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1930s & Earlier / Jean Harlow 1911-1937
Jean Harlow was one of Hollywood's most popular actresses when she died of renal failure at the age of 26. Plagued with ailments throughout her short life, Harlow was in the midst of shooting scenes with co-star Clark Gable for the film Saratoga on May 29, 1937 when she was taken ill. (Ironically she was playing a scene in which she was supposed to be ill with a fever.) Between scenes she told Gable that she was not feeling well and asked to be taken to her dressing room. It was thought she just had the flu, and the shooting schedule would be delayed only a day or two, but when Harlow's condition worsened, doctors knew Harlow was in far worse shape than initially thought. Kidney failure was a death sentence in 1937. When Harlow succumbed on June 7 filmgoers were shocked. MGM shut down for the day of Harlow's funeral. She was interred in her crypt wearing a dress she had worn in the film Libeled Lady. Saratoga was finished using long-range and short-range doubles for Harlow's scenes and was a surprising box office hit. Even today scholarly audiences watch Saratoga to see if they can tell which scenes are truly Harlow's and which are the doubles'.