All Things Marilyn is a new weekly podcast hosted by Scott Fortner (of Marilyn Monroe Collection fame) and Elisa Jordan, owner of LA Woman Tours, and author of a history of Rockhaven Sanitarium, the pioneering women’s clinic in Glendale, California, where Marilyn’s mother Gladys lived for many years.
In the latest episode, Scott and Elisa discuss the original platinum blonde, Jean Harlow, and her impact on Marilyn’s career, with Darrell Rooney, author of Harlow in Hollywood – one of the most beautiful books I’ve had the pleasure to own, and now reissued in an expanded format.
As a child, Marilyn collected cigarette cards with artwork depicting Hollywood stars – including Jean – and kept them in an album now owned by Scott (see here.) Harlow died in 1937, when Norma Jeane was just nine years old. She would later admit that she hadn’t seen many of Jean’s films, but was fascinated by her pale skin and blonde hair.
In 1951, she was proclaimed ‘the new Jean Harlow’ in a cover story for Quick magazine, and recreated one of the star’s most famous photo shoots with photographer Earl Thiesen. In 1958, she would pay homage to Jean once more in her ‘Fabled Enchantresses‘ layout for LIFE magazine, shot by Richard Avedon. There are many striking parallels in the lives of Marilyn and Jean Harlow. Marilyn was even offered the chance to star in a Harlow biopic.
As Darrell Rooney has noted, both women died leaving their final roles incomplete. Interestingly, they both wore dresses with a similar black-and-white floral print in test shots for Saratoga (in which Jean’s remaining scenes were filmed in long-shot with her regular stand-in, Mary Dees) and Something’s Got to Give (later remade as Move Over Darling, with a new director and cast, headed by Doris Day.)