DEADLY ILLUSIONS: Jean Harlow and the Murder of Paul Bern by Samuel & Joyce Vanderveen Marx

DEADLY ILLUSIONS: Jean Harlow and the Murder of Paul Bern

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Marx (A Gaudy Spree, 1987, etc.) and TV actress Vanderveen team up to present a solidly convincing story of the cover-up surrounding the murder of Jean Harlow's husband, Paul Bern, a producer at MGM. Bern's death on Labor Day weekend in 1932, two months after he married MGM's blonde bombshell, was reported as a suicide brought on by shame about sexual impotence. To add insult to injury, Arnold Schulman's sensationalized biography Harlow (1964) cast him as a savage and brutal wife-beater. At the time of Bern's death, Marx was Bern's close friend as well as MGM's executive story editor, and, following the tip of a crime reporter, he arrived at the death scene long before the police (a half day ahead, in fact). Production chief Irving Thalberg was already there (studio head L.B. Mayer had come and gone), as were Howard Strickling, publicist in charge of keeping MGM's stars free of scandal, and Whitey Hendry, the studio's top security man. Jean Harlow had stayed with her mother, following a tiff with Bern, the night of Bern's death. Marx also was at the later executive meeting in which Mayer persuaded Thalberg to go along with Mayer's suicide script--and for decades Marx, too, believed largely in the suicide theory. Then buried information began breaking (coupled with rage toward Schulman) and he could no longer resist writing the present book. What really happened? It's unfair to reveal the last dirty details here, since the book suspends its key revelations until the last chapter--but the revelations, which stem from a confession by Hendry, will strike almost any reader as conclusive evidence that Bern's murder was covered up and that the murderer was. . . Marx and Vanderveen's bird-dogging after the facts grips from the first page, as does an enjoyable modesty in Marx's voice throughout. One can surmise his feelings at vindicating his friend of 58 years past.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1990
Publisher: Random House