Blonde Bombshell / Bombshell (1933)

“Deep down in every girl’s heart there’s the desire for the rite of real womanhood.”

Bombshell Poster

Synopsis:
Fed up with her mooching brother (Ted Healy), tippling father (Frank Morgan), overbearing publicist (Lee Tracy), and demanding director (Pat O’Brien), a sexy movie star (Jean Harlow) makes various attempts to escape from her hectic Hollywood lifestyle.

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Review:
Victor Fleming directed this relentlessly-paced, incisive pre-Code satire, starring Jean Harlow in a role purportedly based on Clara Bow. The clever storyline — adapted from a 1928 stage play by Caroline Francke and Mack Crane — shadows Harlow’s numerous failed attempts to seek some semblance of privacy and autonomy in Hollywood, first by nearly marrying a questionable marquis (Ivan Lebedeff), then by trying to adopt a baby, and finally by becoming engaged to a wealthy American (Franchot Tone) whose snooty parents (C. Aubrey Smith and Mary Forbes) are distinctly wary of their son’s new love interest. Meanwhile, her meddling publicist — played by heavy-drinking pre-Code actor Lee Tracy, probably best known for his role the same year in Dinner at Eight (1933) — tries to earn Harlow’s romantic affections while strategically foiling each of her ventures. There’s plenty here for fans of pre-Code comedies to enjoy, from racy dialogue to impressively frantic pacing to Harlow’s spot-on screechy performance; it’s definitely worth a look, though it remains oddly unavailable on DVD.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jean Harlow as Lola
    Bombshell Harlow
  • Lee Tracy as Space
    Bombshell Tracy
  • An enjoyably loopy screenplay
    Bombshell Screenplay
  • Clever pre-Code dialogue:

    “Your day off is sure brutal on your negligee.”
    “Where I kick her, the camera’ll never pick up the scar.”

Must See?
Yes, as a fine vehicle for Harlow. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Blonde Bombshell / Bombshell (1933)”

  1. Not a must.

    On a revisit, I find I don’t have much enthusiasm for ‘Bombshell’. Fleming has certainly directed with a lot of flair. The cast is game. And the production has a polished shine to it. I just don’t find it to be very funny. (~the odd, juicy tidbit notwithstanding: i.e., “Excuse the noise, Loretta, we seem to be passing the stockyard.”)

    I actually looked forward to rewatching this one, as I have a special fondness for Harlow. And the admittedly clever premise has such possibilities…that it’s somewhat disappointing to discover that most of the dialogue falls surprisingly flat. On top of which, the repetitive story construction soon resembles a dog chasing its tail. ~though I do like the sequence in which two women from an orphanage visit Harlow to determine her suitability as a single mother. At least the change in tone here is fun and Harlow takes delight in it.

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