Rather winning life of Jean Harlow, with some revisions on the tale offered by Samuel Marx and Joyce Vanderveen in Deadly Illusions (1990)—and many fresh interviews plus a handful of new folks speaking out who have kept silent until now. Stenn (the well-received Clara Bow, 1988) gives a sympathetic, well-rounded Harlow—one immensely superior to the Harlow (1965) by Irving Shulman and Arthur Landau that prompted two scurrilous film bios back in the mid-60's—but he doesn't actually add much to the Harlow we already know. Aside from massaging the boot blows by Shulman and Landau, and cleaning up the suicide of Harlow's second husband, producer Paul Bern, this is more a refresher course than a set of discoveries. The big, definitive life is yet to be written, although most of Harlow's intimates are dead and still fresher material than Stenn's is not likely. The best qualities here are Stenn's attention to his subject's acting and the growth of her talent, and Harlow's often physical presence on the page, especially in her wacky nude scenes with studio photographers and at parties, and in Stenn's capturing of her shyness, the modesty at the core of the woman, which her nude moments only enforce. Yes, Jean Harlow, aided by her mother, would ice her breasts to a tight firmness and play scenes braless—but this was ``Jean Harlow'' the image and top moneymaker for MGM, not Harlean Carpenter, the towhead deep inside the image. The biggest villain in this bio is Mother Jean, ``who had slave-driven her [daughter] to stardom, sabotaged her marriages, squandered her money, and sacrificed her happiness.'' Harlow, going by Stenn, was marked for early death when her mother, a Christian Scientist, didn't have Jean properly diagnosed at 15 for the nephritic infection that killed her at 26. Between takes, a platinum Venus sits firmly on your lap, knitting socks. (Sixty photos)
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)