Paul Bern (Paul Levy)

Paul Bern

Paul Bern was born Paul Levy in Wandsbek, which was then a town in the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein (now a district of the city of Hamburg). He was one of six children of Julius and Henriette (née Hirsch) Levy, a Jewish couple. Julius worked as a clerk for a shipping company before opening a candy store. In 1898, Julius decided to move the family to the United States due to the rise of unemployment and anti-Jewish attitudes in Wandsbek. The family eventually settled in New York City. Julius Levy died in 1908. In 1920, Henriette Levy drowned herself, possibly as a threat to keep her beloved son from marrying. Paul Bern pursued a career in acting on the stage and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He later adopted the stage name “Paul Bern”. Bern soon realized he had little aptitude for acting and pursued other aspects of theater production. He worked as a stage manager for a time before moving to Hollywood in the early 1920s. He was initially a film editor before he worked his way up to scenario writing and directing for United Artists and Paramount Pictures. This led to his working full-time as a producer at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the major studio of the time. Bern eventually became the production assistant of Irving Thalberg and then a producer on the MGM lot in his own right. The star-studded film Grand Hotel, released six days after Paul Bern’s death, won the Best Picture Academy Award for 1931–32. Bern and Thalberg produced the film, although neither was listed in the film credits (in the early 1930s MGM did not list their films’ producers in their credits). However, the award was presented solely to Thalberg, since Bern, being deceased, obviously could not also accept it.

While living in New York City, Paul Bern lived with his common-law wife Dorothy Millette. Bern financially supported Millette who reportedly suffered from mental and emotional problems and ended up in a Connecticut sanatorium. Millette traveled to Los Angeles in September 1932 where she reportedly visited Bern on the night of his death. Her body was found in the Sacramento River two days after Bern’s death. It was later determined that she had committed suicide by jumping from the Delta King steamboat. Bern met actress Jean Harlow shortly before the premiere of Hell’s Angels in 1930. Bern was instrumental in helping Harlow’s career as he was the only person who took her seriously as an actress. The two struck up a friendship and eventually began dating. They announced their engagement in June 1932 and married on July 2, 1932. Two months after marrying Jean Harlow, on September 5, Paul Bern was found dead from a gunshot to the head in their home on Easton Drive in Beverly Hills, California. The coroner ruled his death a suicide.

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  • December, 03, 1889
  • Wandsbek, Germany


  • September, 05, 1932
  • USA
  • Beverly Hills, California

Cause of Death

  • gunshot wound


  • Inglewood Park Cemetery
  • Inglewood, California
  • USA

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