Clara Gordon Bow, destined to become THE flapper of the 1920's, was born and raised in poverty in Brooklyn, New York, on July 29, 1905. Her family was also beset with violence. Her mother tried to slit Clara's throat when she attempted to enter the film industry. She won a photo beauty contest which launched her movie career that would eventually number 58 films, from 1922 to 1933. It was the movie It (1927), which was to define her career. The film starred Clara as a shop girl who was asked out by the store's owner. As you watch the silent film you can see the excitement as she prepared for her date with the boss, her girlfriend trying hard to assist her. She was trying to use a pair of scissors to modify her dress in order to look more "sexy". This movie did a lot to change society's mores as there was only a few years between World War I and Clara Bow, but this movie went a long way in how society looked at itself. Clara was flaming youth in rebellion. In the film she was presenting a worldly wisdom that somehow sex meant having a good time. But you shouldn't be misled by the film, because she was still close to Lillian Gish in that when her boss tries to kiss her goodnight, she slaps him. Yes, she, too, was a good girl and a first cousin of Trueheart Susie. At the height of her popularity she received over 45,000 fan letters a month. She, too, was probably the most overworked and underpaid star in the industry. With the coming of sound, which did lend itself to her thick Brooklyn accent, her popularity waned. Clara was also involved in several court battles ranging from unpaid taxes to being in divorce court for "stealing" women's husbands. After the court trials, she made a couple of attempts to get back in the public eye. One was Call Her Savage (1932) in 1932. It was somewhat of a failure at the box office and her last was in 1933 in a film called Hoop-La (1933). She, then, married cowboy star, Rex Bell at the age of 26 and retired from the film world at the age of 28. She was a doting mother of her two sons and would do anything to please them. Haunted by a weight problem, and a mental imbalance, she never entered show business again. Clara was confined to a sanitarium from time to time and was not allowed access to her loving sons she adored very much. She died of a heart attack in West Los Angeles, on September 26, 1965. She was 60 years old. Today she is finding a renaissance among movie buffs, who are recently discovering the virtues of silent film. The actress who wanted so much to be like the wonderful young lady in It (1927) has the legacy of her films to confirm what a wonderful lady she really was. She, too, was America's first sex symbol.IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson
Later to become the personification of the flaming Roaring Twenties, Clara Bow was born and brought up in near poverty in Brooklyn, New York. She won a photo beauty contest which started a movie career of some 56 feature films. Best known as the uninhibited flapper, she reached the top as the "It Girl" in 1927. With the advent of sound and the Depression's disfavorable attitude towards Jazz-age extravagances, her popularity faded. Also. adding to her problems, were gambling debts, unpaid taxes and several sensational public court battles involving alienation of affections and embezzlement (by her secretary.) She then married cowboy star Rex Bell at age 26 and retired from the screen at age 28. Plagued by personal crises, a weight problem and mental instability, she never made another film. She died in 1965.IMDb Mini Biography By: Herman Seifer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Clara Bow was born in a run-down tenement in old Brooklyn, to a schizophrenic Mother and a chronically destitute, physically abusive father. As a child, she was a tomboy and played games in the streets with the boys; since her clothes were so ragged and dirty other girl children wouldn't play with her. Her best friend Johnny burned to death in her arms when she was 10 years old. Years later, she could make herself cry at will on a movie set by listening to the lullaby "Rock-A-Bye Baby". She claimed it reminded her of her small friend. She also told reporters simple, brutal, honest stories about her horrific childhood, which was a big no-no in her day. Mental illness in the family was considered more shameful than unmarried pregnancy. This made Clara a lot of enemies in Hollywood.
She entered "The Fame and Fortune Contest" as a teenager. Girls from all over the country competed, and the 1st Prize was a part in a movie. She showed up in her ragged clothes and the other girls smirked at her. The contest judges paid no attention to her until she did her screen test - and then they unanimously chose her over all the other girls. Clara lit up the screen like nothing they had ever seen. She got the part, but it was later cut from the movie. During this time her mother tried to kill her and was institutionalized, where she died shortly after.
She was taken to Hollywood by B.P. Schulberg, who used Clara sexually and financially. He worked her like a horse and paid her very little compared to other stars of the day. Even so, the talented Clara became a superstar, and the first ever Hollywood sex symbol. Clara could flirt with the camera just by looking into it with her big brown eyes and mischievous bow-tie grin. She exuded sex appeal from every pore in her little body and was not afraid to flaunt it. She personified "flaming youth in rebellion". Her characters were always working class gals; manicurists, showgirls and the like. Her movies did a lot to emancipate young Americans from the restrictive Victorian morals their parents had been raised with. Clara's characters were unashamed about being attracted to men and went after them with gusto. Her shop girl in It (1927) sees the bosses son one day, and says "Oh Santa, gimme him!" She knows exactly what to do to get him interested and then keeps him on his toes. Her characters cut their dresses up to look sexier, cut off their hair, drank and smoked in public, and danced all night long. At the height of her career, she received 45,000 fan letters a week, a record that has never been equaled. She was the idol of working girls and the dream of working class guys everywhere.
Even though the public adored Clara, Hollywood shunned her. Most of Hollywood's big names of the 1920s had come from poor backgrounds like Clara, but when they made it big they tended to develop upper class values and personas. They pretended their poor childhoods had never happened. Clara didn't. Clara never hid anything; that was her problem. It was later discovered by a biographer that Clara was actually schizophrenic, like her mother. One of the hallmark signs of schizophrenia is a total unconcern with social mores. Clara loved to tell really dirty jokes at parties when the conversation lulled, or make blatant remarks about the size of her (many) lovers to other, more prudish girls. She had very public affairs (her euphemism was "engagements") with a score of leading men and directors, including Victor Fleming, Gary Cooper, and Gilbert Roland. This behavior horrified her peers, and eventually she was driven out of Hollywood. Many nasty rumors about her sexuality floated around the movie colony, including the one about her taking on the entire USC Football Team one night, which was finally disproved by a biographer, David Stenn.
The coming of sound was like an earthquake to Hollywood. It shook up everything. Her fans probably wouldn't have minded her blue collar Brooklyn accent, since most of them were working class gals themselves, but Clara got herself so worked up with mike fright she had breakdowns during her first talkies. Before she could recover from this, she ended up in court with her private life splashed all over the papers, which didn't help matters one bit. Her secretary and best friend, Daisy De Voe, was caught embezzling from her. When Clara took Daisy to court, Daisy told the court and press uncensored details of Clara's sex life, along with lots of exaggeration, which the press automatically printed and believed. The scandal ruined Clara. She had another more serious breakdown and had to recover in a sanatorium. Soon after she retired for good, and moved to Nevada with her new husband, the cowboy actor Rex Bell. She raised two sons, all the while battling her mental illness, and died in obscurity in 1965.
|Rex Bell||(3 December 1931 - 4 July 1962) (his death) 2 children|
Before she was known as "The It Girl", she was known as "The Brooklyn Bonfire".
Sons Rex Bell Jr. (b. 1934) and George Robert (b. 1938).
Born at 4:45pm-EST
Unlike many movie stars of her era she did not flaunt her wealth, but lived on par with the middle class.
She lived in a seven-room bungalow at 512 N. Bedford Dr. in Beverly Hills.
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Freedom Mausoleum, Sanctuary of Heritage, next to George Burns and Gracie Allen.
She worked at a hot dog stand on Coney Island as a teenager, run by a man named Nathan Handwerker, who later founded Nathan's Franks. However, contrary to legend, she was not discovered there.
Pictured on one of ten 29¢ US commemorative postage stamps celebrating stars of the silent screen, issued 27 April 1994. Designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, this set of stamps also honored Rudolph Valentino, Charles Chaplin, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, Zasu Pitts, Harold Lloyd, Theda Bara, Buster Keaton, and the Keystone Kops.
Mother of actor Rex Bell Jr.
Her mother was mentally ill and was committed to a mental institution where she died when Clara was still relatively young.
WAMPAS Baby Star of 1924.
Refused to write her memoirs on the grounds there were many things that might embarrass her two sons and their families. She felt all the money in the world would not compensate for the embarrassment.
Her reputation for being a rather loose and unrestrained free spirit earned her a somewhat sour reputation that would follow her for the rest of her life. Many legends and rumors grew up around her thanks in large part to the tabloid press. After her death there were rumors that she had faked her death and some had reported seeing her visiting her own grave.
Kristin Hersh wrote a song about her for the band 50 Foot Wave entitled "Clara Bow." It appears on the band's debut album "Golden Ocean."
Hollywood's first It-girl
Clara applied her red lipstick in the shape of a heart. Women who imitated this shape were said to be putting a "Clara Bow" on their mouths.
Preferred playing poker with her cook, maid, and chauffeur over attending her movie premieres.
Became a lifelong insomniac after her mother tried to kill her in her sleep.
Fellow actress Jeanine Louise DeName was born and raised in a neighborhood that Clara had briefly resided in as a youth, in Brooklyn, NY.
1928: She became the highest paid movie star, receiving $35,000 per week.
1949: After being diagnosed with schizophrenia, her regimen included shock treatments. Later in her life her husband sent her to one of the top mental institutions in the nation.
1994: She was honored with an image on a United States postage stamp designed by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.
As soon as Bow started to make money, she brought her father to live with her in Hollywood. For the next few years, she funded numerous business ventures for him, including a restaurant and a dry cleaners, all of which failed. He soon became a drunken nuisance on her sets, where he would try to pick up young girls by telling them his daughter was Clara Bow.
Her mother, Sarah Gordon, was an occasional prostitute who suffered from mental illness and epilepsy. She was noted for her frequent public affairs with local firemen.
Her father, Robert Bow, was rarely present and may have had a mental impairment. Whenever he returned home, he was verbally and physically abusive to both wife and daughter. Reportedly he raped Clara when she was 15 or 16 years old.
Had a turbulent love affair with actor Bela Lugosi (who had yet to deliver his legendary screen performance in Dracula (1931)) in the late '20s. Lugosi had a nude portrait of Bow hanging in the bedroom of his small Hollywood apartment for the rest of his life.
She had a rare singing role (sang "I'm True To The Navy") in Paramount on Parade (1930).
The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.
[on director Victor Fleming] Of all the men I've known, there was a man.
[when asked what "It" was, replying in her perfect Brooklyn accent] I ain't real sure.
A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.
We had individuality. We did as we pleased. We stayed up late. We dressed the way we wanted. I used to whiz down Sunset Boulevard in my open Kissel, with several red Chow dogs to match my hair. Today, they're sensible and end up with better health. But we had more fun.
When I decided to leave the screen, I told Ben Schulberg [producer B.P. Schulberg] I would not finish my contract or ever work again for anyone. He yelled and threatened to sue me and I said, "Go ahead, Ben, sue me. I've fought a thief and a blackmailer and, if after such heartaches I am forced to fight you and the studio, so be it".
People used to say that I had a feeling of closeness, a great warmth of loving everybody, that they could tell me their troubles.
[on the death of her grandfather when she was five] The first night, as he lay in his coffin in the dining room, I crept out of my bed and lay down on the floor beside him because I had the feeling that he might be lonely. My father found me there in the morning, almost frozen. I said, 'Hush, you mustn't wake grandfather. He's sleeping.'
[on her poverty-stricken childhood in Brooklyn] No one wanted me in the first place. Often I was lonesome, frightened and miserable. I never had a doll in my life. I never had any clothes, and lots of times didn't have anything to eat. We just lived, and that'a about all. Girls shunned me because I was so poorly dressed - the worst looking kid on the street. I decided that girls weren't any good, and being lonely and needing child friends, cast my lot with the neighborhood boys. I became a regular tomboy - played baseball, football and learned to box.
[asked for her thoughts on Marilyn Monroe after Monroe's death] A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.
|Beyond the Rainbow (1922)||$50/week|
|Down to the Sea in Ships (1922)||$35/week|
|Two Can Play (1926)||$1,750/week|
|The Wild Party (1929)||$5,000/week|
|Call Her Savage (1932)||$125,000|
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