Review

  • It's big, it's expensive, it's colorful, and that's about it. The people behind "The Carpetbaggers," obviously hoping that lightning would strike twice, put together the high budget version of Irving Schulman's alleged biography of Jean Harlow the following year. This was a mistake. "Carpetbaggers" was trash, but it was enjoyable trash. "Harlow" doesn't even reach that level. Both the Schulman book and this movie were really more fiction than fact and many of those who knew and worked with Harlow, most of whom were still alive at the time, took serious issue with both. Then there are the performances. Even talented people like Angela Lansbury and Raf Vallone, as Jean's mother and stepfather, couldn't do much with this mess, and so compensated by going over the top. But for sheer miscasting, the real violator is not Carroll Baker's overripe Harlow, but Peter Lawford's Paul Bern. Here was the tall, handsome Lawford playing a man who was, by all accounts, short, bald, and, frankly, rather dumpy looking. It's a good thing everything and everybody else in this film other than Jean Harlow, her immediate family, and agent Arthur Landau, were cloaked under various pseudonyms. To have done otherwise would have left Joseph E. Levine and Paramount open to a world of trouble resulting from the libel suits alone.

    In short, watching "Harlow," you'll gain nothing and lose 130 minutes you'll never get back again. It really isn't worth it.