Sunday, January 3, 2016


Image from Wikimedia Commons/ Google Images
This month we celebrate CLARA BOW, the first woman to ever be called an "It Girl," which was after she appeared in a film called "It!" in 1927.  She was 22 years old.  Clara's ability to use facial expressions to transmit a myriad of emotions and thought processes was invaluable for a Silent Screen actress and some say she was the very best actress in that era. But in the end she mostly made other people rich. Nor did her fans know the truth of her hard life. 
Film and Hollywood historians consider Clara Bow to have been both overworked and underpaid since she made 58 films from 1922 to 1933, while living in a small 7 room house, in what is now the expensive and exclusive Beverly Hills, but which at the time was a new undeveloped suburb. (46 of these were Silent films and 11 were "talkies.")  As for talkies, her strong Brooklyn accent was at odds with her screen image. 
The man who she was mistress to, at least for a while prior to their marriages, B.P. Schulberg, got her work, lots of it, and made most of the money. That she was his mistress is told in the book below, ALL THOSE GIN JOINTS, which says that B.P. Schulberg's son, Budd, who also wrote a book about his father that said so, and other "first hand accounts" admitted as much. By 1931 Clara had left the studio. B.P. married Adeline Jaffe in 1933 and until then only "dated."
So we have questions:  Was Clara Bow so thrilled with being an actress and making films that she didn't mind the bad pay? Was this just the way it was for all or most women in Hollywood, or most actors, in the early days of film making?  (As we know right now there's a movement for equal pay for Hollywood actresses lead by Patricia Arquette.) How much did B.P. provide her? 
There are clues that he was generous when he had to be and that he was embarrassed by her but also solidly on her side for some time.
Raised in a working poor family with mental illness (her mother) and alcoholism (her father) taking its toll, and likely molested by her father, who continued to expect her financial support after her mother tried to kill her and was placed in a mental hospital, Clara was supporting a family she couldn't cut loose even as they tormented her.  And they made her socially unacceptable if her hard drinking, talking, and frank sexuality did not.
While associated with the party of the Roaring Twenties, Clara Bow was considered to be an uninhibited girl who grew up on the tough streets, a tomboy who frankly liked sex and was accused of breaking up marriages. Though Hollywood's morals were barely there, she was even shunned by the Hollywood community for her looseness.  Today we might say that she failed to have boundaries.  She thought nothing of French kissing a stranger she'd just been introduced to.  But then maybe she was drunk.
In 1931 she married Rex Bell, a cowboy film actor and retired from film making after 1934.  She had two sons and settled into motherhood.  If only the marriage normalized her life!  But Clara Bow had mental breakdowns herself and was often in financial trouble.

 Research into Clara Bow included this book, with excerpts coming up, as well as Internet resources like Find A Grave.  In this book on page 13, it states that Schulberg enjoyed the pleasure of her company but needed her to appear less scandalous.  "In an effort to clean up her image, he made her hire a female secretary/chaperone... When she had a nervous breakdown, he sent her off to Reno, but she returned with $100,000 in gambling debts."

HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME - see the links below!

WALK OF FAME B.P. SCHULBERG  (Benjamin Percival Schulberg, credited as being a Hollywood Pioneer film maker.)

Now, if you're interested in Clara Bow, you may be interested in other Hollywood actresses who were also mistresses covered here at MISTRESS MANIFESTO. You might also like to read about FAITH DOMERGUE, my Mistress of the month for May 2014, LOUISE BROOKS, my Mistress of the Month for February 2014, MARION DAVIESD, my Mistress of the Month for July 2013, and GLORIA SWANSON, my Mistress of the Month in December 2009.

Please read on for more on CLARA BOW and B.P!

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