Bombshell (1933)

dir. Victor Fleming. Jean Harlow is Lola Burns, glamorous movie star with a circle of related hangers-on and manipulative movie studio brats. Lola is pushed and pulled by these louts until she has finally had enough. An often very funny screwball comedy, mainly focusing on the relationship between Lola, and the fast-talking studio PR boss, Space Hanlon (Lee Tracy). The film does such a great job at showing endless badgering and haranguing of movie star Lola, that’s its quite claustrophobic. We eventually see the full scale of Space Hanlon’s machinations and it’s quite shocking. What he puts Lola through is so cruel that it ceases to be amusing by the end. A great supporting cast including Frank Morgan as Lola’s cloying father. Morgan is best known as the Wizard of Oz in the 1939 film. The dialogue is lightning fast, with my favourite parts being when Lola has had enough and gives a serve to the collection of vipers in her home, “You’re nothing but a pack of leeches!” BOMBSHELL is known as a pre-code film, but the changing censorship landscape is clearly on the filmmaker’s minds, with a reference to a real Jean Harlow film, RED DUST (1932), and some retakes sent ordered by the Hays Office.

By Nicholas Hudson-Ellis

Co-Founder & Film Programs Manager of Bangkok Screening Room.