Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Platinum Doll by Anne Girard

Harlean McGrew, nee Carpenter, never had any big screen aspirations. It was her mother, in fact, who longed for a Hollywood career. But when the newly wed Harlean and her husband Chuck moved to Beverly Hills it didn't take long for the platinum blonde to catch the eye of a studio hot shot. Hers was a legacy in the making, one that would live well beyond her sadly short life and career. 

Jean Harlow's career may have lasted less than a decade, but her name is still known today. Anne Girard gives readers a glimpse inside the world of this Hollywood icon in her latest, Platinum Doll.

I found this book totally fascinating. Prior to this reading, I had zero knowledge about Jean Harlow. In fact, after reading the book I went on an IMDB hunt only to discover that I haven't actually seen any of her films. (That needs to be rectified soon.)

Her life is incredibly interesting: she went to Hollywood as a young wife and teen, got her big break by accident, and ended up starring in some of the top grossing films of her time before passing away at 26. She was married multiple times, turns out one of them was set up by her studio, and engaged to William Powell (of Thin Man fame - see, I've seen that one!) when she died of kidney failure.

It's clear, based on the acknowledgements and author's note, that Girard put a lot of effort into portraying Harlow as realistically and honestly as possible. That effort has paid off in spades and can be seen throughout the narrative. Girard doesn't cover all of Harlow's life or even all of her career, though. She begins her tale with Harlean's new marriage to Chuck McGrew, one that lasted just until 1929, and ends with Harlow leaving her handprints (and pennies) at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in 1933. (There are some fabulous vintage images of that on this site.)

Throughout the book, the reader is given a chance to get to know Harlean - the real person behind the Jean Harlow persona. And while it is a fictional portrayal, I can imagine that Harlean (who was an admitted bookworm) would also agree that it's one done with the utmost of respect and reverence.

Rating: 4/5

For more on Anne Girard and her work, you can visit her alter ego's website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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