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Furs on Film – Harlow (1965)

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So July is “tragic blonde month,” and we end with one more: Jean Harlow. Harlow biopics have the advantage of being set in the 1930s, the second-best fur decade after the 1980s (and most of the 1970s, but they're all just one great streak). In 1965, Hollywood did the thing and released two different Harlow biopics, a fact I only discovered when writing this, so maybe I'll hunt down the other one…

Harlow – The Film

This Harlow is from Paramount and, arguably, the more well-known one. I say that only because it's the only one I've known about. It follows the rapid rise and short career of Jean Harlow from bit parts to major studio star in the 1930s. Ironically enough, Marilyn Monroe was attached to the project in 1962.

Harlow – The Furs

Carroll Baker stars as the titular character, and the film is almost all hers in terms of furs, , and down. We have a small sampler to being with struggling actress Harlow doing a live stage show song and dance with a very long stole while being catcalled by the audience. 

Pay attention to the framing, as director Gordon Douglas never met a wide shot he didn't use. You'll see a lot of furs in the film, but most of it is from very far away. Such as the fox stole worn by Angela Lansbury in the background of this shot.

Depending on your taste, this is the marquee outfit in the film, a trim mand muff seen as Harlow departs a train. Like most, you won't be getting very close to it, but the wider shot allows you to appreciate that muff's size.

A wrap appears in a movie premiere entrance scene. The framing changes from too far to too close to really appreciate the fur, unfortunately.

There's a scene at dinner with this top with white fox cuffs; again, this is as close as you'll get to them.

When Douglass does give you a closer look at Miss Baker, it's in this down collar. Most of the scene is still shot wide as if the set designer was paying him off to ensure we see everything in the room.

This drab affair is suited to a rather emotional scene as Harlow returns to her agent after fighting with her new husband. Unlike the fur, Baker is chewing scenery in this one.

At a funeral for her now late husband, she and Angela Lansbury wear fur, one a pretty period authentic stole, and some difficult-to-see black fox trim. At least they are in a well-lit room this time.

A short scene meant to reinforce “she's drinking too much” sees Harlow reviewing a script in this large feather-trimmed robe.

We now reach a very long series of scenes with this white fox-trimmed dress. As it is seen across multiple scenes, a few closer shots of it are mixed in with the now-expected wide shots.

As the film winds down, we see more of the drab coat as Harlow drinks and her health fails.

The film has a lot of fur and fur-adjacent fashion, about twenty-two minutes total. It would be an excellent time investment, as long as you wear your reading glasses. Which is to say, much of it is so far away from the camera it makes it difficult to appreciate. It comes close to a 20% club entry at 18%. It would have easily made the club were it not for the standard two-hour-plus biopic runtime.

Oh, and if you like Caroll Baker in fur and want to see more of her, check out Baba Yaga.

Fur Runtime: approx  22:27 minutes
Film Runtime: 125 minutes
On-Screen Ratio: 18%

Find-a-Fur: Harlow, 1965

(All times are approximate and are affected by the cut of the film.)

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