Gentle Paul Bern grew less and less gentle with his fabulous wife. On one occasion, he broke up a fancy cocktail party by loudly accusing her of making an assignation with a cab driver.
Despite Jean’s protests that the cabbie had come to their home only to return a pair of gloves she had left in his cab, Bern had his own fixed ideas about what was going on. He grew so nasty that Jean began to weep, and the party turned into a rout.
On the other hand, servants whispered about quarrels which flared up when Jean insisted on making amorous gestures to him around the house.
In public, when they were not fighting, she would hang warmly on his arm, her famed bosom just nudging his elbow.
Then, two months after the wedding, police answered a call from the Bern butler to find Paul Bern stretched out nude in front of his wife’s mirror with a gun in his hand and a bullet hole in his head. Beside him was a dramatic but cryptic note. It read:
“Dearest Dear, Unfortunately this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done you and to wipe out my abject humiliation. I love you.
“P.S. You understand that last night was only a comedy. Paul”
The passionate blonde had taken a step which would cast a shadow over her whole life. Pictures, newsreels and stories of the gilt-edged ceremony were flashed around the world as the girl whose every photograph set millions of men to panting began a sexless honeymoon.
“Nobody was ever sure just what Jean’s intentions for herself were, but from the moment she heard about Paul, she was twice as determined to go through with the marriage and to make him happy,” insisted a costume designer who was one of the star’s best friends.
“But,” added the designer, “Jean certainly could never have given up love—her kind of flesh-and-blood love—and I don’t believe she expected to. Maybe she thought she could transform Paul into a real male. Or maybe they had an understanding— about other men.”
The movie colony speculated endlessly about the strange union. Jean was as attentive as a wife could be.
But within three weeks Bern began making jealous scenes in public. The “other men” were everywhere, of course, and La Harlow still enjoyed their homage.
She was working on the same MGM lot making Red Dust with Clark Gable, a co-star and old friend with wrhom she had spent much leisure time.
The lot buzzed with comment on the torrid love scenes that the two great sex appeal stars were “acting.”
During a famous bath scene in a rain barrel, the smouldering Harlow demonstrated that she believed in playing bath scenes realistically—in the nude.