Hard to believe it's been more than 5 1/2 years since Universal Home Video released the "Carole Lombard Glamour Collection," a set of six films -- none of which were all that well known to casual movie buffs at the time. (Universal gave Marlene Dietrich and Mae West similar treatment.) The Lombard collection helped spur interest in her career beyond the "big four" of "Twentieth Century," "My Man Godfrey," "Nothing Sacred" and "To Be Or Not To Be."
For years, the coterie of fans for Carole's good friend Jean Harlow waited -- and pleaded -- for similar treatment, and deservedly so. Yes, more than a few of her movies have received DVD release, and a few years back four of them were put together in a box set from Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies.
Nice, but Harlow's army understandably wanted more. A box set with some films that haven't yet made it to DVD, with a few extras for good measure. Something this year, too, coinciding with the centenary of the platinum blonde icon.
And come Oct. 25, that's just what they're going to get.
Meet the "Jean Harlow 100th Anniversary Collection," featuring seven Harlow films all new to DVD -- "Bombshell" (1933), "The Girl From Missouri" (1934), "Reckless" (1935), "Riffraff" (1936), "Suzy" (1936), "Personal Property" (1937) and "Saratoga" (1937). Moreover, the first three have been remastered (and will be available individually for $20). Those seven in themselves would make a delightful box set, but as the pitchman says, wait -- there's more:
* Six of the films feature trailers, including newly discovered ones for "Bombshell," "The Girl From Missouri" and "Personal Property."
* Pre-recording sessions from "Reckless" at MGM, including Harlow's unused vocals. (Lombard never fancied herself as much of a singer, but Jean -- who admitted that carrying a tune was not one of her strong points -- supposedly made Carole sound like Connie Boswell by comparison.)
* Harlow on the radio -- her lone appearance on "Lux Radio Theater" ("Madame Sans-Gene" with Robert Taylor) and two "air trailers" from MGM's syndicated "Leo Is On The Air."
* Seven 5" x 7" studio portraits of Jean from the MGM archives.
Sounds great, right? Makes you want to rush over to your favorite consumer electronics or video chain on Oct. 25 and buy one off the shelves (just as I purchased my Lombard "Glamour Collection" from a Best Buy on April 4, 2006, the day it became available to the public). Well, considering how the DVD market has changed, you may not want to bother.
This is the inaugural box set from Warner Archives, the online sales division of Warner Home Video; heretofore, its issues have been minimal on extras and such. Will the Harlow box eventually become available through retail outlets? Possibly, but since relatively few stores have shelf space for classic video these days, it's often deemed more trouble than it's worth.
You can pre-order the Harlow collection for $49.95 through Warner Archives at http://www.wbshop.com/Jean-Harlow-Collection-7pk/1000213243,default,pd.html?cgid=&src=GGLHMOD&gclid=CKeSmKP06asCFcTe4AodE31TNw. (For now, it only ships to U.S. addresses.)
There are still a few Harlow films that have yet to see the light of day on DVD, notably "The Beast Of The City" and "Red Dust" as well as several of her pre-MGM movies. Regarding "Red Dust," Lou Lumenick of the New York Post said he was told by Warners officials, "Unfortunately the film elements for that film were in such need of extensive work that it just couldn't be achieved in time to release this set in honor of Harlow's 100th year. The hope is to accomplish that sometime in the near future."
That gives fans of Jean and Clark Gable something to wish for, and buying the Harlow set will encourage, and with hope hasten, its restoration and release. As a fan wrote at the Harlow Yahoo! group, "I do think if you can afford it, buy it and show support, not only for Jean Harlow, but also for more old films."