Clara Bow ~ The It Girl's Unhappy Life


Clara Bow

Clara Bow was Hollywood's It Girl but her personal life was filled with heartbreak and tragedy.

She was born Clara Gordon Bow on July 29, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother Sarah suffered from psychosis due to epilepsy. Sarah was institutionalized after she tried to kill Clara with a butcher knife. With her mother out of the house her alcoholic father started raping her. When she was sixteen Clara entered a a contest in Motion Picture magazine and won a screen test. She made her film debut int he 1922 drama Beyond The Rainbow. Clara was chosen to be a "WAMPAS" Baby Star and signed a contract with Preferred Pictures. She also posed nude for photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston. In 1925 she appeared in fourteen films including The Plastic Age, Parisian Love, and The Primrose Path. Clara was cast as a carefree flapper in the 1927 comedy It. The film made her a superstar and from then on she was known as "The It Girl". Her success continued with starring roles in Hula and Wings. By 1929 she was the top female box-office star in the country and was getting forty-five thousand fan letters a month.

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Clara Bow

When the talkies started she was worried about her thick Brooklyn accent but audiences loved her voice. Although she earned more than five thousand dollars a week she lived in a modest seven-room bungalow in Beverly Hills. She hated going to Hollywood events and preferred to stay home and play poker. Clara's image as a sex symbol and her off screen romances made her the most gossiped about woman in Hollywood. Among her many lovers were actors Gary Cooper, Fredric March, Gilbert Roland, Bela Lugosi, and director Victor Fleming.  She once said "A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered." In 1930 her secretary, Daisy DeVoe, was put on trial for stealing from her. Daisy testified that Clara was involved in orgies and bestiality. Although these stories were false her reputation was ruined. Shortly after the trial Clara suffered a nervous breakdown.

Clara Bow

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She finally found happiness when she married actor Rex Bell in 1931. Tired of Hollywood she decided to stop making movies. Her final film was the 1933 drama Hoopla. She and Rex moved to Nevada and had two sons. They also opened a restaurant in Hollywood called "The It Cafe". Clara suffered from chronic insomnia and was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. She attempted suicide in 1944 by swallowing a bottle of pills. As she got older Clara became reclusive and rarely left her home. She turned down a lucrative offer to write her autobiography because she didn't want to embarrass her family. After her husband Rex died from a heart attack in 1962 she moved to Culver City, California. On the evening of September 26, 1965 she watched the film The Virginian on television. It was directed by her former fiance Victor Fleming and starred her former lover Gary Cooper. Later that night Clara died at age sixty from a heart attack. She is buried next to Rex at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.



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Early in her career Clara posed nude

Clara Bow