Thursday, April 9, 2009

Clara Bow!

Clara Bow, my fave silent film actress. Ok she made talkies but she HATED them so I choose to think of her as she seemed to think of herself, as a silent film actress. These stills just came into my posession last week.

Clara truly had a million dollar smile! She shaved her real eyebrows off so she could "Draw 'em anywhere I wanna!". Although she did make a handful of fine pictures, most of Clara's films are not that good. She is always worth seeing though and it's just a damn shame that Paramount didnt take more of a vested interest in their biggest star and be more choosey about the material they put her in. Their opinion was if the public was willing to pay to see her in cheap second-rate material why bother with the expense of the first-rate stuff. The problem was after a while the public got sick of paying to see Clara Bow in bad films!

Paramount first dubbed her "The Brooklyn Bonfire" but that never really took off. Later she skyrocketed to fame as the "It" girl and one of the stars of the first best picture Oscar-Winner, William Wellman's 1927 WWI masterpiece, "Wings". She isnt in it very much but she is dazzlingly gorgeous and brings a huge amount of sex-appeal and youthful energy to the film when she's onscreen!

At the height of her fame Clara was making $5,000 a week at Paramount and was a bigger box office draw than either Lilian Gish or Greta Garbo. She was about 22 years old then and her filming schedule was relentless. When the talkies rolled into town Clara hated making them! She had incredibly bad "Mike Fright" and was self-conscious about her Brooklyn accent. So the geniuses at Paramount gave her about 2 weeks to get ready for her first talking film whereas Garbo, at MGM, was given over a year!

In her book "LuLu in Hollywood" Louise Brooks described Clara as having "The softest hair and skin you could imagine, it was just like a baby's!". One can only conjecture as to how Brooksie came about this information! Clara's red hair was amazing, it seemed to have a life of its own sometimes! Sadly the only color film she ever made "Red Hair" is a lost film. How lame that Paramount didnt even see fit to preserve the films of a person who made so much money for them.

Clara could do "Bedroom Eyes" like nobody's business! She made her last film at Paramount in 1931 and then left Hollywood for a while, a frazzled, emotional mess, broke and washed-up at age 26! She was then offered a huge deal at Fox studios to make 2 films. Those were the last 2 films she ever appeared in and Clara permanently retired from Hollywood in 1933 at age 28!

Clara had a really unhappy childhood. Her mother was mentally unstable and her father was a boozing lowlife who at one point sexually abused her. She said when she needed to cry on camera all she had to do was think of back home. Bud Schulberg, son of Paramounts' B.P. Schulberg, recalled watching Clara when he was very young, filming a scene where she needed to cry. In the silent days they usually had a little orchestra on hand to play mood music for the actors and she always had them play "Rock-a-bye-baby" when she had to cry. Something in that song resonated deeply in her because he said anyone who saw her cry while that song played could never forget it.

They had faces then!


Joe Bloke said...


Smurfswacker said...

A lovely lady, indeed. You're right about her part in "Wings." Just her presence lights up the screen. All your stills are excellent, but there's something about her smile in the first one that, for me, captures Clara's "it" perfectly.

J.B. said...

The first one is wonderful!

Avalon76 said...

I've never seen that last photo before...I'm speechless.