Happy birthday Clara Bow!

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Clara Bow (July 29, 1905—September 27, 1965) was an American actress who derived her fame from the silent films of the 1920s. She was a leading sex symbol, appearing in 46 silent films and 11 sound films. Some of her most notable performances came in the films Mantrap (1926) and Wings (1927).

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Bow was born in Brooklyn, New York to Sarah and Robert Bow. She was her parents' third child, the first two of whom died in infancy. Her father was often absent. When she was 16, her mother fell out of a second story window and suffered a head injury. Later, she was diagnosed with psychosis due epilepsy. Her illness was characterized by seizures along with episodes of hostile behavior and paranoia. As a result, Bow learned to care for her despite being the subject of much of her mother's aggression. One night in 1922, Bow awoke to find her mother holding a butcher's knife to her throat. She was able to escape her mother, and soon after, her father committed Sarah to a sanatorium.

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In the fall of 1921, she competed and won in Brewster Publications' acting contest, "Fame and Fortune." One of the judges wrote this of her performance:

"She is very young, only 16. But she is full of confidence, determination and ambition. She is endowed with a mentality far beyond her years. She has a genuine spark of divine fire. The five different screen tests she had, showed this very plainly, her emotional range of expression provoking a fine enthusiasm from every contest judge who saw the tests. She screens perfectly. Her personal appearance is almost enough to carry her to success without the aid of the brains she indubitably possesses."

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Following that and persisting to "haunt" Brewster's office in hopes that they would get her a film role, she was cast in Beyond the Rainbow, but was later cut from the film. After much cajoling, she landed a part in Down to the Sea Ships, released in the spring of 1923. Her performance was well-noted. Around the same time, she appeared in Enemies of Women (1923) and The Daring Years (1923). By December of 1923, she was chosen as the most successful of the WAMPAS Baby Stars. Soon after, she appeared as the tomboy in Grit (1924), written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (Image source)

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Before long, Hollywood studio Preferred Pictures sought Bow out as a member of their permanent stock and she was on her way to California. She appeared in scores o films upon arrival into Hollywood, including Maytime (1923), Black Oxen (1923), Poisoned Paradise (1924), Painted People (1924), The Perfect Flapper (1924) and others.

By 1925, she was ready to appear the hit films The Plastic Age (1925) and Mantrap (1926). She eventually moved to Paramount Pictures, and after her first several films with the studio, appeared in Wings (1927), which was written to accommodate her. Though Bow was dissatisfied with her part in it, the film went on to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Another picture she did under Paramount was It, which became the basis for her nickname later, "the It Girl."

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She went on to appear in "talkies," though she felt her personality was lost when she was forced to speak and sing.

Bow retired from acting in 1933, and her last public exposure came on the radio show Truth or Consequences.

 

 

Toward the end of her life, Bow began to experience symptoms of psychological distress. She became socially withdrawn, even withdrawing from her husband. Eventually, she attempted suicide and later checked into the Institute of Living. After being diagnosed with schizophrenia despite not experiencing hallucinations, Bow left the institution, reclused to a bungalow and remained alone until her death.

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Tuesday, 29 July 2014
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