Jean Harlow, forever sexy…

How nice it must have been during a cold winter night during the Great Depression to be able to slip into a neighborhood bijou and watch Jean Harlow light up a screen with her matchless combination of earthy sexiness and well-timed wisecracks.

This was one of Harlow's earliest hits.

This was one of Harlow's earliest hits.


Their first meeting in Gable's apartment is a classic of flirtation.

I caught Hold Your Man a couple of weeks ago on Turner Classic Movies. A comedy-drama, I thought it works best in the first half, when Harlow and Gable have some priceless dialogue. You can just feel Harlow’s body as she walks around in the form-fitting dresses, and stands with a gentle insolence with her hand on her hip. Then the movie turns more dramatic and too sentimental. Still, I could see how just looking at Jean on the big screen could have taken an audience on a mini-vacation from its woes.


I can well imagine what Cagney's lap must have felt like with Jean on it: happy!

Harlow’s platinum blond hair and slinky outfits had women across the country adapting the look for their own. You can get a sense of what New York felt like in Harlow’s prime when you look at the paintings of Reginald Marsh, who populated his canvases with images of Harlowesque types striding through the tumult of New York City, whether on the streets, the beaches, the dance halls, or burlesque stages.

The late Reginald Marsh matchlessly captured the feisty women of 30s and 40s New York in his paintings and etchings.

Marsh himself seems to long for the beauties who stride through his canvases.

The reason why Jean Harlow is so sexy still is because she makes us laugh. Even though we can’t get her to sit down on our individual laps, she gets a real physical response out of us–a physical release–when she evokes our laughter. A beautiful woman with a warm-hearted sense of humor (as opposed to the cutting kind) is the most alluring of all females. And Jean was very generous, even democratic, in the distribution of her charms through the medium of comedy.

Hmm. Maybe if I concentrate hard enough, I can imagine her sitting on my lap, too…



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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ah, the ever-timeless lubricity of my favorite platinum goddess!

    Herr Traveler:

    While you speak (and rightfully, cogently so!) of the sheer perfection of darling Jean’s satiny wardrobe, did you also observe, during your viewing of “Hold Your Man,” the extremely stylish cut and fit of Herr Gable’s wardrobe? The man could certainly wear clothes, something that those who continually heap praise on messers Grant and Astaire for their sartorial perfection have apparently forgotten. In his heyday, the King ordered his bespoke suits (46-inches in the chest) from Brooks Brothers; he specified buttons on his fly rather than zippers, and forbade even the merest scrap of padding in the shoulders, since, even in old age, he did not need it.

    No wonder my late, sainted Grandmama (the Dowager Countess von Pumpernickel) was often heard to say, “I could really go for him!”

    Count von Pauli

  2. I agree, Count, the King was quite spiffy in that movie, and your point about him belonging in the same sartorial pantheon as Grant and Astaire is well taken!

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