Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Joyous Jean

     I'm sure I'm not the only one who was glued to my television yesterday for Jean Harlow's TCM Summer Under the Stars day.  As long time readers know, I'm generally not a fan of Summer Under the Stars.  I used to be, but just like with Oscar month, is tending to feature more and more recent material, 1970's stars, and the like.  When I think of the term "classic film star" I don't think Angie Dickinson, featured August 18th.  I understand she is well known, had a lot of roles, and is part of pop culture, but when I think 'classic' she's probably about the last person I would think of.  It's all about context.  Bette Davis or Angie Dickinson - which one is more of a 'classic film star'?  There's no comparison.  And yes, Summer Under the Stars features Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy for the umpteenth time.

     For those of you who don't know, TCM's Summer Under the Stars features a different star every day.  For 24 hours, the star's greatest hit movies are shown which brings up another problem - film overplay.  This usually means seeing an oft played movie for what seems like the hundredth time.  While I adore Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz, they seem to be on an awful lot.  This problem was very evident on Jean Harlow's day.  The schedule was too predictable, basically her last 10+ films.  She was fantastic in them, but I'm always looking for something unusual or not seem recently.  These films are either played frequently or I must watch them every time they are on because I almost have them memorized.  I mean, how many times is Dinner at Eight on?  A great film, but in heavy rotation.

     Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled to see Jean Harlow as a Star.  I adore her.  Her comedic timing is great and she just oozes pre-code greatness.  On a side note, I personally think the focus on her beauty is overrated.  To me, she was striking, not beautiful.  I know this is an unpopular view.  She is generally considered one of the most beautiful stars ever, but then, I don't think Angelina Jolie is beautiful either, another unpopular opinion.  Harlow had a major impact on beauty - platinum hair, drawn on eyebrows, and of course, her wardrobe - or lack thereof.  She was the first film 'platinum blonde'.  But It's well known that there was a lot of lighting tricks and camera manipulation when filming her (as with other stars) to minimize her chin and other things.  If Jean were a celebrity today, I'm not sure we would consider her eye candy - barely there clothing aside.

     While I enjoyed watching Jean Harlow day, I just wish there had been more surprise or some obscure work of hers.  Her films are wonderful, but I wanted to more.  However I am grateful she was included in the list of Summer Under the Stars.  She was - and still is - one of the best.  I'm looking forward to Esther Williams today (in all her swimming glory), Ruby Keeler and some great musicals the 19th, Constance Cummings the 24th to feed my love of 1930's films, and some anticipated scares with Boris Karloff the 26th.  I can't wait!

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