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|Also Known As:||Clara Gordon Bow||Died:||September 26, 1965|
|Born:||July 29, 1905||Cause of Death:||heart attack|
|Birth Place:||Brooklyn, New York, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor|
ge" (1925), a collegiate romantic comedy, with Bow playing a cute co-ed romancing the schoolâ¿¿s star athlete (Donald Keith). Although many critics found the idea of Bow as an academic hard to swallow, audiences loved her in the role, marking a radical departure from her established flapper image. It was also on this film that she met actor Gilbert Roland, with whom she later became engaged. A temporary romance â¿¿ one of many to come â¿¿ gossip scribes of the day considered Bowâ¿¿s "engagement" a useful euphemism for what was essentially a thinly disguised sexual affair. "The Plastic Age" proved not only to be Preferredâ¿¿s biggest Clara Bow hit, but her final effort at the struggling studio, as well. In 1925, Preferred filed for bankruptcy and Schulberg soon went to work at Paramount Studios, taking his prize asset along with him â¿¿ Clara Bow. At Paramount, the actress continued to garner ever more glowing reviews for work in such projects as "Dancing Mothers" (1926) and "Mantrap" (1926). Exceedingly happy with their return on investment, Paramount quickly re-signed Bow to a five-year contract.
Looking to further capitalize on their new acquisition, Paramount hired popular womenâ¿¿s author Elinor Glyn to pen a story around which a Clara Bow vehicle would be created. That film, simply titled "It" (1927), was a Cinderella story about a poor shop girl (Bow) whose inescapable charm wins the heart of her wealthy employer (Antonio Moreno). Loosely defined, "It" was an unquantifiable (and undeniable) sex appeal. According to Glyn and nearly every reviewer and newspaper pundit of the time â¿¿ even acerbic wit Dorothy Parker acknowledged the actressâ¿¿ attributes â¿¿ Bow had "It" in spades. Immediately dubbed "Hollywoodâ¿¿s â¿¿Itâ¿¿ Girl" by the ever shrewd Schulberg, Bow not only became the most popular movie star of her day, but a true film legend. Backed by Paramountâ¿¿s formidable marketing muscle, "It" became the biggest hit of her career. It also brought her more public scrutiny, compliments of an often vicious press, than she had ever endured before. Bowâ¿¿s unconventional, live-for-the-moment lifestyle and unapologetically unrefined manners became fodder for the tabloids and a source of ridicule amongst many of Hollywoodâ¿¿s elite â¿¿ most of whom had come from equally humble beginnings themselves. Also that year, Bow starred alongside a young, unknown Gary Cooper in the romantic drama "Children of Divorce" (1927). With her "engagement" to Roland and a secretive affair with director Victor Fleming both ended, the pair entered into a brief, stormy relationship. Notoriously jealous, Cooper soon tired of her flirtatious behavior and the two parted ways.
Bow next starred in the World War I aerial adventure "Wings" (1927). A romantic drama about two fighter pilots in love with the same girl (Bow), the film won the very first Academy Award for Best Picture, and was yet another hit for Paramountâ¿¿s biggest star and the No. 2 box-office draw in the country. Continuing to work at a furious pace, Bow pushed her way to the top of the box-office heap with such films as "Red Hair" (1928) and "Ladies of the Mob" (1928). Then there was the advent of sound to motion pictures â¿¿ the bane of nearly all movie actors at the time, and the death knell for the careers of many. Like most of her contemporaries, Bow had nothing but distain for the technological advancement, complaining that it distracted her during shooting and sapped the energy and mystery out of her performance. To the surprise of many, however, neither her slightly nasal voice nor her unrefined Brooklyn accent proved to be a deterrent with audiences. Bowâ¿¿s first "talkie," "The Wild Party" (1929), was yet another hit for the still reigning No. 1 film star in the U.S., as were subsequent releases, including "Dangerous Curves" (1929) and "The Saturday Night Kid" (1929). Although not a fan of her own voice, Bow was actually a reasonably accomplished singer when called upon for vocal performances in films like "True to the Navy" (1930).
Despite her successful transition to sound and continued box-office domination â¿¿ surpassed in 1930 only by fellow film icon Joan Crawford â¿¿ Bow was quickly reaching the end of her physical and emotional rope. Several factors contributed to the actressâ¿¿ fragile state at the time, having made an astonishing 45 films in six years being primary among them. Additional pressures of fame, an intrusive media, and various court battles â¿¿ she was actually sued once on the basis of stealing another womanâ¿¿s husband â¿¿ built to the breaking point. A scandal involving a former employee and confidant who first embezzled from Bow, then spread embarrassing and exaggerated stories about her sexual behavior, was the last straw. By the end of the year, Schulberg was publicly referring to the troubled star as "Crisis-a-day Clara." Upon completing two more pictures â¿¿ "No Limit" (1931) and "Kick In" (1931) â¿¿ Bowâ¿¿s inevitable breakdown finally arrived. After asking to be released from the final film in her contract with Paramount, she was admitted into a sanitarium in the spring of 1931. It was during her convalescence that she met cowboy actor Rex Bell. Clearly a much-needed calming influence on the high-strung actress, Bell married Bow in Las Vegas in December of 1931. She returned to Hollywood the following year and signed a two-picture deal with Fox Studios, for whom she made "Call Her Savage" (1932) and "Hoopla" (1933) before retiring for good at the age of 28.
Shortly thereafter, Bow and her new husband moved to a ranch in Nevada, where she gave birth to two sons. Never fully free from her mental problems, Bow attempted suicide in 1944 while Bell was making a bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. A suicide note later revealed that the emotionally fragile and publicity shy Bow found death preferable to a future life in the public eye. In 1949, Bow voluntarily entered a mental health institution in hopes of finding relief from her erratic emotional state and chronic insomnia. After being subjected to a multitude of tests and, unfortunately, shock therapy, the doctors offered schizophrenia as a primary diagnosis. More likely, Bow was suffering from bi-polar disorder, a little understood condition at the time. Disappointed and unconvinced by their findings, she soon left the facility and returned to Bell at the ranch in Nevada, where her husband was later elected Lieutenant Governor. Shortly after Bellâ¿¿s death in 1962, Bow moved to the Century City area of Los Angeles, remaining there under the care of a nurse until her death from a heart attack in 1965. Clara Bow, Hollywoodâ¿¿s original "It" girl, was 60 years old. Although Bow was rightfully acknowledged with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame years after her death, tragically, many of the 57 films she made during her career were lost forever. Of those that remained, several existed only in fragments or as incomplete prints. Thankfully, some of her most famous, including "It" and "Wings," were preserved for future generations to enjoy. her first top-billed role in the prohibition dramatic-comedy "Wine" (1924), playing an innocent society girl whose exposure to speak-easies transform her into a "red-hot mama," as one reviewer of the time so eloquently put it. She was becoming a box-office bonanza for Schulberg, and working incredibly long hours. Bow was also, by her own admission, "running wild" and engaging in escapades that would both endear her to the press at the height of her fame, and plague her during her final years as an actress.
Not simply a popular feature in movie theaters, Bow was influencing American culture in clearly recognizable ways, the most famous being her iconic lipstick application, giving the upper lip a heart-shaped appearance, something referred to as putting on a "Clara Bow." In 1925, working both for Preferred and on loan to other studios, the actress appeared in a staggering total of 15 films. One of them was "The Plastic A
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