to support her parents, and Landau tricks Manley into releasing Jean from her contract after her triumphant personal-appearance tour. She signs with Everett Redman, head of a major Hollywood studio. Though she has become Hollywood's leading sex symbol, Jean is still chaste and actually afraid of men. Both actor Jack Harrison and studio executive Paul Bern ask to marry Jean, and in an extravagant Hollywood wedding, she marries Bern but on their wedding night discovers he is impotent. After Bern commits suicide, Harlow starts drinking heavily. In her search for love she turns to Bello, Manley, and Harrison--all of whom reject her. Though she is at the height of her career, Jean starts picking up strangers in bars. Her drinking and promiscuity lead to her early death at the age of ... +


Jean Harlow, an aspiring actress in Hollywood in the 1920's, supports her mother and lazy stepfather, Marino Bello, by taking bit parts in the movies. Agent Arthur Landau recognizes that the platinum blonde actress could become a new sex symbol. He gets Jean better roles, including some in slapstick comedy, until she is signed by Richard Manley, an independent producer. Jean needs more money to support her parents, and Landau tricks Manley into releasing Jean from her contract after her triumphant personal-appearance tour. She signs with Everett Redman, head of a major Hollywood studio. Though she has become Hollywood's leading sex symbol, Jean is still chaste and actually afraid of men. Both actor Jack Harrison and studio executive Paul Bern ask to marry Jean, and in an extravagant Hollywood wedding, she marries Bern but on their wedding night discovers he is impotent. After Bern commits suicide, Harlow starts drinking heavily. In her search for love she turns to Bello, Manley, and Harrison--all of whom reject her. Though she is at the height of her career, Jean starts picking up strangers in bars. Her drinking and promiscuity lead to her early death at the age of 26. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.