Jean Harlow Retrospective
June 30–August 2
After finding fame while still a teenager in Howard Hughes' HELL'S ANGELS, Jean Harlow became one of MGM's top stars, starring in a string of sparkling comedies that showcased her carefree sex appeal. Sadly, Harlow's life was cut short; she died in 1937 from a kidney condition at age 26. Her one-of-a-kind effervescence, exuberance and trumping of Hollywood's codes for good girls and bad girls (she combined the best of both, and often played one with the appeal of the other), made her unique in Hollywood's pantheon of leading ladies. On the 75th anniversary of Harlow's passing, AFI Silver presents some of her best and most beloved films, including many pre-Code classics, must-sees for fans of Hollywood's Golden Age.
AFI Member passes will be accepted at all films in the Jean Harlow series.
Hard-working rubber plantation owner Clark Gable initially doesn't take a shine to Saigon hooker Jean Harlow, who's hitched a ride upriver with Gable's shiftless employee Donald Crisp. But just as he starts to warm to her wisecracking charm, surveyor Gene Raymond arrives with his society wife Mary Astor in tow. Gable falls hard for Astor, but Harlow's not giving up so easily. Shot on jungle sets previously used for TARZAN, this racy, pre-Code picture became the smash hit that propelled Clark Gable to stardom. "Harlow [delivers] her zingy wisecracks with a wonderful dirty humor. Directed by Fleming in a racy, action-packed style." — Pauline Kael.
DIR Victor Fleming; SCR John Lee Mahin, from the play by Wilson Collison; PROD Hunt Stromberg, Irving Thalberg. US, 1932, b&w, 83 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jun 30, 11:00 a.m.; Tue, Jul 3, 5:00, 9:00; Wed, Jul 4, 12:05;
Thu, July 5, 5:00
"The unsung prototype of the screwball comedy and one of the funniest inside-Hollywood movies ever." — Michael Sragow.
Superstar sexpot Jean Harlow's life has taken on a drama all its own: she's surrounded by a personal entourage of hangers-on, sycophants and deadbeat relations; her manic publicist Lee Tracy keeps making up stories for the press only slightly crazier than the reality; and if would-be paramour Franchot Tone seems too good to be true, he probably is. The plot and gags in this pre-Code gem had some real-life resonance with Harlow's own life story, but even more so with that of the silent era's great sex symbol Clara Bow (Victor Fleming's former fiancée) — with Harlow's nickname here "The If Girl," a wink at Bow's famous sobriquet, "The It Girl."
DIR Victor Fleming; SCR John Lee Mahin, Jules Furthman, from the play by Caroline Francke and Mack Crane; PROD Hunt Stromberg. US, 1933, b&w, 96 min. NOT RATED
THE PUBLIC ENEMY
Sat, Jun 30, 2:50; Sun, Jul 1, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Jul 2, 5:00; Tue, Jul 3, 7:00; Wed, Jul 4, 5:00
William Wellman's classic gangster tale, chronicling the rise and fall of its anti-hero from small-timer to kingpin to casualty, became the prototype for the entire genre. James Cagney plays the tenement-dwelling hood, clever and ruthless, who rises through the ranks to become a big-shot bootlegger during Prohibition. Mae Clarke is the girlfriend who bears the brunt of Cagney's mercurial temperament, including the infamous grapefruit facial; Jean Harlow is the Texas temptress he throws her over for.
DIR William A. Wellman; SCR Kubec Glasmon, John Bright; PROD Darryl F. Zanuck. US, 1931, b&w, 83 min. NOT RATED
THE BEAST OF THE CITY
Fri, Jul 6, 5:20; Sat, Jul 7, 11:10 a.m.; Sun, Jul 8, 11:10 a.m.; Mon, Jul 9, 5:00; Thu, Jul 12, 7:00
Walter Huston stars as police captain Jim "Fightin'" Fitzpatrick, a tough-as-nails crusader against bootlegging gangsters and their enablers in the press and politics. His brother and fellow cop Wallace Ford doesn't share his brother's driving idealism; he likes to sneak a drink now and then, and after falling for sexy Jean Harlow, ex-flame to mob boss Jean Hersholt, he goes on the take, with disastrous consequences.
DIR Charles Brabin; SCR W. R. Burnett; PROD Hunt Stromberg. US, 1932, b&w, 86 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 7, 11:00 a.m.; Tue, Jul 10, 5:00; Thu, Jul 12, 5:00
Clark Gable's a South Seas sea captain stuck between a rock and a hard place, twice over: he must carry a shipment of British gold across rough seas, with an eye out for pirates; and he's got both his highborn fiancée Rosalind Russell and bawdy ex-mistress Jean Harlow on board. Tay Garnett deftly directs this swaggering, escapist adventure, featuring Wallace Beery, Robert Benchley, C. Aubrey Smith and Hattie McDaniel.
DIR Tay Garnett; SCR Jules Furthman, James Kevin McGuinness, from the book by Crosbie Garstin; PROD Albert Lewin. US, 1935, b&w, 87 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Jul 13, 5:05; Sat, Jul 14, 11:05 a.m.; Mon, Jul 16, 5:05
This pre-Code humdinger finds Jean Harlow (sporting red tresses for a change) as a girl from the wrong side of the tracks determined to break into high society. Not satisfied after seducing her boss Chester Morris and stealing him away from wife Leila Hyams, she sets her sights on wealthy tycoon Henry Stephenson. Wildly veering from cheerful comedy to dark melodrama, the pre-Code follies on display include much contemplation of ladies in frilly undergarments, marital infidelity, unrepentant sex and even a dash of rough stuff ("Hit me again! I like it!" says the stop-at-nothing Harlow, undeterred and finally successful in her latest attempt at seduction).
DIR Jack Conway; SCR Anita Loos, from the book by Katharine Brush; PROD Albert Lewin, Irving Thalberg. US, 1932, b&w, 79 min. NOT RATED
DINNER AT EIGHT
Sat, Jul 14, 11:10 a.m.; Tue, Jul 17, 5:20; Thu, Jul 19, 5:20
Old-money, debt-ridden New York couple Lionel Barrymore and Billie Burke host a dinner whose guests include nouveau-riche Wallace Beery ("He smells Oklahoma!") and his crass wife Jean Harlow ("I'm gonna be a lady if it kills me!"). The cast features John Barrymore as a fading matinee idol and Marie Dressler as an indomitable one; plus Lee Tracy, Jean Hersholt and May Robson. Kaufman and Ferber's Depression-era farce of changing fortunes was ushered from stage to screen by celebrated screenwriters Frances Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz; the famous closing zinger is thought to be the contribution of an uncredited Donald Ogden Stewart.
DIR George Cukor; SCR Frances Marion, Herman J. Mankiewicz, from the play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber; PROD David O. Selznick. US, 1933, b&w, 111 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 14, 4:00; Sun, Jul 15, 12:00; Tue, Jul 17, 3:10
"I love dames with spirit – dames and fishes." Fisherman Spencer Tracy falls hook, line and sinker for cannery worker Jean Harlow, who smacks him with a mackerel and soon has him proposing holy matrimony, bickering all the way. Set against an intriguing backdrop of union infighting and labor unrest at a California tuna operation during the Depression, this fast-paced, twist-laden film packs a wallop. With Joseph Calleia, Una Merkel and Mickey Rooney.
DIR J. Walter Ruben; SCR Frances Marion, H. W. Hanemann, Anita Loos; PROD David Lewis. US, 1936, b&w, 94 min. NOT RATED
THE GIRL FROM MISSOURI
Fri, Jul 20, 4:10; Sat, Jul 21, 11:05 a.m.; Tue, Jul 24, 9:15
"If they wanted ladies, they'd be home with their wives." Country girl turned Manhattan chorus girl Jean Harlow is out on the town and on the prowl, determined to bag a big-city millionaire and keep her virtue, too. But the fat cats she meets aren't nearly as scrupulous as this goody two-shoed gold digger. Harlow sets her sights on Lionel Barrymore, and his playboy son Franchot Tone sets his sights on her.
DIR/PROD Jack Conway; SCR Anita Loos, John Emerson; PROD Bernard H. Hyman. US, 1934, b&w, 75 min. NOT RATED
Fri, Jul 20, 6:15; Sun, Jul 22, 11:05 a.m.; Mon, Jul 23, 5:10;
Thu, Jul 26, 5:20
"She may be his wife, but she's my fiancée!" After alleging that socialite Myrna Loy is a home wrecker, newspaperman Spencer Tracy concocts an elaborate scheme to escape a $5 million libel suit brought by the miffed Loy against his paper: prove that his accusation is correct. He steers Loy toward well-known ladykiller William Powell. Meanwhile, Tracy arranges for his own long-suffering fiancée, Jean Harlow, to secretly marry Powell. What could possibly go wrong? Great comedic performances from four iconic stars, directed by Jack Conway; "Chicago" playwright Maurine Watkins, co-wrote the screenplay. Oscar nomination for Best Picture.
DIR Jack Conway; SCR Maurine Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers, George Oppenheimer, from a story by Wallace Sullivan; PROD Lawrence Weingarten. US, 1936, b&w, 98 min. NOT RATED
WIFE VS. SECRETARY
Fri, Jul 27, 5:15; Sat, Jul 28, 11:00 a.m.; Sun, Jul 29, 8:30
High-powered publishing exec Clark Gable is happily married to Myrna Loy, but with a secretary like Jean Harlow, people will talk. The thing is, Harlow really can type and take dictation, and Gable really does love his wife. With James Stewart as Harlow's youthful beau. Art Deco fans will swoon over Gable's office suite, designed by Cedric Gibbons.
DIR/PROD Clarence Brown; SCR Norman Krasna, John Lee Mahin, Alice Duer Miller, from the novel by Faith Baldwin; PROD Hunt Stromberg. US, 1936, b&w, 88 min. NOT RATED
Sat, Jul 28, 11:05 a.m.; Sun, Jul 29, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, Jul 30, 5:10;
Thu, Aug 2, 5:10