This posting is an added extra bonus for my readers, as part of the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon, wonderfully run by Movies Silently, Once Upon A Screen, and Silver Screenings. Well, fine, thats their Twitter tags, I know them by other names too, but for you…that will do.
So, in no great shock horror moment, I’ve picked a Harlow movie to review. To be honest, it was a toss up between this, and Bombshell (where Jean pretty much plays herself) for my choice, and Dinner At Eight won out, probably because of the closing line, at her expense.
Its said that MGM tossed a pile of stars at this movie, and it shows. 2 Barrymore’s amongst many, and of course, Jean Harlow. Funnily enough though, for me, its none of them that steal the movie, its Marie Dressler, as Carlotta, and Wallace Beery, as Packard who do that.
It is a Pre code movie, and it shows. In that half the characters are having illicit affairs, and just about everything else goes too. For those readers who dont know what I’m talking about, prior to 1934, things were a bit more “relaxed” as to what was permitted in movies, than was for the next 30 years or so. The other thing you can tell, is that its set in the Depression era, as most of the characters are either down on their luck, or heading that way.
Yes, most. The Packard’s are the newly rich, and I suspect not entirely in a lawful way, but anyway…Everyone else seems to be struggling with money, or loves, or…something! And irony, the 2 people who said dinner is being held for, go off elsewhere instead!
Jean, as Kitty, is sassy, tarty, and having a sly affair with her doctor. Beery, as her husband, makes the perfect foil for her. But one stands out amongst others, and that is Marie Dressler, as Carlotta, the down on her luck actress. She plays the part with relish, and of course, at the end, just before they go into dinner, shoots Kitty down in flames wonderfully. This is it!
There are tales that it was either added to the script at the last moment, and no one told Jean, to get a natural reaction. Equally that Dressler simply ad libbed the line into it, but I would be amazed if that was the case, given the way films were made back then.
The sad irony of this movie, is that Dressler makes a comment about death, and how even the young cant stop it coming, after a failed, drunk actor committed suicide. Why ironic? Well of course, as is well known, just 4 years later, the very young Jean Harlow was dead, at 26, due to kidney failure, which wasnt curable back then. But also, just 2 years after this movie was made, Dressler was dead too, from cancer, at the age of 65.
If you want to see an excellently cast, superb movie about life in the Depression era, then you should try to see this. Its not actually (at time of writing) available in full on You Tube, but it can be cheaply picked up at Amazon, or Ebay, and other places as well I’m sure.
Yes, there is crossover with Harlow, and Kitty, a character, to put it mildly. But if you want a light hearted biog of Jean Harlow, go watch Bombshell. Its not strictly true, but its a closer match than either of the films made about her in the 60’s. Of course, it doesnt include the end of her life, but anyway…
Lastly, the video. Well, the song has the perfect title, so…