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Hollywood's Star-Crossed Blonde…
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Hollywood's Star-Crossed Blonde Bombshells: The Lives of Jean Harlow,…

by Charles River Editors

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*Includes pictures*Includes the actresses' quotes about their lives and careers*Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading*Includes a table of contentsWhen the American Film Institute ranked its top 50 screen legends of the 20th century, many of the people named had careers spanning several decades, but one of them managed the feat despite living less than three decades. Ranked as the 22nd greatest actress of the 20th century, Jean Harlow was on the screen for less than 10 years, but in that time the "Blonde Bombshell" became the most popular actress of the 1930s, eclipsing superstars like Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer along the way. In fact, the platinum blonde accomplished that feat as a leading lady for just 5 years before her premature death of renal failure at just 26 years old. Although Harlow is remembered today more for her tragic fate than her career, she was influential well beyond the 1930s. Despite being so young, she managed to craft a persona as a seductive femme fatale that would critically shape how subsequent actresses approached similar roles, and of course, her platinum blonde hair served as a template for future blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe, who actually watched Harlow's movies and studied her performances to model her own early career off the dead legend. On January 16, 1942, just a few weeks after Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, the nation suffered what were considered the first civilian deaths of the war when a plane crashed into the side of a mountain southwest of Las Vegas. Aboard the plane were 15 servicemen, but the plane was also carrying one of Hollywood's biggest stars: actress Carole Lombard. Although Lombard's death and her marriage to Gone With the Wind star Clark Gable have overshadowed her career, her untimely death in 1942 cut short the life of one of Hollywood's most prominent stars at the time. In fact, Lombard's platinum look and her unique mannerisms had helped her become the biggest star of the screwball genre by the end of the 1930s, and her movies were so successful that she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood by the start of the 1940s. Although Lombard has been memorialized in many fitting ways as an actress, one of her biggest contributions to Hollywood was the blond archetype that the film industry used successfully for decades in screwball comedies, paving the way for the success of women like Marilyn Monroe.Few actresses lived their lives in the public eye more than Marilyn Monroe, and yet her life remains shrouded in mystery to this day. While it is common knowledge that Marilyn's life is a rags-to-riches story, her life is bookended by hazy details surrounding her early life and even more mysterious death. Who was Norma Jean Baker? Who was Marilyn Monroe? The unknown has contributed to the mythology that has since become part of her legacy, and she nurtured it. Marilyn was adept at constructing a fanciful mystique about her early years, and it's become all but impossible to disentangle the truth from the narrative that Marilyn helped establish. Fittingly, even though Marilyn is instantly recognizable and still one of film's greatest icons, her films remain unfamiliar to the vast majority of the public. Although she came of age in an era when Hollywood studios were looking for blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe, and she followed that path to instant stardom, Jayne Mansfield had one of the most unique Hollywood careers in the 1950s and 1960s. After getting her start on Broadway, Mansfield shot to fame in Hollywood during the late '50s with her platinum blonde hair and picturesque body, and her life became equal parts movie star and celebrity, with her appearances on film more than matched by her appearances in tabloids and Playboy.… (more)

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