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Jean Harlow Centenary Celebration on TCM: RED-HEADED WOMAN, SUZY, RIFFRAFF

Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Red-Headed Woman
Jean Harlow, Chester Morris in Jack Conway’s Red-Headed Woman

Jean Harlow, who died of complications from kidney disease at the age of 26 in 1937, would have turned 100 years old last March 3. In celebration of Harlow’s centenary, Turner Classic Movies is presenting a series of Harlow movies every Tuesday evening this month.

The Jean Harlow series begins tonight, with a mix that includes Harlow’s early, pre-MGM work (a bit part in Charles Chaplin’s City Lights, the Columbia release Three Wise Girls), the racy pre-Coder Red-Headed Woman, and a couple of her later MGM movies (Suzy, Riffraff).

I haven’t watched Three Wise Girls, yet. It sounds a bit like The Greeks Had a Word for Them, a United Artists release that also came out in 1932, and its many variations, e.g., the 20th Century Fox releases Three Blind Mice, Moon Over Miami, How to Marry a Millionaire. I’d say Three Wise Girls shouldn’t be missed for it has both Jean Harlow and the delightful silent film actress Marie Prevost, and it’s a pre-Code flick — in other words, it was made before the Bible-inspired Breen Office began emasculating American movies.

The same goes for the Jack Conway-directedRed-Headed Woman (1932), which caused quite a furor in its day and was one of the movies that led to the enforcement of the Production Code a couple of years later. As the title clearly states, Harlow isn’t a platinum blonde in Red-Headed Woman. Also of interest, Charles Boyer has a small role as a chauffeur. Anita Loos (author of the musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) penned the screenplay.

George Fitzmaurice’s Suzy is a bore; its only selling point is that you get to see and hear Cary Grant singing off-key. I’m not sure if that’s such a good recommendation, but it’s a rare sight (and sound) all the same.

City Lights is considered by many to be Charles Chaplin’s greatest film. Personally, I’d rather watch Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler exchange words in Dinner at 8, which will be shown in the near future.

Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:

5:00pm [Romance] Red-Headed Woman (1932)
An ambitious secretary tries to sleep her way into high society.
Cast: Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Lewis Stone, Leila Hyams Dir: Jack Conway BW-80 mins

6:24pm [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Jean Harlow (1962)
BW-4 mins

6:30pm [Comedy] Three Wise Girls (1932)
Three models try to snag husband’s but the ones they find are already married.
Cast: Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke, Walter Byron, Marie Prevost Dir: William Beaudine BW-69 mins

7:45pm [Western] Riffraff (1936)
Young marrieds in the fishing business run afoul of the law.
Cast: Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy, Una Merkel, Joseph Calleia Dir: J. Walter Ruben BW-94 mins

9:30pm [Drama] Suzy (1936)
A French air ace discovers that his showgirl wife’s first husband is still alive.
Cast: Jean Harlow, Franchot Tone, Cary Grant, Lewis Stone Dir: Geo. Fitzmaurice BW-93 mins

11:15pm [Silent] City Lights (1931)
In this silent film, the Little Tramp tries to help a blind flower seller to see again.
Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers Dir: Charles Chaplin BW-87 mins

Continue Reading: THE BARKER Review - Milton Sills, Dorothy Mackaill, Betty Compson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr

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