Paul Bern (Paul Levy)
Photos with Paul Bern
BiographyWandsbek, Hamburg, Germany
Paul Bern is undoubtedly more famous today for being found shot to death in his bathroom barely 2 months after his marriage to proto-sex symbol Jean Harlow in 1932. Born in Hamburg, Germany as Paul Levy, he came to the United States with his family as a child. His mother committed suicide in the fall of 1920, an act that caused Bern much shame. Bern spent the vast majority of his adult life employed as a screenwriter, director and producer at MGM before rising into the upper executive ranks. Read more... hit Grand Hotel (1932) with the uncredited boy-genius, Irving Thalberg. He gained a reputation as one of the few MGM executives stars could turn to with their personal problems and be assured of a degree of confidentiality. He was the first person many of them sought out prior to dealing with hard-nosed studio boss Louis B. Mayer. His quiet intellectual demeanor attracted Harlow--- who despite her sexpot screen persona, was inclined to more cerebral pursuits. But in marrying her, Bern also inherited her leeching family and they strained the marriage from the start. Sadly it was in death--- which still stands officially as a suicide-- that he gained the most press, one of the most studied and wildly speculated-upon mysteries in Hollywood history. His alleged suicide note is open to lurid interpretation and doubts persist whether it's written in his own handwriting or is merely an apology written weeks before over what could politely be called a sexual dysfunction. Harlow herself never publicly commented on the matter, although she was interviewed by LAPD detectives and appeared before a grand jury. Screenwriter Ben Hecht claimed he was murdered by a mentally imbalanced former lover, Dorothy Millette (who claimed the two were married and whom Bern continued to marginally support) who was found floating in the Sacramento River the day following his death. Speculation also surrounds E.J. Mannix's activities in the case. Mannix was known in those days as the studio's "fixer" and rumors abound on the degree of his involvement, most recently alluded to in Hollywoodland (2006). The Los Angeles District Attorney reopened the case in 1960 and after interviewing various witnesses, the suicide verdict was left to stand. If there's a lesson to Paul Bern's life, it's that an unseemly demise can easily overshadow anything you did while alive.