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Harlow, Jean (Harlean Carpenter), 4409 Gillham Road

Born on March 3, 1911, in a house at 3344 Olive Street, Harlean Carpenter was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Mont Clair Carpenter. She was a beautiful blond, blue-eyed baby. The family moved to 4409 Gillham Road and then to a large stone house at 1312 East 79th Street.

After Dr. Carpenter sued his wife for divorce, Mrs. Carpenter and her daughter moved to Hollywood in hopes that one of them might catch the eye of a casting director. When no career materialized, the two returned to Kansas City. Mrs. Carpenter remarried and moved to Chicago. During a brief marriage at 16, Harlean accompanied a house guest to a screen test. Offered the opportunity to take one herself, she agreed and quickly chose to assume her mother´s maiden name, Jean Harlow. The screen test was a huge success.

At first, the best movie roles Jean Harlow could get were bit parts. But, in 1930 Howard Hughes was looking for a replacement in his remake of Hell´s Angels when he found Harlow. She became a star overnight. Her screen successes were enormous: Bombshell, The Public Enemy with James Cagney, and Dinner at Eight with Marie Dressler and the Barrymores.

Only her mother and actor William Powell, also from Kansas City, were at her bedside when she died on June 7, 1937, of uremic poisoning. Two days later she was buried with Hollywood pomp at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Her coffin was blanketed with 1,500 lilies of the valley and 500 gardenias, Clark Gable was a pallbearer, and Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy sang. The platinum blond was dead at 26.

Kansas City Women of Independent Minds , Jane Fifield Flynn

Jean Harlow by Dory DeAngelo, Kansas City Public Library Local History

Jean Harlow
Jean Harlow
Courtsey Jackson County Historical Society Archives