Did Jean Harlow Ever Make You Laugh?

LittletonsGuest Bloggers: Darryl J. Littleton and Tuezdae Littleton are the authors of Comediennes. Below is an excerpt from their blog.

Whenever you take on a big subject like history there’s going to be arguments.  We took on the history of female comics and of course the debate becomes who qualifies to carry the title of comedienne.  We tried to answer that question in our book, “Comediennes: Laugh Be a Lady”, but the discussion rages on.  We’d like to address as many of these disagreements as possible.  Today we’d like to address the question of Jean Harlow.  Was she a comedienne?

Some claim Harlow was a comedienne due to a string of ‘comedies’ she filmed.  Of the 33 movies she did only 9 were credited comedies.  She also shot dramas, romantic-dramas, gangster flicks and an adventure.  Twelve of Harlow’s films are as an uncredited extra.  I hope the criteria for being a comedienne is not extra work.  In that case Ben Stein is a comedienne.    Harlow is credited with a lot of uncredited extra work.  One’s even unconfirmed uncredited.   Then when she did ‘act’ the critics wished she hadn’t.   They conceded she had enough sex appeal to put butts in the seats and a sense of humor, but nobody used the word ‘actress’ and “Jean Harlow’ in the same sentence unless the word ‘bad’ preceded either.  But before casting Harlow off as a charismatic screen personality with friends on the other side of a casting office door, we’ll examine her for closer scrutiny.

Let’s start with her life. Things started off big for Harlow.  She was born a whopping 9 lbs.  She was born in the big city of Kansas City Missouri and grew up in a big mansion.  Her parents had big money.    She was born Harlean Harlow Carpenter.  Her pops was a dentist, but her mother felt like she married Novocain and in 1922 she was granted a divorce and sole custody of Harlean. Without contest her father agreed to child support yet was rarely allowed to see Harlean.   Nice to know that very little of that game has changed.  However, Harlean was determined to see her father and arranged secret meetings.

Keep reading this post on the Comediennes blog!


Comediennes: Laugh Be a Lady chronicles the evolution of the humor through the research of Darryl and Tuezdae Littleton and the scores of interviews they conducted with veteran female performers from all mediums, as well as Tuezdae’s own experiences as a comedienne. Startling facts are revealed and tributes are paid to the icons of yesteryear by the titans of today in their own words and sentiments. Women have always made us laugh, from their outrageous characters, pratfall humor, cutting barbs, clever wit and unforgettable side-splitting moments. Their “herstory” has only just begun.


Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on December 4, 2012, in Comedy, Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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