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Straightforward Retelling of a Reclusive Star's Life

Author: l_rawjalaurence from London
5 November 2015

Born into poverty in Brooklyn, Clara Bow had a troubled childhood with a schizophrenic mother and an alcoholic father who raped her when she was a teenager. Without any formal education or dramatic training, her real break came when she won a "search for a star" competition with the prize of a supporting role in a silent film. From then on she went from strength to strength; despite her lack of training, she had one of those photogenic faces that loved the camera, and by her mid- twenties she was attracting more mail than the entire population of an American small town.

Yet her meteoric rise had its downsides too. Never one to hide her personality under a bushel, Bow was quite open about her life, leading a hedonistic existence that involved several love-affairs as well as an over-indulgence in alcohol. During the "Flapper" era of the Twenties this was considered acceptable behavior, but after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Depression, attitudes changes. Bow's lifestyle came under increasing critical scrutiny, culminating in a series of scurrilous articles making totally false allegations about her. She made her last film in 1933 at the age of only twenty-eight.

Thereafter she retired to become a recluse, at first living with her husband on a ranch near Las Vegas; and when he died of a heart- attack, moving to a modest bungalow in a suburb of Los Angeles. Her films were virtually forgotten; and it was only when she died in 1965 at the comparatively young age of 60 that people remembered her.

Tony Dimond's film told a traditional rags to riches to rags story, but suggested that Clara Bow did not really regret anything she had done. Perhaps the most telling reminiscences were contributed by former child star Diana Serra Cary (aka Baby Peggy), who talked about her generosity of spirit in front of the cameras and on the film-set, traits that were not always evident off-screen.

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