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...Yours, Jean Harlow; A film star's letter is the star lot of a sale. Jonathan Caswell reports.

Byline: Jonathan Caswell

ALETTER written and signed by Hollywood's original Blonde Bombshell, Jean Harlow,is expected to attract international interest when it goes under the hammer at a Chester auction house next week.

The sensitive letter, written in reply to a young Chester architect who emigrated to the United States to seek his fortune in 1930, is included in large sale of celebrity memorabilia.

The sale also includes items from rock star Jimi Hendrix, Hollywood great Judy Garland and Liverpool's star striker Michael Owen.

But the letter from the legendary Harlow is the pick of the lot.

Finding work hard to come by in Pittsburgh during the Depression, the young Englishman decided Hollywood movies might hold the answer.

Ivor James's niece, who lives in the Chester area,but wishes to remain anonymous,has now decided to sell the letter.

She said: ``He decided before he gave up all hope of work that he might apply to Hollywood to see if they required any set designers or acting extras for the movies. ``Having heard that Jean Harlow was staying in Pittsburgh at the William Penn Hotel he wrote her a letter to ask advice about work in Hollywood. She very kindly sent him a letter in reply.''

Harlow tragically died at the age of 26,but still made her mark on Hollywood and the world, leaving behind a new image of the Hollywood sex goddess.

In an acting career that lasted a decade, she made 36 movies and was the first film actress to appear on the cover of Life magazine.

In her letter to the young architect, signed``most cordially yours,Jean Harlow'', she states: ``At this time I would advise no one to go to Hollywood to try the picture game. Actors and actresses with names that mean box office attraction are now having a struggle to live.

``At no time in the history of motion pictures have conditions been in such a deplorable state. I could do no other than tell you the truth of the situation even though it may be a disappointment.

``No doubt the industry will get back to normal within a year or two but just now is a bad time to advise anyone,even New York stage artistes, to come to Hollywood.''

The young architect had sailed from Liverpool on May 31,1930, aboard RMS Scythia bound for Boston and New York, to stay with his aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh.

His niece explained: ``Unfortunately,he arrived the year of the Wall Street Crash and the following Depression. Things were very bad and he only had work half the time. It was the time of prohibition and gangsters.

``As time went by, work became very difficult to find and he started to think he would have to return to England. He so loved America and it was not how he had planned his fortune at all.''

He decided to end his American dream and returned to England aboard the same ship on May 28, 1932 and found full-time employment with his local county council.

``He always told me about his happy days in America as a young architect,and the letter he had kept from Jean Harlow all those years ago,'' said his niece.

The letter, written on William Penn Hotel headed notepaper,is valued at up to pounds 500 and will go be sold at Byrne's Auctioneers and Valuers'collectors and general sale at Booth Mansion sale room in Watergate Street next Wednesday.

Auctioneer Adrian Byrne says the letter is a fascinating piece of Hollywood memorabilia.

``It's a particularly personal reflection on the times from such a huge Hollywood star, who need not have taken the trouble to reply to this man's letter,''he said.

``The letter was all he had to show for his trip to America apart from the Cunard Line passenger lists, which he kept from both his outward and home journeys.

``Jean Harlow's signature normally sells for about pounds 150 but this is a unique document that reflects the thoughts of a great American icon, so because it is a letter it's very interesting and therefore very collectable.''

Harlow is not the only star name to feature in the sale.

A waistcoat reputedly worn by rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix is also to be sold.

Mr Byrne said: ``Although we can't substantiate whether it was Hendrix's jacket or not, we believe it is. It certainly is of the era and it is a very fine garment of the late sixties,and there will be a lot of interest in it.''

Autograph books collected at the Palace Theatre,Manchester which include the signatures of George Formby,Judy Garland, Richard Burton,Max Bygraves and Bruce Forsyth are also for sale.

A collection of Liverpool Football Club programmes including the match programme from the 1974FA Cup final between Liverpool and Newcastle United is on the sale list as well as a shirt signed by Michael Owen.

CAPTION(S):

Jo Boucher,of Byrne's auctioneers, with the Jean Harlow letter Picture: TRACEY O'NEILL; Jimi Hendrix; Jean Harlow; Harlow's signature on the letter; Michael Owen
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 25, 2004
Words:849
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