Jean Harlow, the 1930s sex symbol and movie star, had a tragic and scandal-filled life that included marriage to a studio executive who committed suicide and an early, mysterious death herself. When author Irving Shulman teamed with her former agent, Arthur Landau, to write the book Harlow: An Intimate Biography in the 1960s, it became a bestseller (although its more lurid speculations were debunked by later biographers). Naturally, Hollywood took an interest, and two competing film projects resulted. Director Alex Segal's Harlow, starring Carol Lynley, got out of the gate first, by way of a live television broadcast that was kinescoped and released to theaters. The supposedly more upscale version, which appeared two months later, was directed by Gordon Douglas and starred Carroll Baker. It really wasn't any better. Neal Hefti handled the score of this one (Nelson Riddle did the other), and he brought to it his usual '60s jazz-pop style, without worrying much about period accuracy. Hefti, of the same generation as Henry Mancini, similarly gave his music elements of contemporary pop and cocktail jazz that included electric and acoustic guitars, as well as a vocal chorus cheerily singing the lyrics of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans to illuminate Harlow's personal difficulties. But the music was no worse than the film itself or, for that matter, the salacious and inaccurate book on which it was based. The 2003 CD reissue on DRG adds an alternate vocal version of the main theme, "Lonely Girl," that is almost a minute longer than the original.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|Harlow, film score|