The Jean Harlow Blogathon: 1932’s Pre-Code Three Wise Girls

Tomorrow, March 3rd, is the late actress Jean Harlow’s birthday.  In honor of her short-lived career and stardom(she’s often referred to as Hollywood’s first blonde bombshell) Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema and Samantha at Musings of a Classic Film Addict  are hosting a Jean Harlow Blogathon.  Be sure to visit it and read more about Jean Harlow, and her rise to stardom in the 1930s, and about her life.

Jean was born in 1911 in Kansas City, MO to a well-to do family; her dad was a dentist and mom stayed at home to care for Jean.  When Jean was a kid, her family moved to CA, and Jean began to try and make it in the movie industry.  If one peruses IMDB as I did, it’s pretty evident that young Harlow began to be in a lot of silent movies as an extra in 1929, even using her birth name, Harlean Carpenter.  1930 changed her career course for the better when as Jean Harlow, she was cast in Hell’s Angels.  Cast often in roles  to better show off her curves and allure, when 1932 came, Jean asked to be cast in a film as “the good girl”.  She got her wish in the film I viewed recently, Three Wise Girls.

Jean’s co-stars were Mae Clark, Marie Prevost, Walter Byron, Andy Devine, and Jameson Thomas.  Directed by William Beaudine and released by Columbia Pictures, this bit of a frothy film was directly aimed at women with a morality tale, of sorts, thrown in the mix for good measure; Agnes Christine Johnson adapted the story for the screen.

Cassie(Jean Harlow) lives in her hometown, Chillicothe(MO, OH, IL, IA, or TX? I couldn’t find out) and works at the drugstore as a soda jerk.  She lives with her mom, dad is deceased, and there seem to be no other siblings around, as none are mentioned.  Cassie seems to be a popular town cutie and decides to make the move to NYC to get a better paying job so she can buy her deserving mother some luxuries; mom is seen drooling over some lady in town’s brand new car.

Cassie contemplating a move to NYC

Cassie lands in NYC, is sharing an apartment with a friend, Dot(Marie Prevost), who types for a living, working out of the apartment.  Dot just wants to find an honest guy to fall in love with and settle down.  Cassie is still wanting a better paying job as all she’s done in NYC is work as a soda jerk, leaving three such positions fighting off her bosses’ passes.  She decides to look up another Chillicothe girl, Gladys Kane(Mae Clark), who has made good as a model for the fashionable House of Andre.  Gladys is thrilled to see Cassie again, helps her to  get a modeling job at Andre’s, and then introduces Cassie to her married lover, Arthur Phelps(Jameson Thomas).  After meeting Cassie for the first time, and with Gladys in another room getting dressed for dinner, Phelps has the gall to make a pass at Cassie!  Instead of telling Gladys, Cassie just does her best to get out of  a dinner invitation with Gladys and Phelps, and vows to not get involved with married men.

Wowing Andre with a lingerie number!

Phelps sneaking a glance at Cassie while Gladys is oblivious!


Cassie does meet a gentleman of means, Jerry Dexter(Walter Byron, who does a great job of hiding his British accent).  When he is recovering from a hangover and wanders into the pharmacy where Cassie is working as a soda jerk, Jerry witnesses her fighting off a crude pass from an oaf of a boss.  As she prepares to stomp out of the shop and is  giving her notice, the boss snidely tells her she won’t be paid for that final week.  Jerry gallantly steps in and makes the boss pay her.  Cassie and Jerry meet again and there is an immediate attraction and love is in the air, until Cassie’s dreams are crushed when she discovers Jerry is also married!!!!!  A side plot involves Dot finding her  man, Jerry’s chauffeur(Andy Devine).

Studio publicity still with Byron and Harlow.

Cassie and Jerry, falling in love!

I won’t give away any more of the  plot as this film is available in its entirety on Youtube and one can view it there.

While not a great film, it does give Mae Clark and Jean Harlow some beautiful costumes to model.  The film is a good example of a pre-code picture as there are several scenes of Harlow undressing or standing around in her undergarments(no nudity) and the discussions of being another man’s mistress aren’t shied away from.  So if you want to view the lovely Jean Harlow in a “good girl” role, view Three Wise Girls.



9 responses to this post.

  1. Dear Jenni,

    This is a really good review! I have heard about this film before, and your review reminded me. I hope to watch it some time. This is a great contribution to the Jean Harlow Blogathon.

    By the way, I wanted to remind you that you agreed to write the “What the Code Means to Me” article for April. You have plenty of time, since your article can be published through the 31 of this month. Perhaps you have already starting working on it. If not, you still have plenty of time. I just wanted to be sure that you knew that this was the month you chose. I know that I often lose track of such things. After you publish your article, which should include a link to the main page about the series and its banner, you get to choose the next movie I breen. You can give two film suggestions, and I will breen one of them on an upcoming Thursday. There are guidelines on which films can be chosen in this article:

    Thank you for signing up for this series, Jenni! I really appreciate it. I hope that all is well with you and your family.

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan


    • Good morning, I was going to write my rough draft article per the code today and refine it for a publishing to my blog tomorrow, sending the link for you to post tomorrow. I recently watched a star-crossed lovers type film from the 1930s, Lady From the Tropics, from MGM, starring Hedy Lamarr and Robert Taylor. It wasn’t a bad film, had a bittersweet ending, but I wanted to point out the aspect how in such a film, if a character commits a crime, there will be consequences to be paid, the consequences aren’t sloughed off, and that is certainly the case in this film.


      • Dear Jenni,

        That sounds great! I can’t wait to receive your article. If it is later that tomorrow, that is perfectly fine. I am so glad to know that you have some good ideas for your topic. I know you will write a wonderful article. Then, you can suggest two un-Code films (not American movies released between 1934-1954) for me to breen. I will choose one of them and write about it as the first Breening Thursday topic in May. There are instructions on which films are available for breening in this article: Thank you again!

        Yours Hopefully,

        Tiffany Brannan

      • Dear Jenni,

        I was going to send you the link to the article I wrote about your suggestion of a film to breen, “White Shadows in the South Seas,” but it seems you already saw it! Thank you for the like. I really enjoyed watching that film. I hope you liked my article. Thank you for participating in “What the Code Means to Me!”

        Yours Hopefully,

        Tiffany Brannan

  2. Posted by Samantha Ellis on March 6, 2019 at 11:03 PM

    This movie sounds so great! Jean looks absolutely stunning here, and I’m so anxious to see her in a “good girl” role. Thank you so much for your awesome review of this underrepresented classic!


  3. […] Portraits by Jenni tells us all about one of Jean’s rare “good girl” parts in the pre-code Three Wise Girls (1932). […]


  4. […] by Jenni explore Three Wise Girls, a film were Jean finally plays the good […]


  5. Thanks for this great review Jenni! I have not seen this film but I’ll be curious to, not only for Jean Harlow but also for Jameson Thomas whom I quite liked in Hitchcock’s The Farmer’s Wife. Thanks so much for your participation to our blogathon!


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