Jean Harlow Death Dead – Jean Harlow Obituary: Cause of Death
Jean Harlow (born Harlean Harlow Carpenter; March 3, 1911 – June 7, 1937) was an American actress and sex symbol. Often nicknamed the “Blonde Bombshell” and the “Platinum Blonde”, she was popular for her “Laughing Vamp” screen persona. Harlow was in the film industry for only nine years, but she became one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood, whose image in the public eye has endured. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Harlow No. 22 on their greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema list.
In January 1937, Harlow and Robert Taylor traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in fundraising activities associated with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday, for the organization later known as the March of Dimes. The trip was physically taxing for Harlow, and she contracted influenza. She recovered in time to attend the Academy Awards ceremony with William Powell.
Filming for Harlow’s final film, Saratoga, co-starring Clark Gable, was scheduled to begin in March 1937. However, production was delayed when she developed sepsis after a multiple wisdom tooth extraction and had to be hospitalized. Almost two months later, Harlow recovered, and shooting began on April 22, 1937.
On May 20, 1937, during the filming of Saratoga, Harlow began to complain of illness. Her symptoms—fatigue, nausea, fluid retention and abdominal pain—did not seem very serious to her doctor, who believed that she was suffering from cholecystitis and influenza. Unfortunately, the doctor was not aware that Harlow had been ill during the previous year with a severe sunburn and influenza. Her friend and co-star, Una Merkel, noticed Harlow’s gray pallor, fatigue and weight gain on the set of Saratoga.
On May 29, 1937, Harlow filmed a scene in which the character she was playing had a fever. Harlow was clearly sicker than her character. She leaned against co-star Gable between scenes and said, “I feel terrible! Get me back to my dressing room.” Harlow requested that the assistant director telephone William Powell, who immediately left his own movie set, in order to escort Harlow back home.
The next day, Powell checked on Harlow and discovered that her condition had not improved. He contacted her mother and insisted that she cut her holiday short to come be at her daughter’s side. Powell also summoned a doctor. Because Harlow’s previous illnesses had delayed the shooting of three movies (Wife vs. Secretary, Suzy, and Libeled Lady), initially there was no great concern regarding Harlow’s latest bout with a recurring illness. On June 2, 1937, it was announced that Harlow was again suffering from influenza. Dr. Ernest Fishbaugh who had been called to Harlow’s home to treat her, diagnosed her with an inflamed gallbladder. Harlow felt better on June 3, 1937, and co-workers expected her back on the set by Monday, June 7, 1937. Press reports were contradictory, with headlines reading “Jean Harlow seriously ill” and “Harlow recovers from illness crisis.” Clark Gable, who visited Harlow during this time, later remarked that she was severely bloated and that he smelled urine on her breath when he kissed her — both signs of kidney failure.
Dr. Leland Chapman, a colleague of Fishbaugh, was called in to give a second opinion on Harlow’s condition. Chapman recognized that she was not suffering from an inflamed gallbladder, but was in the final stages of kidney failure. On June 6, 1937, Harlow said that she could not see Powell clearly and could not tell how many fingers he was holding up.
That evening, she was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, where she slipped into a coma. The next day at 11:37 a.m., Harlow died in the hospital at the age of 26. In the doctor’s press releases, the cause of death was given as cerebral edema, a complication of kidney failure. Hospital records mention uremia.
For years, rumors circulated about Harlow’s death. Some claimed that her mother had refused to call a doctor because she was a Christian Scientist or that Harlow had declined hospital treatment or surgery.[
From the onset of her illness, Harlow had been attended by a doctor while she was resting at home. Two nurses also visited her house, and various equipment was brought from a nearby hospital. Harlow’s grayish complexion, recurring illnesses, and severe sunburn were signs of the disease. Toxins also adversely affected her brain and central nervous system.
She had suffered from scarlet fever at age 15. Speculation that Harlow suffered a poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis following the scarlet fever incident, which may have caused high blood pressure and ultimately kidney failure, has been suggested.
Harlow’s death certificate gives the causes of her death as “acute respiratory infection”, “acute nephritis”, and “uremia”. One of the MGM writers later said, “The day Baby died…there wasn’t one sound in the commissary for three hours.” Spencer Tracy wrote in his diary, “Jean Harlow died today. Grand gal.” MGM closed on the day of her funeral, June 9, 1937.
Harlow was interred in the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale in a private room of multicolored marble, which William Powell bought for $25,000. She was laid to rest in the gown she wore in Libeled Lady; in her hands she had a white gardenia and a note that Powell had written: “Goodnight, my dearest darling.” Harlow’s inscription reads, “Our Baby”.
Spaces in the same room were reserved for Harlow’s mother and Powell. Harlow’s mother was buried there in 1958, but Powell married actress Diana Lewis in 1940. After his death in 1984, he was cremated and his ashes buried in Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.
MGM planned to replace Harlow in Saratoga with either Jean Arthur or Virginia Bruce, but due to public objections the film was finished using three doubles (one for close-ups, one for long shots, and one for dubbing Harlow’s lines) and rewriting some scenes without her. Saratoga was released on July 23, 1937, less than two months after Harlow’s death and it was a hit with audiences. Saratoga was MGM’s biggest moneymaker, second only to Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.