Clara Bow 1905-1965
Before I take off for Hollywood, I must end this spell of LA themed blogs with a small dedication to one of my favourite redheads of the silver screen- Clara Bow.
Clara was in my opinion, the queen of the silent movie era. As with all good creatives, she came from a questionable upbringing, Clara's mother was diagnosed with psychosis and frequently suffered from delusional ideas, crazed paranoia and generally aggressive behaviour. Clara spent the majority of her childhood caring for her mother, as her mother's illness worsened, Clara became increasingly more aware of how she was deteriorating... it all came to a head when Clara awoke to a butcher's knife being pressed against her throat by her mother, she fended her off and got her committed the very next day. Her mother died shortly after this, regardless of the psychotic episodes her mother endured, Bow always stood by her, even going so far as to accuse the rest of the family of not being supportive. During her mother's funderal, Clara attempted to jump down into the grave after her mother.
School life was also a struggle for Clara, she endured plenty of bullying through her school years, most notably for her 'carrot-top hair' and worn-out clothes. Clara is said to have had "no time for their sissy attitudes or games". Preferring the company of boys, Clara became very much into sports and athletics. Even out-running and out-doing the majority of her male counterparts. Her frugal and tough upbringing definitely gave Clara a head start in life, shaping the womanly character she would later be famed for.
Clara's first move into the movie business, was when her father entered her in the 'Fame and Fortune' contest... which proved to be a fruitful first step as she won the contest. Later being described by the jury:
"She is very young, only 16. But she is full of confidence, determination and ambition. She is endowed with a mentality far beyond her years. She has a genuine spark of divine fire. The five different screen tests she had, showed this very plainly, her emotional range of expression provoking a fine enthusiasm from every contest judge who saw the tests. She screens perfectly. Her personal appearance is almost enough to carry her to success without the aid of the brains she indubitably possesses."
After spending several years kick starting her career in her native New York, Clara decided it was time to move to the west coast and give Hollywood a shot. After appearing in several films, it was still apparent that she didn't fit the hollywood prototype, even then being considered 'too fat, too old...'. This didn't stop the fascination with Clara, and certainly didn't stump her success. The movies she appeared in varied, she began her career as an innocent young girl, slowly developing into a silver screen seductress and modern flapper. Hollywood didn't know what to make of the girl, after appearing in over 8 silent movies in 1924 it was clear she had an undeniable star quality. She was disliked by near enough every woman in Hollywood, they deemed her behaviour at social functions to be taboo, even at her own premieres , social circles grimaced at her bad manners and bohemian lifestyle. Clara was subjected to many wild rumours during her Hollywood career, at the height of her fame she was accused of exhibitionism, incest, lesbianism, drug addiction, alcoholism even beastiality... it seems the Hollywood rumour mill was evident even in 1931!
'IT' became one of Clara Bow's most famous movies, and by far one of my favourites, in my opinion her performance in this movie, is when she is at her peak. Her bouncy auburn hair and doe eyes are hard to resist, let alone her unadulterated charisma.. it's clear she was the original 'It girl'. During the movie 'It', one of the characters goes on to explain exactly what 'It' is...
"It...that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes... entirely unself-conscious...full of self-confidence... indifferent to the effect... she is producing and uninfluenced by others."
After years of appearing in silent movies and drawing in huge crowds, Clara embarked on an attempt at 'talkies' ... she became increasingly nervous and microphone-shy. Although the films themselves received questionable reviews, her performances were still booming, and her talking movies were still selling out movie theatres across the country. MGM were found to have given Greta Garbo two years to prepare for her first talking movie, they gave Clara a mere two weeks. They then began to cut her movies, contracts and publicity. The pressures of fame, society, over-working and public scandals left Clara in fragile state, leaving her slowly slipping into a major nervous breakdown.
Clara retired from the silver screen in 1933, shortly after an attempted suicide, Clara checked herself into hospital for chronic insomnia. After a series of shock treatment, Clara was diagnosed with schizophrenia despite suffering no hallucinations or psychosis. She later died at age 60 from heart disease whilst at home watching a Gary Cooper movie.
Here are some other's thoughts on the wonderful Clara Bow..
"She danced even when her feet weren't moving. Some part of her was always in motion, if only her great, rolling eyes. It was an elemental magnetism, an animal vitality, that made her the center of attraction in any company."- Adoplh Zucker (Head of Paramount)
"She radiates sex appeal tempered with an impish sense of humor…She hennas her blond hair so that it will photograph dark in the pictures...Her social decorum is of that natural, good-natured, pleasantly informal kind...She can act on or off the screen–takes a joyous delight in accepting a challenge to vamp any selected male–the more unpromising specimen the better. When the hapless victim is scared into speechlessness she gurgles with naughty delight and tries another."- Alma Whitacker
Whether or not you've seen her movies before, I encourage you to go to and check them out. Clara was the original It girl, the girl who defied everyone's misconceptions of her, shaped a career around being herself and oozed pure sex appeal in an unconventional way. She managed to retain a childlike innocence whilst maintaining a hypnotic sexual prowess, something which is rarely if ever seen in movie stars today. Enjoy some of my favourite clips & photos of the lady in question.
I hope you've all enjoyed the marvel that is- Clara Bow.
Enjoy, Be well... Samira