8 Times Movie Studios Went Too Far

8. MGM's Treatment Of Jean Harlow


Famously, the studio system of old Hollywood was one full of corruption and callousness.

Then and now, movie studios are obviously about making as much money as possible. Back in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, however, these studios would go to extreme lengths to protect their prized money-making assets.

For poor Jean Harlow, the power and persuasiveness of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer put an insane amount of pressure on her. After picking up her contract in 1932, MGM apparently tried to include a clause forbidding its star from marrying. The logic was that a sex symbol like Jean Harlow couldn't possibly be viewed as a marketable sex symbol if she was somebody's wife.

At that time, Harlow wanted to wed William Powell. With that not allowed, the pair continued their relationship and the starlet became pregnant. Again, MGM frowned on this. So much so, MGM Head of Publicity Howard Strickling arranged for an abortion to take place in secret - and so Jean Harlow was booked into a private hospital under a false name before the public could find out about her pregnancy.

A few years later in 1937, with Harlow clearly extremely ill, MGM forced her to continue filming Saratoga. That would be the iconic star's final movie, with her passing away midway through production due to kidney failure. She was just 26 years of age.

It may be an extreme example, but the treatment of Jean Harlow shows how the movie studios of old would dominate the career and life of their talent.


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