The Tragic 1932 Death Of Paul Bern

Paul Bern was an important part of the Golden Age of Hollywood. According to IMDB, Bern wrote, directed, and produced numerous films at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), working on such movies as "The Dressmaker from Paris," "Grounds for Divorce," "The Beloved Rogue," and many others. Bern's contributions to film history, however, have been overshadowed by his marriage to screen icon, the sensuous Jean Harlow. As described by SFGate, early in Harlow's career, Bern was one of the few people in the film industry who took her seriously as an actress and helped launch her career. It wasn't long before the two began a romantic relationship before getting married in 1932.

While theirs may have seemed like a classic Hollywood romance, its luster is tarnished by the fact that Bern was secretly married to another woman named Dorothy Millette for some time, per SFGate. The two met while they were working as actors for a theater company in Toronto and moved to New York City together after they got married. Unfortunately, Millette suffered some health problems and was admitted into a sanitarium while Bern moved to California to work for MGM. Once Millette recovered, she moved into the Algonquin Hotel in New YorQk and was financially supported by Bern. Despite living on opposite sides of the country, the two continued their correspondence through letters.

Paul Bern's mysterious death

As described in SFGate, Jean Harlow was one of the most recognized actresses of her time and was most famous for her role in 1930's "Hell's Angels." Despite the eighteen-year age gap between her and Paul Bern, their romance quickly blossomed and the couple married after only two months of dating. But their marriage didn't last long as Bern was found dead in the couple's bathroom on September 5, 1932 from a gunshot wound to the head. Bern's death was only two months after he and Harlow tied the knot.

SFGate states that Bern's body was found by his household staff. However, instead of calling the police, they called MGM. The studio sent fixers (including infamous Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix, as stated in Smithsonian Magazine) to his home to find a way to relate the story to the press without ruining the studio's reputation. They eventually called Harlow and it wasn't until two hours after the discovery of Bern's body that police were notified. There are various theories floating around about what could've provoked Bern to die by suicide. Some of the theories include that it was because of depression brought on by the film industry or being married to one of the most famous women in the world. His friends said that Bern talked about suicide for some time before he committed the tragic act (per SFGate).

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

The aftermath of Paul Bern's death

According to SFGate, the circumstances surrounding Paul Bern's death became more complicated when his insurance advisor, George G. Clarken, revealed that he was still married to Dorothy Millette. Clarken also oversaw the will Bern created for her more than ten years prior. However, Bern had Millette removed from his will, which meant that she would get nothing from his death. It seems that Millette found out about the change as the night after Bern was found dead in Beverly Hills, Millette threw herself off the Delta King riverboat, which she boarded the previous day. While some assumed that she killed Bern in a fit of rage (it was said that a mysterious woman was seen with him the day before he died), Millette's body was found by two fishermen in the Sacramento River on September 14, 1932.

The police concluded that Jean Harlow had nothing to do with her husband's death. The Conversation relays that Harlow was ultimately named the executor of Bern's will. SFGate states that Harlow remarried the year following Bern's death, with that marriage lasting for only a year. At only 26 years old, Harlow's health started to fail and she lapsed into a coma while shooting her final film, "Saratoga." Harlow died on June 7, 1937, from kidney failure.