Jean Harlow (born Harlean Harlow Carpenter; March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937) was an American actress and sex symbol. Often nicknamed the “Blonde Bombshell” and the “Platinum Blonde”, she was popular for her “Laughing Vamp” screen persona. Harlow was in the film industry for only nine years, but she became one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars, whose image in the public eye has endured. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Harlow No. 22 on their greatest female screen legends of classical Hollywood cinema list.
Harlow was first signed by business magnate Howard Hughes, who directed her first major role in Hell’s Angels (1930). After a series of critically failed films, and Hughes’ lost interest in her career, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought out Harlow’s contract in 1932 and cast her in leading roles in a string of hits built on her comedic talent: Red-Headed Woman (1932), Red Dust (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Reckless (1935) and Suzy (1936). Harlow’s popularity rivaled and then surpassed that of MGM’s top leading ladies Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer. She died at the age of 26 of kidney failure while filming Saratoga. MGM completed the film with the use of body doubles and released it less than two months after her death; it became MGM’s most successful film of 1937, as well as the highest-grossing film of her career.