Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Platinum Doll

First I'm going to tell you that I chose this book simply because I'm fascinated by old Hollywood and also the early deaths of it's stars. Jean Harlow is right up there with the best and everyone knows the name, so I was immediately drawn to this book to learn more about her.

Platinum Doll - Anne Girard
Set against the dazzling backdrop of Golden Age Hollywood, novelist Anne Girard tells the enchanting story of Jean Harlow, one of the most iconic stars in the history of film.
It's the Roaring Twenties and seventeen-year-old Harlean Carpenter McGrew has run off to Beverly Hills. She's chasing a dream;to escape her small, Midwestern life and see her name in lights.In California, Harlean has everything a girl could want;a rich husband, glamorous parties, socialite friends;except an outlet for her talent. But everything changes when a dare pushes her to embrace her true ambition :to be an actress on the silver screen. With her timeless beauty and striking shade of platinum-blond hair, Harlean becomes Jean Harlow. And as she's thrust into the limelight, Jean learns that this new world of opportunity comes with its own set of burdens. Torn between her family and her passion to perform, Jean is forced to confront the difficult truth;that fame comes at a price, if only she's willing to pay it. Amid a glittering cast of ingenues and Hollywood titans: Clara Bow, Clark Gable, Laurel and Hardy, Howard Hughes, Platinum Doll introduces us to the star who would shine brighter than them all.

This book begins with a young Harlean, newly married to Chuck, on their way to what she thinks is a visit to Hollywood. She quickly finds out that Chuck has purchased a home for them, and that's the beginning of it all, really. Let me just interject and say I really felt terrible for Chuck. I think he comes from a sad upbringing and he's so desperate to be loved and so badly wants to fit in, he's willing to do anything to make Harlean happy. It's quickly obvious those that Harlean has a natural quality that draws people to her and Chuck takes a turn for the worse when his drinking escalates. We learn about Harlean's mother, Jean Harlow, who desperately tried to make it big in Hollywood but never amounted to anything. By chance, Harlean is discovered on a studio lot and asked to stop by for an audition. She blows it off, thinking she isn't motion picture material, but with the encouragement (and a dare) she goes for it. Her husband would be upset so for awhile she is able to keep it a secret.

She finds herself pregnant, and her mother, Jean (who let's just get this out now, I find it absolutely creepy that she keeps calling her mother "mommie" through the whole book), is the ultimate stage mom. She couldn't get herself in Hollywood but she'll be damned if anything stops her daughter because ultimately, that's a win for her as well. Her mother forces her into an abortion because a child would derail the burgeoning career.

And honestly, I think that was something Harlean never fully recovered from. Everything after seemed like her way of coping. She pretty much lost control of her own life, at age 17, from that point on. We see a marriage implode, romances begin and fizzle, more tragedy, and the book, oddly- ends on a high note. Strange because the life of Jean Harlow did not end on a high note. She died at age 26 of kidney failure, ultimately. Which is really sad because you think of this book, which starts with her at age 17 and only eleven years later and she's gone. A star for the ages in that short time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It's a fascinating look into early Hollywood in the late 20's and early 30's and really, a tragic insight to the short life of Jean Harlow. Platinum Doll can be purchased on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

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