Her greatest role may have been in 1933 as a gold-digging young wife in Dinner at Eight, a drama which revolves around the personal problems of everyone leading up to a socialite’s dinner. The butler goes to jail for trying to punch the chauffer over a maid, and that is by far the most humorous moment in the film. Every other moment in the film is about people dying. Or having to leave the people they are in love with, and then dress up and go to dinner.
It’s one of my favorite movies.
We’re going to talk about it some more!
So, Jean Harlow has a great, memorable through-the-ages moment in that movie in which, at the end, she turns to a woman and haughtily declares that she never goes sunbathing because she can’t expose her skin. Then she turns around to reveal a gown that is cut so low in the back it nearly reaches her buttocks.
The final exchange in Dinner at Eight, between Marie Dressler (playing the aging femme fatale Carlotta) and Jean Harlow (Kitty, the gold digging blonde) is one of the best in movie history. It runs:
Kitty: I was reading a book the other day.
Carlotta: Reading a book?
Kitty: Yes. It’s all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession?
Carlotta: Oh, my dear, that’s something you need never worry about.
Incidentally, this was how she looked in the trailer for that movie. She looked like she was oozing sex out of her pores:
Basically, it’s a really good movie, and Jean Harlow is excellent in it. No New Yorker critic would take issue with her performance in that, I hope.