The “IT” Girl…
Clara Bow: Running Wild by David Stenn.
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Cooper Square Press (March 13, 2000)
Hollywood's first sex symbol, the ' It ' girl, Clara Bow was born in the slums of Brooklyn in a family plagued with alcoholism and insanity. She catapulted to fame after winning Motion Picture magazine's 1921 " Fame and Fortune" contest. The greatest box-office draw of her day—she once received 45,000 fan letters in a single month, Clara Bow's on screen vitality and allure that beguiled thousands, however, would be her undoing off-camera. David Stenn captures her legendary rise to stardom and fall from grace, her success marred by studio exploitation and sexual scandals.
Stunning realization to think this “silent movie star” was “before my time” when in reality she died the year I got married. I think that makes her: not so much before my time.
I pick up biographies of celebs from “long ago” because I like to read about the “beginnings” of movies and Hollywood and how it all began. Many biographies I am disappointed in because all it is a filmography. They only talk about what movies they made in order of how they made them.
I found this book somewhere in between.
The beginning of Clara Bows life was not one anyone would ask for. And up until the time she entered a contest in hopes of being able to make movies her childhood was no better. Having only reaching 7th grade in a rough time in history.. the odds aren’t good at making a better life for yourself.
All that happened to Clara when she was young had a very profound impact and made her into the woman she became.
My biggest shock was finding out when she died and that at my age then I should have known more and heard more about her than I did. In my teenage youth, silent movies were “long gone” and so were many of those who made them. One doesn’t realize the actors like Gary Cooper began with silent movies. We don’t think of it because we grew up seeing him in talking pictures. But many did make the change.. we just don’t remember them that way.
The other big shock was how Paramount treated their biggest star. Financially they abused and used her. Something that would never happen in today's society. But even with all of that Clara Bow managed to remain “The IT Girl” up to the end.
There were times in the book I wish it wasn’t so much about which movie she was making bit did absorb the facts of how terrified she was when she had to make her first talking motion picture. Actors of today would go to a teacher of accents to try to duplicate Clara’s deep Brooklyn accent and her use of word’s such as “ain’t”.
I enjoyed the book but found it lacked the background (in general how things were and what was happening historically at the time).
My favorite biography still remains to be Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy: The Double Life of Laurel and Hardy by Simon Louvish.