Runnin’ Wild by David Stenn

I got this book in the 90s and just reread it yet again. I’ve gone over Clara Bow earlier but I wanted to add more about this book. It is a well researched interesting book on the great silent movie actress. I have huge respect for Clara Bow as an actress and as a person. She was outspoken in a business where very few women were at that time.

David Stenn separates fact from fiction about Clara. In the book, Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger makes many unflattering statements about Clara which Stenn proves were false. Was Clara wild at times? Yes but no wilder than many of the other actresses in the 20s and nothing compared to today…She was just honest about it.

Actress Lina Basquette said: “She wasn’t well liked amongst other women in the film colony. Her social presence was taboo, and it was rather silly because God knows Marion Davies and Mary Pickford had plenty to hide. It’s just that they hid it, and Clara didn’t.” Bow knew the truth. “I’m a curiosity in Hollywood,” she said. “I’m a big freak because I’m myself!”

Her mother suffered from mental illness, Clara once woke with her mother standing over her with a knife saying she was going to kill her. Her father abused her and used her all of his life and may have sexually abused her. She made it against all odds to the top. There was a point in the twenties that she was the biggest female star receiving 45,000 fan letters a month.

Paramount would use her to push lightweight films and hardly ever place her in a great film. Because of this practice, she is only known well for a few films. When silent movies evolved into “talkies” Greta Garbo was given two years to prepare for the change…Clara, who was a bigger star was given a matter of weeks. She would appear on the screen and your eyes would stay with her. She did a few sound pictures and was successful but did not enjoy it as much as the silent films.

She retired and married Rex Bell (a part time cowboy actor) and moved to Nevada in the 1930s to have and raise a couple of children. One of her children, Rex Bell Jr. had this to say about the book.

“A lot of crap biographies have been written about mom, but the one that is accurate is ‘Clara Bow, Runnin’ Wild’ by David Stenn,” Bell said, noting that he first learned his mother was abused as a child from that book that was supported by medical records.

Clara was in the first movie that won an Oscar… Wings … The other movie she is known for is It made in 1927. She was soon known as The IT Girl.

I recommend this book highly. Clara Bow had a hard life growing up in Brooklyn and against all odds turned into one of the biggest stars of the 20s. She was honest to a fault and herself to the end.

Where Clara, Rex, and their children lived…The Walking Box Ranch.

Clara Bow… The Only IT Girl

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.

 

Clara Bow + IT + scarf 3.jpg

 

clara.jpg

 

clara2.jpg

clara color.jpg