It was a wonderful whirlwind of a trip! I’ll be brief, mostly because that’s the only way to keep from going on and on…
Long story short, my daughters and I were privileged to accept an invitation to travel to California as guests at a birthday celebration for 1930s film star Jean Harlow (my first cousin twice removed).
Our first major stop was the house on Easton Drive, built at the head of Benedict Canyon by Paul Bern, a friend and peer of the more well-known MGM executives David O. Selznick and Irving Thalberg. This fairy-tale home has some sad history; it was where he and his bride, Jean Harlow, lived for the two months of their marriage before his death in 1932. That death was one of Hollywood’s famous mysteries, mostly due to the cover-up engineered by the studio in order to protect the public image of his young widow, who was away from home at the time (and who happened to be one of their biggest stars and money-makers). She steadfastly refused to endorse their version of events, but was powerless to prevent their machinations.
Ron & Maggie Hale, who currently own the home, were charming hosts who offered us the rare opportunity to freely roam the grounds. We sat by the pool enjoying refreshments and visiting for some time, and as twilight deepened in the canyon, the magic of the place held us all in thrall.
The next morning, we dressed for a birthday party! We detoured slightly, to make the only truly touristy stop of the trip: Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Here, my daughters and I pose with Darrell, who masterminded the whole weekend, invited us to come, and even put us up in his wonderful home. We all fell a little bit in love with Darrell, and with his pup, Tooky. I treasure the time we spent talking, learning about his interests and research, and just getting to know each other.
The birthday celebration (the 98th anniversary of Harlean Carpenter’s birth) took place at her former home on Club View Drive. The Chandlers welcomed a whole houseful of Harlow fans and historians, and Rebecca even researched and prepared finger foods that would have been appropriate to a 1930’s party! Although the landscaping is more elaborate now, and there have been a few careful modifications, the house has been lovingly maintained in its original beauty.
This gorgeous car is the 1932 Packard that was owned by Jean Harlow; we felt very privileged to go for a ride. (I’m fascinated by the second windshield that protects the back-seat riders. Can you see it?) Cliff and Joyce Gooding have owned it since 1964, and it is in immaculate condition, and entirely original.
We took many, many pictures of the exterior and interior of the home; Darrell brought pictures of Jean and placed them in the various rooms in which they were taken. That thoughtful touch really gave us a sense of the continuity of our surroundings and the timelessness of her presence. We are pictured here with Jim, Darrell’s other house guest and a Harlow fan from his early youth. We could not have wished for a more engaging, open-hearted and entertaining new friend. He was delighted to take a bit of sunburn back to Boston as a memento. Yes, we love you, too, Jim!
Just a few more people that I have to thank… Lisa Burks, who connected with us in the first place, and whom we met in person here for the first time. Among other things, she is the writer of the Platinum Page and the Platinum Blog.
We also got to meet Reg, who we knew from an online group, and were finally able to put faces with other names we’d heard. And here are Rebecca and Charlie, posing by their front door. Thank you again for a wonderful experience!
And finally, a picture taken just inside that front door, with the afternoon sun streaming through the window. In my memory, there seems to be an aura surrounding the entire unforgettable adventure, and the lighting here captures it perfectly.