My favorite eras in the 20th century have always been the 1960’s, 1970’s and the 1920’s. I was looking through some books in the early 90s inside some a long forgotten bookstore and a picture of an actress caught my eye. There was something about Clara Bow that grabbed my attention. I had read about her in a terrible slanderous book called Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger and I was compelled to get the book just by her stare from the cover. The book was written by David Stenn called Clara Bow”Runnin’ Wild… I finished it in one night. The book impressed me so much that a few years later I tracked down David’s phone number (again pre internet) called Mr. Stenn just to tell him how much I loved the book. After I explained to him that he made me a lifetime fan of Clara he graciously sent me an autographed copy of the book to replace my worn out (loaned out again and again) to my friends.
David Stenn actually had facts about Clara unlike Anger’s book of sensational garbage. Reading that book introduced me to the world of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. From there my interest in silent movies grew. I always thought all silent movies were grainy unwatchable films where all the actors were on speed. I soon was educated that most of those movies where played on the wrong projector at different speeds and that is the reason for the sped up action. The quality of many of those movies from the 20’s is better quality than movies made in the 60s-80s when mastered right. Stunts where not faked and CGI didn’t exist….everything is real.
Clara had a terrible childhood where her mother was mentally ill and tried to kill her. Her father may have sexually abused her on top of everything else. In her movies, she sold the tickets. Paramount built movies off of her name and didn’t always give the best scripts but she was electric on film. Your eyes will automatically go to her. She could convey more in one look than actresses today can say in 10 minutes. She was never appreciated as she should have been and that is sad. She was never accepted by her peers and never invited to Hollywood parties because she was straight up and said what was on her mind. She was great with fans but stardom took its toll on her. She ended up marrying a western actor named Rex Bell and went into seclusion.
She did some “talkies” and they are enjoyable but nothing beats her silent movies like IT (no Pennywise) and Wings. Call Her Savage was her best talkie film. Check her out when you can… She is worth it.