Hughes and Harlow: Angels in Hell (1977)

R   |    |  Biography, Drama


Hughes and Harlow: Angels in Hell (1977) Poster

When maverick first-time director Howard Hughes has to recast the female lead in his aerial war picture Hell's Angels (1930), he chooses a fiery, unknown movie extra named Jean Harlow, launching both of their Hollywood careers in the process.


3.5/10
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19 December 2004 | shaggycub
1
| Bloom and Holchak: Actors in Hell
To call this movie dreck would be like calling "Heaven's Gate" a minor flop. Where do I begin? For starters, the screenplay is weak, and bears almost no relation to the actual filming of "Hell's Angels"-in fact, they don't even use the actual title, they call the movie "Angels in Hell". The screen play bothers to include a brief appearance by Howard Hawks, and yet does't even mention James Whale, who actually worked on "Hell's Angels". Then there's the casting and "acting" by the leads, Holchak and Bloom. Holchak plays Hughes like he was James Stewart-all shyness and "aw shucks" demeanor. Plus Jean's always cracking that he'll end up in the nut-house-a cutesy way of foreshadowing Hughes' real life future battles with mental illness. In addition to this, there's Lindsay Bloom's interpretation of Jean. Lindsay plays Jean as a crass vulgarian-she swears like Carole Lombard on a bender. Then to add insult to injury, the movie implies that Jean spent time in a "cat house" in LA-when by all accounts, while Jean did have her affairs, she was momma's little girl. Also, they portray her as a Midwestern guttersnipe, when she was raised in the lap of luxury-and the overbearing stage mother Jean had in real life was barely a cipher in this movie. Then there's the issue of the look of the film. Cheap cheap cheap. The filmmakers barely get the period right at times, and Jean's look is all wrong-the hair's too big and the makeup is all wrong. Not to mention, they don't even try to properly recreate her scenes in "Double Whoopee" and "Hell's Angels"-this movie sets "Hell's" in Paris, not London, and they get the dress ripping gag wrong as well as fail to mention Laurel and Hardy in the filming of "Double". I read in an interview with the director that the found out after principal photography started that this movie was merely a tax shelter-and the fact is, it shows. Everything about this movie is cheap and mediocre, the sets, the actors, the screenplay, the costumes-everything.

Lastly, there's the central premise of the film-that Hughes and Harlow were romantically involved. There's no evidence that Hughes saw Harlow as anything other than a cash cow. He basically held her to a slave contract and worked her hard with no regard to building her up as a star-Hughes just wanted to make money off of her while she was hot, with no though of her future. This movie has them wanting each other, but Hughes wants to wait until the movie's released until he beds Harlow-and having Harlow desperately trying to seduce him.

All in all, this is probably the worst representation of Harlow on screen-even worse than the hatchet job that Paramount made in the 60's with Carrol Baker. I had to see this, as I am a huge Jean Harlow fan. While I wasn't expecting much, I was still very disappointed. This movie fails on all fronts-as a Hollywood history, a docudrama, as a romance, even as a T&A boobie flick (for all the talk in this movie about Jean and her assets, we barely see any of her body.) I can not at all recommend this movie to anyone. I suppose that someone who's a fan of Harlow, or 30's Hollywood might be tempted to see this movie, and I can't stop them. All I can say is do NOT spend too much money on a copy of this movie. I was lucky to score a copy on eBay for about $5.00, and even that was too much. Since it has been out of print for so long, the price for it tends to be high-but I'm wondering if the release of "The Aviator" might cause the company to re-release this onto home video.

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Biography | Drama

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