Wednesday, August 29, 2007

HOTSY-TOTSY'S OF THE BOOTLEG YEARS-CLARA BOW!

clarabow

How could we skip through this survey of yesteryear's male fantasy objects without a bow to (and perhaps a roll in the hay with) Clara Bow.



Poor Clara. Her personal morals were so bad that In a town where nobody thought twice about drinking and driving, playing musical beds and staying up for days on bennies, she managed to get herself ostracized by the movie colony! (Being labeled the town slut in Hollywood isn't, apparently, an acheivement to be proud of. Somewhat like Dorothy Parker's line about New York being a bad place to be the "town drunk" in.) Between taking on the entire USC football team (or was it only the offence?) and bedding every contract player at Paramount (and, who knows, probably RKO and Universal), Clara managed to get "a reputation". Although she was the "It" girl of the twenties, by the time sound arrived she was more or less on her way out. Typically the studio blamed her Brooklyn accented nasal-inflected voice on her decline, but I think they were simply embarrassed at the stuff the grips and electrics were writing on the walls of the Paramount men's room...(Billy Wilder once said that his favorite line scratched on the Paramount mens room wall was: "Edith Head Gives Great Costume.")

Take a look below, though, and give Clara Bow a chance. Her name may bring up lurid images of the twenties--vamps with panthers on leashes, Bela Lugosi (whom she of course slept with) and raccoon coats at Yale football games--but I find her quite charming and seriously adorable in the sailor suit. (Even the title of the song--"True To The Navy"--manages to play on her much publicized promiscuity.) From the looks of this, she could have moved into 30's era muscials and found a niche--maybe even grown into dotty-aunt character parts in the forties eventually winding up on episodes of Paul Henning-created TV shows. But it was not to be. Once Paramount canned her and it was all over, she married the actor Rex Bell, moved to Arizona, had kids and eventually a middle-aged meltdown which put her in the loony bin. After a great deal of therapy she recovered the memory that her father had raped her when she was a child. (Apparently her mother had also attempted to slit her throat as a child...what could she have done to have provoked so much hostility?)

She ended her days placing a once a year call at Christmas time to Hedda Hopper saying: "Remember me? I used to be the 'it' girl". This would result in a Christmas mention in Hedda's column which, I imagine, did more for Clara than her therapy sessions ever could hope too. She was truly America's first sex symbol and, of late, a number of scholars and buffs are working hard to restore her "reputation" to it's rightful place. Here's to you, Clara. It's the bad girls who make us smile to the end of our bittersweet days...

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