The original Hollywood blonde bombshell Jean Harlow’s sudden death at only 26 prompted speculation around what could’ve killed her. Could the chemical combination use to dye her staple platinum hair have killed her?
Before Norma Jean became Marilyn Monroe, at took over the silver screens of 1950s America and later worldwide; there was someone who inspired her, and many people don’t know.
Her name is Jean Harlow, born Harlean Carpenter, on March 3, 1911, in Kansas City. Harlean took her mother’s name -- that was actually Jean Harlow -- and took it to the screens with her.
Jean Harlow was an original Hollywood blonde bombshell. | Source: Getty Images
THE RISING OF A STAR
Mother Jean; as she called herself after her daughter Harlean took over her name, always dreamed of becoming a movie star. She never succeeded and so transferred her dream to her daughter.
When Harlean, now Jean Harlow, moved to Beverly Hills with her first of three husbands when she was 16, she was discovered by Fox executives.
American actress Jean Harlow (1911 - 1937), circa 1935. | Source: Getty Images
At first, Harlow wasn’t interested in becoming an actress, but her mother insisted. So, Harlow began to appear in movies such as “The Saturday Night Kid,” playing small roles.
But her big break came on Howard Hughes's “Hell's Angels.” Harlow replaced the original actress, the Norwegian star Greta Nissen, mostly because she had a heavy accent.
Actress Jean Harlow in a scene from the movie "Libeled Lady". | Source: Getty Images
the famous “Platinum Blonde” nickname and made Frank Capra change the original name of one of his films into Platinum Blonde in honor of Jean Harlow.
Harlow’s famous platinum locks weren’t natural. The star dyed her hair weekly with a hairstylist who used a harsh and harmful chemical mixture of Clorox, ammonia, Lux flakes, and peroxide. Marylin Monroe would later hire Harlow’s hairstylist to achieve the same platinum blonde hue.
THE TRAGEDY OF REAL-LIFE
Actress Jean Harlow (1911-1937) in a portrait from the 1930’s, United States. | Source: Getty Images
But Harlow’s life outside the studios wasn’t as successful. After landing noticeableroles
in movies like “Bombshell,” “Dinner At Eight,” and “Red Dust,” and many, including Clark Gable, the blonde star remarried the MGM executive Paul Bern.
A few weeks after the wedding, Bern was found dead from an alleged suicide. Shortly after, the studio arranged a marriage between her and the cinematographer Harold Rosson.
Actress Jean Harlow in a scene from the movie "Bombshell". | Source: Getty Images
During the production of “Saratoga,” Harlow suddenly appeared to be very ill with symptoms that included rancid breath, nauseousness, and fatigue. Harlow couldn’t excrete anymore, which left her pale, bloated, and bedridden.
Jean Harlow was misdiagnosed until a doctor found out the reason for many of her symptoms. Harlow died two days after the kidney disease diagnosis, on June 7, 1937, at the young age of 26.
For passing away at such young age, some people believed that what killed Harlow could’ve been other reasons, including the chemical cocktail that slowly destroyed her.
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