PLATINUM BLONDE is an early Frank Capra-directed effort concerning common-man reporter Robert Williams who ignores an obvious love match with co-worker Loretta Young in favor of marriage with high-society socialite Jean Harlow. Although often cited as an early example of the screwball comedy genre Capra helped create with such films as IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, the script is very dated, and from a modern standpoint it creaks in almost every scene.
Although not often noted for her acting skills, Loretta Young gives a very fine performance here in the role of Gallagher, an attractive but working class reporter who can hold her own with the boys while maintaining her femininity. The often praised but little known Robert Williams gives an equally pleasant, enjoyable performance, albeit one less successful than Young's in the face of passing time. But Jean Harlow is seriously miscast in the role of manipulative socialite Anne Schuyler, who is first attracted to Williams by his working-class attitudes and who then seeks to erradicate them after their marriage.
The film is perhaps most interesting to Harlow fans, for it shows Harlow before Hollywood discovered how to best display both her talents and her beauty. Harlow's talent did extend to light drama, but she would be most at home in wise-cracking, sassy comedy, and she is clearly out of her element in this particular role; her physical appearance is also quite unlike the Harlow iconography expertly developed by MGM, and she looks rather like a white-blonde version of Kay Francis--but unfortunately without any of that actress' sparkle. It is a very wooden performance that seriously undercuts the success of the film, and one wishes that Young and Harlow had been cast in each other's roles.
Harlow fans will enjoy seeing Harlow "before she was Harlow," and those interested in the evolution of Frank Capra's work or in the development of the screwball comedy genre will find the film of considerable interest. Others, however, should stay away: the film has more historic interest than entertainment value, and more casual viewers would do better to select later films--such as Young's THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER, Capra's MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, and Harlow's BOMBSHELL.