Lived Fast, Died Young JEAN HARLOW I DID THIS BLACK AND WHITE RENDITION OF THE BLOND BOMSHELL. IT'S ACRYLIC ON CANVAS UNFRAMED. HAS A BLACK EDGE AROUND ONE INCH OF THE CANVAS. COST FOR SHIPPING WILL DEPEND ON AREA SENT.PUT IN A LITTLE HISTORY ON THE LIFE OF JEANJEAN HARLOW is a classic example of how on-screen and off-screen behavior can contradict each other. In the movies, Harlow was capable of slugging it out verbally as well as physically. In movie after movie, she confronts both male and female adversaries, hands on hips, screaming at the top of her lungs. "Politics, huh?" she bawls at Wallace Beery in "Dinner at Eight" (1933). "You couldn't get into politics. You couldn't get in anywhere. You couldn't even get in the men's room at the Astor." In real life, however, Harlow was passive, allowing herself to be exploited by her domineering mother and her greedy stepfather. As David Stenn tells it in "Bombshell: The Life and Death of Jean Harlow," her training for obedient success began in utero. The only child of a dissatisfied Kansas housewife and a well-to-do dentist, Harlow was born into comfort as Harlean Carpenter. Her mother, the original Jean Harlow, divorced her husband and dragged her little girl to Hollywood in the hope that she herself would become a star. Mama Jean's efforts failed, but only on her own behalf. "The Baby," as she called her daughter, grew into a platinum-haired beauty with a body that talent scouts inevitably noticed. In those days, it usually took four things to become a movie goddess: stunning looks, raw sex appeal, a willingness to do what you were told and ruthless ambition. Harlean Carpenter, significantly renamed "Jean Harlow," had it all in abundance, except for the ambition, and that she didn't need because Mama Jean had enough for both of them. To his credit, David Stenn, the author of "Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild," tries to tell Harlow's story objectively. He is scrupulous about documenting facts, keeping his tone unemotional and his opinions balanced. He is so determined to be fair that readers can almost feel the strain. Mr. Stenn, who acted as a consultant on a recent cable television documentary on Harlow, conducted hundreds of interviews with people who actually knew her, including her surviving family members, numerous lovers, doctors and even the man who stepped forward to claim he had taken her virginity. Without judgment and without smacking his lips, Mr. Stenn tells how Harlow's life had run amok even before she became a star. Married at the age of 16 to a rich young alcoholic, she formally separated from him within 20 months. Her second marriage made little sense to anyone who knew her groom. Paul Bern was a top M-G-M executive, known as the mentor of such troubled actresses as the drug-addicted Barbara La Marr and the mentally ill Clara Bow. But he was rumored to be sexually dysfunctional or, at the very least, uninterested where women were concerned. Nevertheless, Harlow married Bern in a lavish M-G-M-sanctioned wedding ceremony on July 2, 1932. A scant two months later, on Sept. 5, 1932, Bern's nude body was found lying in a pool of blood in the dressing room of his Beverly Hills home. He was dead of a gunshot wound, and Harlow was nowhere in sight. Was it suicide? Was it murder? Bern's death and Harlow's role in it became one of Hollywood's greatest mysteries, partly because the police were not called until Louis B. Mayer and M-G-M's director of publicity, Howard Strickling, had had plenty of time to go through the house and orchestrate a suitable scenario for public consumption. Mr. Stenn lays out a clear day-to-day timetable ("Schedule for a Scandal," Sept. 5 to 14) of the events surrounding Bern's death, concluding that it really was a suicide. Harlow's career survived the scandal, but her bad luck with men continued. Her third marriage, to a cinematographer, Harold Rosson, lasted less than eight months. Her final great love, the actor William Powell, dragged his feet about marrying her until it was too late. Harlow died of uremic poisoning at the age of 26. Her shocking death at such an early age created its own mystery. She had left work on "Saratoga" "with a cold," dying only 10 days later and inspiring rumors of botched abortions, venereal diseases, medical malpractice and mismanagement by her Christian Scientist mother. In these pages, Mr. Stenn clarifies the medical history of Harlow's death for the first time. This biography makes a good antidote to the lurid "Harlow: An Intimate Biography," published in 1964 and written by Irving Shulman with help from Harlow's former agent, Arthur Landau. That book outraged people who had known the star, turning the famous platinum blonde into an immoral drunk, and her film career into a tabloid tale of sex, scandal and peroxide. Sadly, even Mr. Stenn tends to neglect Harlow's movies. Despite her platinum head and a luscious body that she wasn't afraid to touch suggestively in front of the whole world, Harlow was basically a comedienne. There is no one like her on the screen today. In her films, all released between 1928 and 1937, she hangs out like one of the boys, but she is as feminine and glamorous as any actress who ever wore silver lame. Master of the sidelong glance that contains no mystery, Harlow has the vulnerability of Monroe, the allure of Dietrich, the comedic touch of Lombard, the easy sexuality of Mae West and the hard sass of Stanwyck. She was one of a kind, and she had it all. What she apparently did not have was any luck with men and relatives. Even today, history has not lifted her on-screen career out from under the cloud of scandal. As Harlow herself so eloquently stated it in "Bombshell," "Ain't that a load of clams?"