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Producer, director and screenwriter Paul Bern is perhaps best remembered for being Irving Thalberg's right-hand man and for the controversy surrounding his death. He was born Paul Levy in Germany but was raised in New York. As a young man, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Bern began working on stage from 1911 to 1915 as an actor, stage manager, and producer. In films he first worked as a cutter and worked his way up to screenwriter and director. Among those directors he wrote screenplays for were Lubitsch and von Sternberg. In the mid-1920s, he became a production assistant and story consultant to Irving Thalberg at MGM and soon rose to become the studio leader's confidant and was placed in charge of supervising all of Garbo's MGM films. Bern was known as a highly observant intellectual in the industry. The 42-year-old executive's sudden marriage to rising starlet Jean Harlow in July, 1932 caused controversy because she was much younger than him. Despite his success, shortly after the wedding Bern was found dead in his bathroom, a pistol by his side. The official cause of death was suicide. and the potentially scandalous circumstances surrounding the death were concealed for a long time by MGM, which was trying to protect Harlow's reputation. For years afterward, darker rumors circulated that Bern may have been murdered. The night he died, his former common-law wife had allegedly visited his home, and a few days after his death, she committed suicide.
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