Silent Star of January 1996
The "jazz baby" personified,
Clara Bow (1906-1965) became one of Hollywood's brightest
lights of the '20s. Saucy and pert, Clara was dubbed 'The "It" Girl'
by Elinor Glyn and chosen to star in the film version of
Ms. Glyn's famous novel. While nothing more than good old sex appeal,
"It" symbolized the tremendous progress women were making in society,
and leading the way was Clara Bow, the girl of the year, who had "It"
The daughter of a schizophrenic mother and a sexually abusive father, Clara
broke away by winning the 1921 Fame and Fortune Contest, sponsored by
Brewster Publications, publishers of Clara's favorite magazine, Motion
Picture. Winning led to a small part in
Beyond the Rainbow (1922), where Clara's part was cut, and
then to Down to the Sea in Ships (1922). While critically
panned, Clara's performance was praised and made clear Clara's ability
to make the screen come alive with her presence.
Still one step away from stardom, Clara was signed to
B.P. Schulberg´s Preferred Pictures in 1923, where she spent the next
2 years churning out low-budget films for Schulberg and others. In 1924,
Clara was one of 13 young women chosen as a Western Association of
Motion Picture Advertisers (WAMPAS) Baby Star, chosen for their talent
and promise as a potential motion picture star. Clara was on her way
1925 saw the release of Clara's breakthrough picture,
The Plastic Age (1925). This film, Preferred's biggest hit
yet, came to the attention of Schulberg's former partner
Adolph Zukor, head of Paramount Pictures. Thanks to Clara
Bow, B.P. Schulberg and Adolph Zukor merged to form one of the largest
studios in Hollywood.
Success followed success, with Clara's popularity growing from such
Dancing Mothers and
Wings. But it
was 1927's grand-slam smash
It which made Clara Bow
Paramount's number 1 star, and the most famous name in Hollywood.
Contrary to popular belief, Clara Bow successfully made the
transition to talkies with such roles as
Call Her Savage and
retired from films in 1933 to become a full-time wife and later,
full-time mother to two sons, Tony and George.
Clara died in 1965, separated from her husband
Rex Bell and in relative obscurity. Sadly, her childhood of
poverty, violence, and insanity, together with the very public scandals
during her stardom left Clara mentally fragile and incapacitated for
much more than quiet and seclusion. She lived out the rest of her days
Glen Pringle /
Kally Mavromatis /
Copyright © 1996-2012
by Glen Pringle and Kally Mavromatis