Of the two competing Jean Harlow biopics released in 1965, producer Joseph E. Levine's Harlow is the more slickly professional, though neither film is exactly a cinematic landmark. Carroll Baker plays 1930s "platinum blonde" Jean Harlow, who, in keeping with the portrait painted by biographer Irving Schulman and Arthur Landau (upon whose book this film is based) was a forlorn waif tossed around like a football by the predatory males of wicked old Hollywood. Prodded by a hellish stage mother (Angela Lansbury) and an implicitly incestuous stepfather (Raf Vallone), Harlow rises to the pinnacle of movie stardom but never finds true happiness. The wedding-night revelation that her new husband, producer Paul Bern (Peter Lawford), is impotent is just another devastating blow for the poor girl. After all she goes through in the film, Harlow's premature death at age 26 is almost a relief. The only person who truly, deeply, sincerely cares about her is her lovable agent Arthur Landau (played by lovable Red Buttons) who, it will be remembered, co-authored the original Harlow book. Movie buffs will derive some perverse pleasure by the script's many distortions of the facts. Whatever its shortcomings, Harlow posted a huge profit for Joe Levine and Paramount Pictures.
by Hal Erickson synopsis