On April 29, 1932, Jean attended the star-studded premiere of MGM's megawatt all-star hit, "Grand Hotel," at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, escorted by one of the film's producers (and future husband) Paul Bern.
The MGM publicity machine really outdid itself that night, creating one of the most spectacular Hollywood premiere events of all time, parading out its fabled "more stars than there are in heaven" stable of talent.
As stars exited their limousines on Hollywood Blvd., they stopped to talk to the evening's host, Conrad Nagel, who was stationed in the forecourt at a prop hotel desk. They said a few words over the air on NBC radio and signed their names in a "Grand Hotel" ledger book before entering the theater.
The arrivals were filmed for a newsreel that has survived for over seven decades and was included as a special feature on the 2004 Grand Hotel DVD release:
But what happened to the ledger?
Did it survive?
It certainly did!
Its current caretaker is my good friend, Los Angeles-based Harlow historian, Darrell Rooney.
Darrell Rooney with the famous Grand Hotel ledger
A sheet from the ledger
I had the honor of examining the fragile film artifact up close and personal a year ago when Darrell generously brought it to a special gathering on April 29, 2007, to mark its 75th anniversary. The evening was hosted by another wonderful friend of mine, photographer, author and fellow Hollywood historian, Mark Vieira, at his Starlight Studio, and included screenings of the DVD newsreel and a 16mm print of the film.
Nancy Walsh, former owner of Jean's Palm Drive residence, peruses the ledger pages
The ledger languished in storage for many years, and, remarkably, survived the 1970 ruthless purging of MGM's properties. Darrell first bid on it at an auction many years ago, unsuccessfully, but had a second chance to own it when the person who originally outbid, offered to sell it to him directly for the price paid (several thousand dollars.) Fortunately for Darrell, he was in a better financial position to take advantage of the sale when opportunity knocked, and has since then kept it lovingly preserved among his vast collection of Harlow memorabilia.
Jean and Paul appear in the newsreel at 6:12 in. She comments that she can't write while wearing gloves. Ha! I don't think she did such a bad job. You be the judge:
Notice the seemingly blank line under Paul's signature. At one point in the ledger's history, it was "cleaned up" of dust and dirt, and, sadly, it resulted in the extreme fading of Chester Morris' signature. What remains is the "C," barely. Some of the pages in the book, originally hand stitched together with thread, have come out, but for the most part it is in great condition considering its age and history of years worth of neglect.
Below, courtesy of You-Tuber ghostlybohemia, is the "Grand Hotel" premiere newsreel.
It includes host Conrad Nagel with Edward G. Robinson, Lew Ayres, Lola Lane, Lionel Barrymore, Ben Lyon, Bebe Daniels, Wallace Beery, Louis B. Mayer, Edmound Goulding, Walter Huston, Lilyan Tashman, Edmund Lowe, Fred Niblo, Robert Montgomery, Lewis Stone, Anita Page, Marlene Dietrich, Rudolf Sieber, Anna Q. Nilsson, Jean Harlow, Paul Bern, Chester Morris, Billy Haines, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Crawford, Constance Bennett, Henri de la Falaise, Norma Shearer and Clark Gable.