Wednesday, 12 October 2011

First you're another doe-eyed vamp...

circa 1925: Headshot portrait by Eugene R. Richee of American silent film actor Clara Bow (1905 - 1965)

Captured to perfection in this photo, Clara Bow was possibly the one star who personified "The Roaring Twenties" - the doe-eyed flapper, the independent woman, the simmering seductive beauty.

She was also one of the casualties of the "boom and bust" that occurred in the early days of Hollywood. Catapulted from a dreadful upbringing to become one of the biggest stars of the the glittering silent silver screen in films such as Mantrap in 1926 and It (hence her nick-name "The 'It' Girl") in 1927, she received rapturous reviews. Variety enthused thus: "Clara Bow! And how! What a 'Mantrap' she is! And how this picture is going to make her! Miss Bow just walks away with the picture from the moment she steps into camera range."

However, jealousy and perverse morality led to a huge backlash against her. It probably didn't help that her uninhibited "flapper" attitude collided head-on with the Great Depression and all that brought with it. One of the longest lasting (and by all accounts false) accusations against Miss Bow was that she single-handedly "serviced" an entire football team at an orgy, including a young John Wayne! Would that it were true.

Already wounded by the rumour mill, and by court cases accusing her of husband-stealing, the final blow to her career (from which she never recovered, ending her days in a secure sanitorium) was the arrival of the "talkies". For it was Clara Bow, with her dreadful Brooklyn accent totally unsuited to sound, that formed the basis for Miss Jean Hagen's fantabulosa performance as "Lina Lamont" in Singin' in the Rain...

Glamour of the Gods exhibition at The National Gallery

Clara Bow on IMDB

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