BOMBSHELL

BOMBSHELL ( I )                Lee Tracy and Jean Harlow in Victor Fleming’s “BOMBSHELL” ( 1933 )

Folks, for my money BOMBSHELL” ( 1933 ) is a qualitative, unequivocal hit. Loud, shrill, over-the-top, shrieking, sharp and most of all…funny? It’s those very elements that offers up my enjoyment of this movie. This in no short part is because JEAN HARLOW carries this motion picture from here to Kingdom come.

I’m no Harlow aficionado. ( Here is a very good one ). I just know I like what I’ve seen. This is the iconic image of her that is burned in our retina. And this very image may be what gets in our way of appreciating her talents as an actress.

HARLOW

But if you can get past this ( go on…try to look away now ) she’s done a number of films where she might be some variation of this bombshell who is not a man’s first choice to take home to Momma, but may get an appreciative slap on the back from Dad if he does. As sexy as she was she seemed to always be fighting to get her man whether it was Gable or Tracy. But you tell me if Harlow’s the same Harlow who’s in Wife vs. Secretary as she was in Dinner At Eight. Go on, I dare you. I double darn triple dare ya. ( I wish I could have seen more of that girl; but maybe that girl didn’t pay the studio’s bills ).

“Bombshell” is all Harlow. She deftly handles it all like a juggler spinning those plates on Ed Sullivan’s show. I think she plays it on different notes. She talks at breakneck speed, uses humor ( read sarcasm ). She’s harried, put-upon, lied to, double/triple-crossed. She puts on airs, thinks she’s in love, is exasperated and goes from one drama to another. She’s the eye of the hurricane in this screwball comedy.

From Lola’s bloodsucking family to those over-sized dogs wrangled by Louise Beavers ( who I’m grateful is allowed to be normal. Well..normal for this cacophonous household ) to the phoniness of show business to her agent who wants her pound of flesh ( any way he can get her ) the whole movie is a wild ride with a great supporting cast including Una Merkel, Frank Morgan, C. Aubrey Smith, Isabel Jewell, Pat O’Brien, Franchot Tone, Ted Healy, Louise Beavers and the great Lee Tracy who is the piston in Harlow’s engine. Their sparring rivals anything Borg & McEnroe, Martina & Evert, or Venus & Serena EVER did at Wimbledon. Jean Harlow died at 26, on this day – June 7th, 1937. It was a great loss to the movie industry as she was just reaching her peak and from all accounts, well liked in Hollywood. I wonder what the forties would have brought. Her character of Lola Burns is the antithesis to the quiet Harlean Carpenter who was brought to Hollywood at a young age. And that’s what acting is all about.

If “Bombshell” is shown at the 2016 TCMFF, it would be the hit of the festival. And I’ll be the first on line to say “I told you so.”

BOMBSHELL ( III )  BOMBSHELL ( IV )

Harlow: “Hey, I didn’t give you that for a negligee. It’s an evening wrap.”

Louise Beavers: “I know Miss Lola but the negligee what you gave me got all tore up night before last.”

Harlow: “Your day off is sure brutal on your lingerie.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( VI )Una Merkel: “Can’t you get up in time to put on your uniform.”

Beavers: “Don’t scald me with your steam woman. I knows where the body’s buried.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( VII )

Harlow: “I ask you Miss Carroll, as one lady to another, isn’t that
a load of clam?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

BOMBSHELL ( XXIII )

Lee Tracy: “Just because a guy with an Ellis Island accent happens to have a dress suit with a hair ribbon across his chest, you dames get a pedigree and start reaching for the diamond tiara.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  BOMBSHELL ( IX ) BOMBSHELL ( VIII )

Harlow: “Tijuana again?! They’ve been giving you a sleigh ride on that roulette wheel.”

Frank Morgan: “Now look you mustn’t be too hard on him.”

Harlow: “Not another nickel. He’s been supporting every gambling joint on that border with his millionaire complex and my money.”

Morgan: “Yeah but they’re liable to hold him…”

Harlow: “So let them hold him. Let ‘em put him to work on a rock pile. I don’t care, I’m through. He’s a lion and a no good and a…oh what the heck. Ma liked him.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( XI )

 “Gosh, where’ve you been all my life.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( XII )

Isabel Jewell: “I’m staying out of basements, I was born in
one.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This melee is the highpoint of the movie for me. And Frank Morgan’s all in it:

BOMBSHELL ( XIX )  BOMBSHELL ( XIV )

 Frank Morgan: “This is outrageous. It’s vandalism. I won’t stand for it. This is Medieval! It’s Medieval!”

And the capper:

BOMBSHELL ( XVI )

Isabel Jewell: “I’m gettin’ sober, aren’t you?”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Enough is enough! Harlow’s had it up to here…and down to her platinum roots:

BOMBSHELL ( X )   BOMBSHELL ( XXI )

BOMBSHELL ( XX )

“Get away from me all of you. You’re nothing but a pack of leeches…treating me like a strip act on a burlesque show. A glamorous bombshell, ey? A glorified chump. That’s what I’ve been. Well, I’m through do you understand…with the business…with everybody. You can get another It Girl, But Girl or a How When and Where Girl. I’m clearing out. I’m going where ladies and gentlemen hang their hats and get some peace and quiet.”

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 BOMBSHELL ( XXX )   BOMBSHELL ( XXIX )

Franchot Tone: “Your hair is like a field of daisies. I’d like to run barefoot through your hair.”

Harlow: “…not even Norma Shearer and Helen Hayes in their nicest pictures were ever spoken to like that.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

BOMBSHELL ( XXXI )  BOMBSHELL ( XXXII )

 Harlow: “And never speak to me again!”

Yes there is A Star Is Born and What Price Hollywood? is another goodie about Hollywood on Hollywood. But I’ll take “Bombshell” any day of the week. All manner of chaos breaks out around Harlow thanks to Lee Tracy being the wind beneath her wings. But you can’t help but watch Harlow. I think this was an Oscar-winning performance. She doesn’t come up for air. She is sexy and comedic. In fact you a little bit forget about her sex appeal the girl is assaulted on ev’ry front. SHE is a force of Nature. And she is gone much much too soon.

(  H O M  E  )

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11 thoughts on “BOMBSHELL

  1. When I saw Madonna’s TRUTH OR DARE (1991), my immediate thought was that if Madonna was looking for a movie star vehicle, she should remake BOMBSHELL and update it to her life. Instead, every movie vehicle she chose back then was just a little bit off and didn’t quite capture the quality we saw in TRUTH OR DARE. (I still say she should have been nominated for Best Actress for that–who says playing yourself isn’t acting?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahhhh. Good point there about Madonna. So many other singers made a career in the movies: ( Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc. ) and allowed themselves to become a different character. I never got that sense with Madonna. I always felt she was too self-conscious that she was MADONNA. “…who says playing yourself isn’t acting?” So true.

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  2. Marvin.Go see Mary Poppins; you won't be sorry, and Victor, Victoria as well! See you at Gee Whiz. on said:

    Harlow remains one of my favorite actors. I’ve always thought her to be brilliant as well as beautiful and Bombshell may be as fine an example as any although I particularly love her in Red Dust and in my opinion she and Gable remain one of the screen’s greatest and hottest of couples!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “RED DUST” – one of the best films of the 30’s and the chemistry between Gable and Harlow is off the chain. In “Bombshell” Harlow got to play different degrees of exasperation. I think it’s a hoot!

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  3. BOMBSHELL was the film that made me watch Harlow, over and over. And it was also my virtual fandom with Lee Tracy. Of all people! That nothing-faced actor who has no Looks at all, but wow, in film after film since BOMBSHELL, I’ve noticed how perfect he is.

    BOMBSHELL is also a great ‘twist’ movie, that seems sooo predictable for so long and then, kersplat, all my expectations are worse than spaghetti on a wall!

    My only fear is a recollection of seeing this when I was much younger – teens? – and walking out because it felt sooo predictable. If only I’d have stayed – ! But it took decades of classic film watching to understand the importance of the Supporting Cast, and this film has some of the best examples of a great supporting cast. “Just let the star (or stars) wander around, but let the supporting cast drive this thing home.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really like Harlow in this role, Ollie. She’s so exasperated, and pulled in many different directions and goes with the flow of the direction she’s being pulled in. The final twist is so brilliant I can’t even breathe when I see it. That supporting cast is just fantastic, and for me the funniest scene in the movie is the brawling Pat O’Brien with the gigolo and Frank Morgan rushing in saying: “It’s Medieval! MEDIEVAL!” I have a grand time with Bombshell.

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  4. Pingback: MY TIP TOP TOP TEN FAVORITE FILMS OF THE 1930’s | CineMaven's: ESSAYS from the COUCH

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