Shelved Dolls: The Sad Tale Of Jean Harlow


I’m always reluctant to write a Shelved Doll on an old movie star, because Classic Scandals covers them so well. But I guess that is a little bit like saying “I am reluctant to play any sport, because Michael Jordan is a person who exists in the world.” Which is to say, to hell with it. Freedom to cover the Shelved Dolls we want! And in this case, Jean Harlow.

I’ve been obsessed with her since recently reading about the terrible cause of her death, which we will come to later. But, before then, what of her life? How did Harlean Carpenter, from Kansas City, become the blonde bombshell who still has women dying their hair platinum a century later?

Like many people, probably by being “a sickly child.” I always read that phrase and think “God, I wish I was a sickly child.” It would appear these infirm little boys and girls just spent days lying in bed and thinking and willing their future selves into being.

But Harlean (not yet renamed Jean) was truly sickly. “The Baby”, as she was known the whole of her life, had meningitis and scarlet fever, and was generally the kind of feeble creature that inspired her unhappy and overprotective mother to declare, “She was always all mine.” Indeed, when Harlean became ill with scarlet fever while away at summer camp, her mother rowed across the lake to care for her when told by the camp that she could not have visitors.

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    • Stella

      This was a really interesting read, but it drove me crazy that there were few dates and ages given. In what year was Harlowe born? In what year did she move to Hollywood the first time? How old was she when she died? I found one clue–she was 18 in 1929–near the end of the second page of the story and had to do the math. Don’t make a lazy, but curious, reader work so hard, please!

      • Karen Valdivia

        26 years old. Freaking.26.years.old.

    • JC Boston

      One comment – she died on June 7, 1937, not July as reported in the article. Otherwise, a nice read.

    • Minbee

      Jeez, who edits these things? MESS.

    • S.

      I love William Powell. One Christmas, I watched all the Thin Man movies and wanted to pluck my eyebrows as thin as Myrna Loy”s. I never really knew much about him, other than he looked exactly like everyone’s rascally uncle. So this was a great read!

      Also: Turn Shelved Dolls into a book please? I will buy it. I will make the 6 people I actually like in the world buy it also.

    • Emily

      This Shelved Dolls made me feel particularly sad :(