Only my opinion of course, but it’s sad that Jean Harlow’s final film, SARATOGA was such a disappointment. Jean and Clark Gable are completely let down by a weak and boring script. Or maybe any film about horse racing is never going to work for me.
There is so little plot anyway, something about Jean’s grandfather (Lionel Barrymore) who owns a horse breeding farm. Gable is a bookmaker who gets the deeds to the farm to settle a gambling debt from Lionel.
Of course there is conflict between Jean and Clark. She calls him, ‘a petty gambler’ and is planning to marry rich playboy,Walter Pidgeon (in his first MGM film).
This film will be remembered because Jean Harlow collapsed on the set and died a week later.
More than two thirds of the film had been completed and MGM had to decide what to do. There was talk of re-shooting Jean’s scenes, with Virginia Bruce or Jean Arthur. But the film was finished using voice and body doubles. Mary Dees was Jean’s stand-in and can be seen in several scenes. Paula Winslowe provided the voice.
It is obvious where the double is used. In one scene,the character is wearing a huge hat which conceals her face . And there is a brief shot on the race course where she is looking through binoculars and again, it is obviously not Jean.
And the second last shot in the film is of two pairs of hands, supposedly Jean and Clark.
The final shot is from an earlier scene in the film, with Jean and Clark.
MGM was also pressured by fans who wanted to see Jean’s very last film.
Such a shock for everyone at the time. Jean would surely have gone on being a big MGM star into the 1940s. She was only 26 when she died.