Poor Jean. Too many of these women have early and/or unhappy ends.
There are a lot of untruths about Jean that I believed myself until recently because of Irving Shulman’s biography of her, published in 1964. I was given that book for Christmas one year, and believed it until I did some digging – Shulman seems to have made much of it up. You might have heard the story that she died because her mother, a Christian Scientist, refused to allow doctors to treat her when her kidneys began shutting down. And that the renal failure she died of was a result of her husband’s severe beatings damaging her internal organs. These stories are totally false.
She’s had a rough time of it, dying at the tragically young age of 26 and then being beaten up in hack biographies and the movies based on them. She was charming and cute and her sense of humor shone through in her performances. Unfortunately, her movies are not as easy to find as I’d hope. Through Netflix, Amazon, etc., sure, but you don’t have much luck walking into a store and finding them.
The pickings are pretty slim through YouTube as well, but here are a few clips I managed to find.
From Red Dust (1932), risque enough that it was one of the catalysts for the Hays Code:
From Libeled Lady, a very sassy Jean (“Nobody can talk to me like a house detective!”):
From China Seas, with Gable again, and both better dressed this time:
Her final resting place, in Forest Lawn Glendale (Los Angeles), is hidden away from the public and I’ve heard that it’s nearly impossible to get in to pay your respects, but reading this is the next best thing.