Antedatings of "[blonde] bombshell"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 24 13:10:16 UTC 2013

First "bombshell" in the OED is 1708 but first in the OED referring to a woman is a 1942 "blonde bombshell".


"Bombshell" was the name of a Jean Harlow film. IMDB says it was released 13 October 1933 in the USA. I haven't found actual evidence of this, but I'm sure it can be found fairly easily.

The movie was later renamed to "Blonde Bombshell", which Wikipedia claims was a nickname of the star Jean Harlow. Perhaps the nickname came from the renamed title.

The earliest verifiable example I found is in the Spokane Daily Chronicle - Nov 24, 1933:

But it seems that Mr. [Lee] Tracy stepped out on a balcony in his pajamas and made wild gestures during a Mexico City parade, and now Mr. Tracy, a star with a long list of hits from "Blessed Event" to "The Blonde Bombshell" behind him, is no longer with at least not until things are "straightened out," if they ever are.


And from the UK (ProQuest Historical Newspapers):

R, H., 1933, Dec 09. THREE NEW FILMS. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959), 16:

Two of them, "The Cradle Song" and "L'Ordonnance," are by famous authors, the first Sierra and the second Maupassant, and have European stars, but the only completely successful one is the one with the least pretension, "Blonde Bombshell," at the Empire.


The next day's Observer (the Sunday version of the Guardian) explains the name change.

LEJUNE, C.A., 1933, Dec 10. The Pictures. The Observer (1901- 2003), 12. ISSN 00297712:

And it is worth mentioning, in passing, that Hollywood cannot be blamed for the title. It is we, the audience, who have spoilt an arresting and altogether unusual title with that ridiculous adjective. When the film first came out in Hollywood, it was called "Bombshell," tout court. But the public stayed away because they thought it was a war picture. "Blonde Bombshell" was the final compromise between dynamics and security. ...

The story is nothing but a snatched handful of experiences form the life of Lola Burns, star of stars in the Monarch studios. She is their "It Girl," or, alternatively, their Blonde Bombshell--eruptive, starry-eyed, warm-hearted, a little fatuous.


There's a number of snippets in Google Books which look good, and may be slight antedatings. Some are searchable in HathiTrust, but not full view, so I couldn't check the actual date.



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