The Platinum Blonde, Jean Harlow, was the sex symbol of the 1930s. However, her popularity and joviality belied the deep tragedies that beset her life. Originally working for Howard Hughes’ Hells’ Angels, she was later recruited by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer. She married MGM producer Paul Bern, who was later found dead at their home, creating a scandal that reverberates to this day. Initially, the Hollywood community whispered that Harlow had killed Bern herself, though it was officially ruled a suicide.
The next year, she was accused of adultery, and as it was with powerful movie studios in the 30s and the 40s, she was forced to enter an official marriage with another man to defuse the situation. After this marriage ended in divorce, Harlow entered a lengthy engagement, but differences kept the couple from marrying (she wanted children; her partner did not). Harlow also said that Louis B. Mayer would never allow them to wed.
In the early 1937, Harlow fell ill with influenza–an attack from which she never fully recovered. The above studio picture was taken in the spring of 1937 on the set of Saratoga. A few days later, on May 29, 1937, Harlow collapsed on set. It was renal failure–her kidneys had been slowly failing since she contracted scarlet fever in her early teens–constant denial of medication from her Christian Science mother didn’t help either. A week later, the 26 year old was dead. The above image was the last image of the screen goddess.