Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Harlow plays Lola Burns, currently the biggest star in Hollywood. To say that Lola’s life is crazy would be putting it mildly. Some the craziness is caused by her family - her boozy bombastic father (played by Frank Morgan) and her worthless alcoholic brother Junior (Ted Healy). Some is caused by her constant succession of boyfriends. Her latest paramour is an Italian nobleman, the Marquis Hugo di Binelli di Pisa (Ivan Lebedeff). Hugo is really just a jumped-up penniless gigolo but Lola has fallen for the phoney nobleman schtick. Some of the craziness is engineered by Lola’s publicist E.J. ‘Space’ Hanlon (Lee Tracy). And a lot of the craziness stems from Lola’s bewildering series of enthusiasms.
Her current director Jim Brogan (Pat O’Brien) is in love with her and wants to marry her. Space Hanlon is in love with her and wants to marry her. Naturally each of them tries to sabotage the other’s romantic efforts.
Lola resents Space’s efforts to drum up publicity for her. She thinks that it’s always bad publicity. But Space understands that bad publicity is good publicity. That’s a concept Lola has never been able to grasp.
Lola’s latest enthusiasm is babies. She wants a baby. At least she wants to adopt a baby. Or at least she wants to take a baby home from the orphanage on 30 day approval.
Lola will have to be interviewed by two very respectable elderly ladies to determine her suitability as an adoptive mother. While the interview is being conducted her household naturally erupts into total chaos.
We really want Lola to be happy and to find love.
I’ve always felt that a little bit of Lee Tracy goes a long way but surprisingly I really liked him in this movie. Space Hanlon is supposed to be a deplorable human being. Somehow Tracy makes him rather likeable - he has no morals and no ethics but this is Hollywood and he’s no worse than anyone else in that town and he really isn’t malicious. He just wants publicity for Lola, that’s his job and he’s good at it. And I have to admit that in Bombshell he’s funny.
This is a very meta movie. At one point Lola is doing reshoots for one of her earlier movies, Red Dust. And Lola is referred to as the It Girl, which was of course the moniker applied to Clara Bow. It’s also very clear that in this movie Jean Harlow is an actress playing the part of an actress whose life is a performance. It gets quite postmodern at times. It’s obvious that Harlow understood all this - her performance is sly and clever.
When the mood switches to romance the romance with wealthy Boston blue-blood Gifford Middleton (Franchot Tone) plays out like a scene from a 1920s Hollywood romantic melodrama with Tone playing his rôle in a deliberately cornball way.
The Warner Archive DVD is barebones but it’s a decent transfer. It would of course be nice to see an extras-laden Blu-Ray boxed set of Harlow’s superb pre-code movies but so far there’s no sign of that happening.
Bombshell is a delight from start to finish. It’s a grown-up movie and it’s a feelgood movie and it’s a very funny movie. Very highly recommended.