Actors Who Died Only Days After Filming Their Last Scene

Despite being an icon of classic Hollywood cinema, Jean Harlow’s legend hasn’t survived as well as some of her peers. While Marilyn Monroe is often the first person that springs to mind when thinking of famous Hollywood blondes, Harlow came first and indeed Monroe studied Harlow’s image as a young girl. Sadly, like Monroe after her, Harlow also died young at the age of 26 in 1937.

Harlow was a Hollywood sex symbol and an icon of pre-Code American cinema, starring in films such as Hell’s Angels, Dinner at Eight, and Bombshell. By the mid-1930s, Harlow was drinking heavily and developing health problems. Her last film, Saratoga, had to be postponed because she needed surgery on her wisdom teeth, resulting in sepsis that lasted two months.

On May 29, she filmed a scene with co-star Clark Gable in which her character was supposed to have a fever. Harlow felt very ill and was taken back to her dressing room. The first doctor called diagnosed Harlow with an inflamed gallbladder, but a second doctor correctly identified that she was in fact suffering from kidney failure. On June 6, she was taken to the hospital, where she died the following day. It has been speculated that her kidney failure may have been the result of scarlet fever she had as a child.

About 90% of the film was complete by the time of Harlow’s death, and the studio planned to either scrap the film or reshoot Harlow’s scenes with a different actor. After an early screening and a lot of fan mail they received, MGM decided to keep Harlow’s scenes and complete the film with a body double named Mary Dees.

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