vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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More on the Harlow mural

Those of you who have been longtime followers of this site may recall that in November 2007, we ran an entry about Carole Lombard's good friend Jean Harlow and about the platinum blonde star's association with one of the most unusual items of Hollywood memorabilia I've ever come across -- a 13-foot wide mural of Jean and other MGM stars, directors and officials (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/48066.html). That in itself is remarkable, but here's an added twist -- they are all in Elizabethan garb, as if William Shakespeare had just been hired as a screenwriter in Ye Olde Culver City.

At the time of the earlier entry, the owners had put the mural up for auction at eBay, with a minimum bid of $125,000. No serious offer materialized. The owners still have interest in eventually selling the mural to a worthy buyer, but now -- due to the interest from classic movie buffs such as us -- they have created a Web site about this work of art that certainly defines the term "unique": http://www.jeanharlowmural.net/index.html.

The site contains just about everything you ever wanted to know about the mural; you can even download it as wallpaper for your computer.

The mural was a wedding gift to Harlow in the summer of 1932 from her second husband, MGM executive Paul Bern. Unfortunately, the marriage was to be short-lived, as Bern died under mysterious circumstances in early September; whether it was by suicide or at the hands of his long-ago common-law wife (who herself died several days after the incident) has never been conclusively answered.

Here's part of the mural; from bottom left, going clockwise, are Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Willis Goldbeck (noted writer and producer), Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Irving Thalberg, Jean Harlow and Irene Selznick. Bern reportedly positioned all the personalities involved, and it's unknown why he had Crawford -- one of the few people at MGM who loathed Harlow -- seated next to her.

Others in the mural, but not pictured here, are Irene Harrison (Bern's secretary), Gene Markey (a producer who was married to Myrna Loy, Hedy Lamarr and Joan Bennett), Bebe Daniels, Lawrence Tibbett (operatic and film star), John Gilbert, Carey Wilson (famed screenwriter and producer), David O. Selznick, B.P. Fineman (producer), Edmund Goulding (writer/producer) and Ben Lyon (who starred opposite Harlow in "Hell's Angels").

All in all, a fascinating artifact of Hollywood, specifically MGM, in mid-1932.

I'm not sure what Harlow's initial reaction to the mural was -- since she was so down-to-earth, she probably deemed the whole thing a bit pretentious -- but we do know that following Bern's death, she wanted nothing to do with it, and understandably so. If Jean's spirit is out there, we acknowledge your trepidation, but we're glad the mural's been preserved for future generations to view.

Oh, and Jean, let me repeat what I wrote some 17 months ago: You make one fine-looking wench.

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