Review: Harlow DVD

STUDIO: Olive Films | DIRECTOR: Gordon Douglas | CAST: Carroll Baker, Martin Balsam, Red Buttons, Michael Conners, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford
RELEASE DATE: 9/28/2010 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
SPECS: NR | 125 min. | Drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Two big-budgeted biographical movies on the tragic and controversial life of screen siren Jean Harlow were released in 1965: Harlow starring Carroll Baker (How the West Was Won) as the legendary platinum blonde and Harlow featuring Carol Lynley (The Poseidon Adventure) in the title role. The truth is that neither of the movies were all that great, but Baker’s Harlow, a Paramount title that got its DVD debut through Olive Films, has a lot in it that’s worth noting.

Issued in theaters one month after the Lynley version was released, the drama Harlow has a number of respectable production credits. For starters, the script was penned by John Michael Hayes of Rear Window and Peyton Place fame and it’s based on the best-selling biography that was co-written by Harlow’s former agent. The legendary Edith Head (Vertigo) designed the costumes (and they’re gorgeous), and the film was helmed by Gordon Douglas, an undistinguished but competent director whose credits include the giant ants film Them! and the James Coburn superspy send-up In Like Flint. Harlow even has a lounge-styled score by Neil Hefti of Batman fame.

As for the cast, the names speak for themselves, for example Angela Lansbury (The Manchurian Candidate) and Red Buttons.

We were most responsive to Baker’s take on the tragic starlet (her performance is certainly richer and more complex that Lynley’s) and Lansbury’s turn as Harlow’s mother.

But, overall, Harlow, while good-looking, is too static and boring to be engaging. And given the subject matter, budget and talent involved, it should have been better.

Like most of Olive’s titles from the Paramount library, there are no supplements on the DVD.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.