Clara Bow, the iconic actress who rose to fame during the silent and sound eras of Hollywood, has recently gained renewed attention thanks to Taylor Swift. The singer-songwriter revealed the tracklist for her upcoming album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” which includes a song titled “Clara Bow.” This has sparked a surge of interest in the legendary star, who was once known as “the It girl” and starred in the first movie to win an Oscar for best picture. Despite her early success, Bow’s Hollywood career came to an end in 1933 due to struggles with men and mental illness. Let’s take a closer look at the life and career of this fascinating actress.
A Rising Star
Clara Bow, a native of Brooklyn, grew up in poverty and began her journey in the film industry after winning a contest sponsored by a magazine. Her big break came in 1922 with a small part in “Beyond the Rainbow.” She soon caught the attention of producer B.P. Schulberg and went on to work for Paramount Pictures, where she landed her biggest hit in 1927 with “It,” based on Elinor Glynn’s popular novel. Bow became a sex symbol and developed a following with her signature curly bob and bright red lipstick.
Turbulence in Her Personal Life
Behind Bow’s glamorous façade, she struggled with mental illness, likely suffering from depression and possibly bipolar disorder. Her private life was plagued by rumors and tabloid attention, which took a toll on her well-being. Despite these challenges, Bow continued to make movies at a rapid pace, successfully transitioning from silent films to talkies. In 1931, she asked to be released from her Paramount contract and sought treatment in a sanitarium. After marrying actor Rex Bell, Bow made two more films before retiring from the industry in 1933.
A Tragic Legacy
Following her retirement, Bow and Bell moved to Nevada, where they had two children. However, Bow’s mental health problems persisted, and she attempted suicide in 1944. Bell pursued a career in politics and was elected Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor. After his death in 1962, Bow returned to Los Angeles. Tragically, she passed away from a heart attack in 1965 at the age of 60.
Clara Bow’s legacy as a Hollywood icon lives on, and Taylor Swift’s inclusion of a song titled “Clara Bow” on her upcoming album has reignited interest in the actress. Bow’s career was marked by incredible success, struggles with mental illness, and a turbulent personal life. Her impact on the film industry, particularly as one of the few silent movie stars to successfully transition to talkies, cannot be understated. As we delve into the story behind “the It girl,” let us remember the complex woman behind the legendary image.