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Bombshell (1933 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Directed byVictor Fleming
Written byNorman Krasna
Screenplay byJohn Lee Mahin
Jules Furthman
Based onBombshell
by Caroline Francke and Mack Crane
Produced byHunt Stromberg
Irving Thalberg
StarringJean Harlow
Lee Tracy
Frank Morgan
Franchot Tone
Pat O'Brien
Una Merkel
Ted Healy
Mary Forbes
C. Aubrey Smith
CinematographyHarold Rosson
Chester A. Lyons
Edited byMargaret Booth
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 13, 1933 (1933-10-13)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$344,000 (estimated)

Bombshell is a 1933 American pre-Code romantic screwball comedy film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Jean Harlow, Lee Tracy, Frank Morgan, C. Aubrey Smith, Mary Forbes and Franchot Tone. It is based on the unproduced play of the same name by Caroline Francke and Mack Crane, and was adapted for the screen by John Lee Mahin and Jules Furthman.[1]

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Movie star Lola Burns is angry with her studio publicist E. J. "Space" Hanlon, who feeds the press with endless provocative stories about her. Lola's family and staff are another cause of distress for her, as everybody is always trying to take her money. All Burns really wants is to live a normal life and prove to the public that she's not a sexy vamp, but a proper lady. She attempts a few romances and tries to adopt a baby, but Hanlon, who secretly loves her, thwarts all her plans.

Burns decides she can't stand any more of such a life, and flees. Far from the movie fluff, she meets wealthy and romantic Gifford Middleton, who hates the movies and therefore has never heard about Lola Burns and her bad press. They soon fall in love, and Gifford proposes marriage. Burns is to meet her fiancé's parents, but everything collapses when her family finds her, and the Middletons find out she is a movie star. Burns feels hurt by the rude way Gifford and his parents dump her, and accepts Hanlon's suggestion to return to Hollywood with no regrets. She does not know that the three Middletons were all actors hired by Hanlon himself.

At the studio, Burns and Hanlon are kissing when the “Middletons” walk by her dressing room. They have been given jobs on the next Barrymore picture as a reward for helping to bring Lola back to the fold. Infuriated, Burns flees. Hanlon jumps into the moving car. They are about to kiss when the supposed lunatic who has been pursuing her throughout the film, claiming to be her husband, sticks his head in the window. He greets Hanlon and asks “How’m I doin’?” Fade out on the battling couple.



John Lee Mahin said the project originally began as a serious melodrama about a girl who worked all her life and committed suicide. Mahin suggested it be turned into a comedy and Victor Fleming suggested they base it in the life of Clara Bow.[2]

Bombshell is a pre-code screwball comedy. The story satirizes the stardom years of Clara Bow: "Lola Burns" – Clara Bow, "E. J. Hanlon" – B. P. Schulberg, "Pops Burns" – Robert Bow, "Mac" – Daisy DeVoe, "Gifford Middleton" – Rex Bell. Director Victor Fleming was Bow's fiancée in 1926.[3]

The Laredo Times from Laredo, Texas, quotes Harlow in an interview about filming saying, "Thank goodness, it was not necessary for me to get in the rain barrel in Bombshell. I had to pick too many splinters out of myself the last time," referring to the 1932 film Red Dust, in which Harlow takes a bath in a rain barrel.

The success of the film led to Jean Harlow being widely known as a "Blonde Bombshell."[3]: 151, 162 

Early in the film, Lola Burns is told she has to shoot re-takes of Red Dust — the title of an actual Harlow/Gable vehicle from the year before. In fact, there's a brief kissing scene with Gable, in the frenetic opening sequence of photos, scenes, and shots of fans, taken from Hold Your Man (1933).[4]

According to the Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations, scenes in Bombshell were shot at MGM studios in Culver City. The nightclub scene was filmed at Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel in mid-town Los Angeles. It was demolished in 2006.

Critical reception

Critical reviews were generally positive. Motion Picture Herald called the film "a comedy wow of the first water," and "one of the funniest, speediest, most nonsensical pictures ever to hit a screen." The Daily News Standard from Pennsylvania gave praise to the film, saying that "Jean Harlow and Lee Tracy together for the first time as co-stars are said to have provided the biggest truckload of laughs to roll out of Hollywood in the hilarious picture." However, Mordaunt Hall for The New York Times said Bombshell has moments where "the comedy is too rambunctious and scenes which are not precisely convincing." He did say it is merry for the most part, and said that Jean Harlow was thoroughly "in her element" as the character Lola Burns.[5]


  1. ^ Richter, Simon (2013). Women, Pleasure, Film: What Lolas Want. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978-1-137-30973-0.
  2. ^ McCarthy, Todd; McBride, Joseph (1986). "John Lee Mahin: Team Player". In Patrick McGilligan (ed.). Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood's Golden Age. University of California Press. p. 255. ISBN 9780520056893.
  3. ^ a b Bombshell: the Life and Death of Jean Harlow by David Stenn, page 150-152
  4. ^ Pierce, Kimberly. "Feminist Friday: Bombshell (1933)". Citizen Dame. Archived from the original on May 13, 2021. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  5. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (October 21, 1933). "Lee Tracy and Jean Harlow in a Comedy Dealing With a Zealous Press Agent and a Fiery Film Star". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 20, 2018. Retrieved January 3, 2022.

External links

This page was last edited on 4 February 2024, at 04:59
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