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Harlow

24 Oct

Harlow –– directed by Gordon Douglas –– a bio-pic about the lingerie blond from the 30s. 125 minutes Technicolor 1965.

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I spent an evening talking with Carroll Baker in the late 50s after she had just had her first successes in Baby Doll and Giant. She was pretty and sweet and simple. She had a little wen under her chin which gave her face a certain unexpected character. She had that money-voice. More than six years go by before this picture is made, where she is playing a teenager. Her own story in her own autobiography is far more compelling than the one cooked up for this curious actress, Harlow, and far more shocking. As a performer, Jean Harlow is an actor I tend to avoid. She had a square hard face, thin lips, a voice like fingernails on a blackboard, and, except for wearing no underwear or wearing only underwear, no talent. Except for Hell’s Angels, in which she seems to be quite another person. Anyhow, Baker is right for this role and is a much better actress than Harlow. English actors are infirmly cast in parts around her, Peter Lawford who looks like he has been stung by thirty infected wasps, and Angela Lansbury, ordinarily wonderful, who is quite bad, gravely miscast, for some mad reason, as Harlow’s mother. The whole production is swamped somewhat by the Technicolor process, which is really something to behold in its heyday. Just take a look at the opening scenes where the extras enter the studio, go into Costume, and start filming. Edith Head did the things, which are wonderful, but have not much to do with the 30s; nor does the music. Martin Balsam has a nice turn as a vulgarian producer. Ten years after this film was made, I was in love with a woman who looked like Carroll Baker. She had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. She’s gone. But I look at Carroll Baker’s films now, because Baker, retired to Palm Springs and no longer acting, was a very good natural method actress and because we had such a nice talk so many years ago and because of that.

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