Jean Harlow (born Harlean Harlow Carpenter; March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937) was an American film actress and sex symbol of the 1930s. Harlow was only on the screen from 1928 to 1937, before her death at the age of 26, but she became one of the biggest movie stars in the world, whose image in the public eye has endured. Often nicknamed the “Blonde Bombshell” and the “Platinum Blonde”, she was popular for her “Laughing Vamp” movie persona.
Harlow was signed by billionaire producer Howard Hughes, who directed her first major appearance as a sex symbol in Hell’s Angels (1930). In 1932, after a series of critically unsuccessful films and Hughes losing interest in her career, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought out Harlow’s contract. Harlow became a leading lady, starring in a string of hits including her breakthrough acting role Red-Headed Woman (1932), Red Dust (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Reckless (1935) and Suzy (1936). Harlow’s popularity rivaled and soon surpassed that of MGM colleagues Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer.
Harlow died during the filming of MGM’s Saratoga (1937). The studio was able to complete the film by using body doubles, and it was released a little over a month after Harlow’s death. The American Film Institute ranks Jean Harlow as the 22nd-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema.