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FLICK PICKS: Jean Harlow, no dumb blonde
January 6, 2009  | By Diane Werts
 

January 6, 2009 10:09 AM

She even reads books! That's the punchline of the first of five fun films starring Jean Harlow, Dinner at Eight (Saturday at 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies). The night's TCM mini-festival spotlights the brassy blonde's sex appeal and comedic spark as well as her dramatic chops (or lack thereof), in early films from 1931-33.

jean harlow.jpgDinner at Eightis a sleek MGM all-star affair, where a 1933 high society dinner party attracts not only Harlow (in a gown so tight, the actress literally could not sit down while wearing it), but also superstars John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore and Marie Dressler (author of the movie's classic book-reading double take). When it came to glitz and fizz, director George Cukor knew what he was doing.


The next two films scream Harlow in their titles. The 1933 satire Bombshell (Saturday at 10 p.m., TCM) centers on a glam actress being used by everyone in Hollywood, while 1931's newspaper comedy Platinum Blonde (11:45 p.m.) casts her as a society babe.

High-voltage actors make Harlow sizzle in the final two flicks. Clark Gable stars in 1933's Hold Your Man (1:30 a.m.), a dramedy followup to their steamy tropical affair Red Dust. And James Cagney shot to stardom in 1931's The Public Enemy (3 a.m.), with Harlow still learning how to act as a society dame smitten with Cagney's gangster.

Seeing how bright Harlow shines makes it hard to believe her light would be extinguished by 1937, when she died suddenly at the young age of 26. That makes each and every Harlow film appearance worth seeing.

 
 
 
 
 
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