DUELING HARLOWS

Last year two biographical movies about Truman Capote were released. This is not the first time this has happened. In 1965, two movies about the life of Jean Harlow were released. Carroll Baker was Jean Harlow in Harlow directed by Gordon Douglas for Paramount. Carol Lynley was Jean Harlow in Harlow directed by Alex Segal for Magna. Not surprisingly, I prefer the Lynley version, which has never been released on video and is super hard to find a copy of. The b/w film was staged as a live TV show and then transferred to film in a process called Electronovision making it look like a old grainy kinescope. Check out this tribute to Carol as Harlow on YouTube.

Neither Carol Lynley nor Carroll Baker received much praise for their performances but Lynley got more sympathy from the critics since her movie was filmed in only 8 days and closer in age to Jean Harlow she was able to capture her sexiness and determination though her Harlow lacked warmth. And she looked gorgeous outfitted in Nolan Miller fashions.

Regarding the movie, Carol Lynley remarked to me when I interviewed her,“To this day, I don’t know what led them to cast me. I only agreed to do the film because Judy Garland was already signed to play my mother. After rehearsing for about three weeks, Judy came to me and said ‘Carol, this is going to be a piece of shit. I’m quitting. I know the press will write that I was drunk and couldn’t handle it but I don’t care.’ I became frantic and begged her not to quit. That night I thought of calling her but I didn’t. I thought she was just being Judy and that she would change her mind. The next day I was shocked to see Ginger Rogers take her place. She did the part with only two days rehearsal! On the second day of filming, I learned of the other Harlow with Carroll Baker. I then tried to quit but they threatened to sue me so I finished the picture.”

 

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