Clara Bow

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Clara Bow (June 29, 1905 – September 26, 1965) was a silent film star and one of the leading box office draws of the 1920s. Born in Brooklyn, New York to an alcoholic father and a mother with serious psychiatric illness, Bow entered and won a magazine contest which included a small part in a motion picture. Subsequently, she was placed under contract to producer B.P. Schulberg (the father of Bud Schulberg, who would later write the screenplay for On the Waterfront). Bow made a great many films during her relatively brief career, many of which have been derided by critics for their low production values. Her best known film today is It, which is available on DVD in versions which differ as to musical soundtrack. The title of this film refers to an undefinable sex appeal supposedly possessed by certain persons and not by others, but the plot of the film itself is a typical romantic comedy familiar to viewers from that time to this. Thereafter Bow was referred to as "The 'It' Girl", a title still associated with her in the present day.

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was already considered the voice of the new generation of the jazz age, described Bow as the quintessence of the flapper.

Bow later starred in Wings, a World War I drama which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

After the introduction of sound, Bow's career began to fail. A number of scandals appeared in the press, particularly after Clara's secretary, Daisy DeVoe, was tried for embezzlement. Clara Bow eventually married Rex Bell, a former cowboy film star and a future Republican Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. The couple had two sons. Clara Bow continued to make occasional appearances as an actress for much of her life, on stage and radio, but did not achieve any notable successes. She died in relative obscurity after bouts of psychiatric and coronary illness.

Bow's reputation was considerably damaged by the allegations of sexual impropriety in Kenneth Anger's book Hollywood Babylon. These charges remain controversial and unproven.

Bow was romantically linked with several Hollywood leading men prior to her marriage to Rex Bell, and she is sometimes suggested to have helped further the careers of some relative unknowns who were later destined for stardom, including Gary Cooper and John Wayne.

Further reading

  • Stenn, David. (2000) Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild, Cooper Square Press