Jean Harlow and Me

Did you know Mollie Cox Bryan, author of the delightful Cora Crafts Mysteries, was related to famed Hollywood movie star, Jean Harlow? We didn’t, but apparently a German game show did. Read the wild story below.

Mollie’s also doing a giveaway for Macrame Murder, the latest book in her delightful Cora Crafts Mystery series! The winner will be announced in Monday’s post.

MOLLIE:  If I had written this crazy plot twist of a life experience, I’m not sure who would have believed it.

A few years ago, I was contacted by a German game show “I Have a Famous Relative.” They wanted to fly me to Germany to be a guest on their show. I’d be asked clues about my famous ancestor, Jean Harlow, and the German celebrity panelists would attempt to figure it out. Next, the host would interview me about her.

At first, I thought it was some kind of crazy scheme, right? A free trip to Germany?

To be on TV? But it turned out to be legit. So legit that I was able to add on a few days to explore Germany and Paris.

Backing up a bit here to tell you that it was about this time I was regretting not traveling much in my life. King Ludwig’s castles in Germany had always been on my bucket list. I had also just dedicated a book to my long-gone grandfather, Paul Carpenter, and based a character on him. The next thing I knew, I was being contacted to talk about his cousin, Harlean Carpenter, otherwise know as Jean Harlow. I like to think he hand a hand in all this.

I wanted to do him and the rest of the family proud. I decided I’d be the best panelist ever.


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I read everything I could about Jean.  As a result, I’ve thought more deeply about my famous ancestor. And I was over-prepared for the ten-minute interview after the actual game portion of the show. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the impolite and cold vibes from the show’s host, an older man with steely blue eyes. (Everybody else was lovely!)

He asked all of us guests, relatives of famous people, if we resemble our relative. And I said “No.” He said, “And it’s a damned shame, too.” (He didn’t say this to the lovely, very young granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin. Nor did he say that to the relative of the famous designer Tiffany.)

I don’t know who the famous German actress was at the celebrity desk. But she shot me a look of confusion and embarrassment. The translator in the booth translating English in my ear bud paused. This was live TV.

If only I had a comeback!

I tried my best to ignore him, and I continued answering questions about Jean. It was over soon after that. But even at the gathering after, and breakfast the next day, it was pretty clear the host was unhappy with me. I stopped trying to be friendly and did my best to pretend I did not care or notice. Was he really expecting a Jean Harlow lookalike?  New flash: even Jean Harlow didn’t look like Jean Harlow—if you catch my “platinum blonde” drift.

What bothered me the most was the memory of Jean herself, a woman that was either blessed or cursed by her looks, depending on how you look at it, still only being regarded as that “man eating” (yes, he used that term) platinum bombshell. She was, of course, so much more than that.

While I’ve still not thought of the perfect comeback for his earlier remark, I have thought of the perfect retort for the man-eating remark. If only I had thought of it during the show. “Of course she was a man eater. All of the women in my family are.” Cue evil grin.

Mollie Cox Bryan writes cozy mysteries with edge and romances with slow, sweet burn. She’s just published the third book in her new Cora Crafts Mystery Series: Macrame Murder. The first book in the series, Death Among the Doilies,  was selected as “Fresh Fiction Not to Miss” and was a  finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award. The second book, No Charm Intended, was named a “Summer 2017 Top 10 Beach Read” by Woman’s World. She also wrote the Agatha-award nominated Cumberland Creek Mysteries. Several of the books the series were short-listed for the Virginia Library People’s Choice Award. She makes her home at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley, Va., where she works as a researcher and fact checker and writes in the early morning hours. Visit her and sign up for her newsletter at Or follow her on Twitter @molliecoxbryan, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.




36 thoughts on “Jean Harlow and Me

    1. Let’s let that German game show now and if they ask you if you can sing like Aretha, be ready with a great comeback for that jerk. (Of course…maybe you really can sing like Aretha)!


  1. I love this post, Mollie! Sorry I spelled your name wrong right out of the gate. It’s been corrected. My daughter’s middle name is Molly, so I spelled it that way. ARGH

    BUT back to Harlow… she’s always fascinated me because she was “the Platinum Bombshell,” but she was a really good actress. She could comedy as well as drama, which is a real gift. It’s shocking to realize how young she was when she died.

    And I wish I could find a famous relative. I’d love a trip to Germany, even if it meant putting up this putz of a host!


  2. Very cool story, Mollie. Sorry the host was such a jerk. Does he know that most actresses of that age didn’t look like their screen images (I believe Marilyn Monroe was another one who was “glammed up” for the screen).


  3. I’ve always loved Jean Harlow and the beautiful satin gowns she would wear in her glamour photographs. Did you get to visit King Ludwig’s castles? Pretend to throw the German TV host off of one of the turrets?


  4. What a cool experience (despite that rotten host). Did you get to Neuschwanstein? God only knows if I spelled that correctly. We went years ago and it was a magical place.


  5. What a wild story, jerk of a host and all. Can’t believe he treated you like that on live TV or at the breakfast after. But what an experience and what a way to find a branch to the family tree.


  6. I *do* see a resemblance but it’s not a surprise that you don’t have the same aesthetic as Jean Harlow – it went out of fashion 80 years ago!

    As for his rude and cold treatment of you, he’d better not head to the US because there are plenty of people who would like to give him a piece of our minds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL! I kept trying to talk myself out of it. Tell myself it was just in my head. But finally, I had to accept the guy just didn’t like me. But everybody else was so lovely it more than made up for his remark!


  7. Overall it was cool that you got to go to Germany. It is unfortunate that the host was a rude a-hole to you. You are beautiful on your own. The Jean Harlow look is long gone. Better to be the perfect you. Love your books.


  8. Mollie, you’re adorable! Clearly that stinky host didn’t realize you have the power to kill him — in a book, of course! Dinner at Eight is a fave film, btw!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Cool experience despite the rudeness of the host. Maybe you can make a semblance of him the victim in your next book? Oh and I used to be a little proud of the people to whom I’m related, but let’s just say that they have been in the news a lot and not in the best light. One was a founding father but a slaveowner (had children w one slave!) and the other is a famous Confederate soldier–oops.


  10. I remember you mentioning something about this on Facebook a while back, so I’m so glad we got to hear the full scoop! Clearly, we’re all mad at the host, but I hope it was a fun trip otherwise!

    Random tidbit: when I was a kid, my mom had an art gallery, and the thing I remember best out of everything that ever passed through that store was the signed and numbered print of George Hurrell’s famous photograph of Jean Harlow on a bear skin rug. Gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. How cool that you are related to Jean Harlow. She was a real beauty. That’s a really interesting story on how you found out. Really enjoy your books, thanks for the chance.


  12. What a wonderful experience even if you did have to put up withan obnoxious host. Thanks so much for the chance to win your book.


  13. How very cool. I can only say I am descended from gypsies, lol. Although when I was little and first met my gypsy great grandmother in Germany I was positive I was related to Geronimo, lol. Sorry about that stupid host.


  14. Mollie, so sorry I’m late to the party (no Internet yesterday, sigh) but I loved your post!! Looking forward to your books.


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