Jean Harlow, “Hell’s Angel”


Every once in a  while, as I page through an old Photoplay magazine, an article stands out from the rest.  This was definitely the case regarding the following piece of writing.  It is titled, “Spyglass on Jean Harlow, Also Known as Hell’s Angel.”  It is an entertaining article that was written to give the reader a look at the goofy side of Harlow.  The following was published in the 1931 edition of the magazine.  It is fascinating and quirky, while conveying a unique style of writing.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

In my poking and snooping around among the suppressions, depressions and expressions of the movie great, I have come upon many startling things.

As a psychoanalyst of practically no standing it was my good fortune to discover Mary Pickford’s barberphobia, or “clipper-fear,” caused by the fact that she had worn long corkscrew curls for nigh onto thirty years.  You may remember my learned monograph on malignant Garbomania — that deadly disease which has caused thousands of our girls to expose their foreheads, fake an accent and keep their eyes half closed in an effort to appear mysterious and alluring.

This one symptom alone has caused literally hundreds of our young women to be hit on the south façade by taxicabs.

In spite of the astounding results of my past rummaging among so-called “souls” (ha-ha!), I have seldom been confronted with a more interesting subject than Miss Jean Harlow, who shall be known hereafter in this essay, for purposes of brevity, as That Hotsy Totsy Platinum-Haired Baby Doll Who Knocks Over Ben Lyon in the Early Sequences of “Hell’s Angels” by Appearing Clothed Almost Entirely in Her Armor of Girlish Purity.

Well, to make a long story interminable, I was ushered into Suite 3011 of the famous New Yorker Hotel (Ah there, Manager Hitz!  How about a due-bill?) by several suspicious house-detectives, and came face to face with my subject.

Yes, young men, your worst fears are true!  Miss Harlow (Jeanie to me) is calculated to knock you over with an eyelash at fifty paces.  Both in circumference, diameter and altitude she is eminently satisfactory.  On her right ankle (and what an ankle it is, not to mention the left!) she wears a silver anklet (or “shackle d’amour,” as we French have it).  Over a piquant (whoops!) and provocative face, studded with two gorgeous samples of human eye, or orb, appears that mass of amazin’ hair, which starts several inches above the eyebrows, ripples gracefully over the skull and falls in a torrent of silver down the back of the lady’s neck.


Silver?  Not exactly – it is about the color of a pale salt water taffy, or the bracelet you mean to buy the sweetie-pie the very next minute there’s a bull market.  It is startling hair, almost bizarre, but on the whole quite beautiful.

But enough of the externals.  It is Miss Harlow’s sub, or unconscious with which this treatise has to do.  As I stepped into her presence I struck her sharply on the knee-cap with one of the little hammers we scientists carry on all professional visits.  Miss Harlow feinted smartly with her left and then drove a sharp right to the third weskit button.  “Forthright, earnest, sincere and handy with her dukes,” I jotted down on my tablets.

Miss Harlow was surprised in the act of reading “Kristin Lavransdatter,” a novel by Miss Sigrid Undset.  It runs to 391 pages of fine print.  Miss Harlow (Presh to me) was surprised in the middle of page four.  She told me, becomingly, that if her eyes hold out and the north light is good, she expects to finish the book before Mr. Howard Hughes goes on the breadline.  “Intelligent, ambitious, a seeker after the finer things,” I noted.


Carelessly displayed on an adjacent reading table was a well-thumbed copy of the issue of Photoplay.  “Unusually intelligent, remarkably keen and nippy, well informed and a connoisseur of the very best in current literature and photographic art,” I was careful to note.

My subject and I then conversed amiably on divers topics, such as “Hell’s Angels,” the daily and periodical press, personal appearances and the latest Hollywood dirt.

“Sapristi!” I murmured to myself.  “My services are not needed here.  Alors!  This young lady is a perfect specimen of the normal, healthy, happy, handsome American girl, and will the band please play “The Stars and Stripes Forever’?  She has no more carbuncles on her subconscious that I have United States Steel, either common or preferred!  Am I Dashed? Basat!”

At that moment lunch was served by two house detectives disguised as waiter by the addition of a few choice gravy spots.

Then the scientist in me broke out in a rash.  I was on the trail – The Big Trail.

Before me stood a huge sector of honeydew melon, three think and steaming wheat cakes, four coy sausages, a mound of Melba toast and a sizable pot of coffee.  Before my fair, vis-à-vis rested half a grapefruit, one bran muffin and a cup of think—almost emaciated –tea!  At last!  I had plumbed the unconscious of Jean Harlow!

“You are repressed!” I shouted, triumphantly, and across the table was a sob.

“You have my secret!” whispered Miss Jeanie.  “I have about ten pounds more than I carried during the making of ‘Hell’s Angels’ and I must lose it.  I am allowed a thousand calories a day –and this lunch runs today’s score up to 800.”


“Tonight, I suppose, you will make a gorgeous dinner of half a peanut,” I supposed.

“Please!” was all she could say.

The devil that lurks in every scientific man asserted itself.  I plowed and plunged through my delectable luncherino like a whippet tank through a cup of consommé.  It was terrible, but science demanded it.  Miss Harlow’s eyes popped out and rolled miserably around the muffin.  It was all she could do to replace them.  I shall spare you further details of that sad hour.

Luncheon over, Miss Harlow’s sterling American girlhood once more took command.  Poised, calm –though I fancied a bit weakfish from hunger – she answered my questions.  Yes, she dreams occasionally.  Usually of three-inch steaks smothered with champignons and drowned in a thick gravy.  No, she is not going on stage until she is perfectly sure of herself.  “Discreet and wise,” I jotted.  She is under contract to Mr. Howard Hughes productions, and is glad of it.  “And why not,” I noted.

I was then presented to my subject’s mother, an extremely handsome and gracious lady who call her chick “Baby” (and so would I if I got half a chance).  And then it was time to depart, inasmuch as my studies had already forced Miss Harlow to miss a date with her hair-dresser, who, I suspect is some gentel New York jeweler like Cartier


My research was over.

“My dear Miss Harlow,” I said, “I prescribed for your minor spiritual complaint, a toureen of cream of cauliflower soup, a dollop of some tasty fish, a couple of square yards of filet mignon suitably garnished with vegetable salad with a rich cream dressing, an assortment of pastry and half a dozen bottles of Bass’ Ale.  You will then, I assure you have no further aches in your unconscious.

“Ah, but how about my hips?” she asked sadly.  “None the less, I’ll think over your prescription while I am eating my olive at dinner.”

It had been a most pleasant two hours this meeting,  Miss Harlow is a thoroughly charming girl, and excellent company, and her mother is all that a mother should be.  They seemed to forgive my scientific enthusiasm, and their attitude inferred that they considered me an affable and well-conducted young man.  Miss Jean, in particular, was most cordial.  “Because she like nice things,” I jotted, as I backed out of the suite and fell down an elevator shaft.

Below is one of the very memorable scene from the movie Hell’s Angels!  Enjoy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s