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.