Clara Bow

Clara Bow was the quintessential ‘it’ girl and a flapper icon. She was one of the few silent movie stars who made it successfully into ‘talkies’ with her thick Brooklyn accent in tact. Bow was notorious for her loose living and scandalous lifestyle, so you’ve probably heard the rumours and gossip but here are 10 facts you might not know:

  1. Cartoon character Betty Boop was modelled on Clara Bow and Helen Kane.
  2. Clara retired aged only 28 when she had a mental breakdown due to stress and the pressure of having to deal with so many scandals in 1933.
  3. Bow died at the age of 60 whilst watching a Gary Cooper Western, Gary Cooper had been one of her notorious ‘engagements’ back in the early 20s.
  4. Fans didn’t realise Clara Bow was a redhead to begin with (oh the joys of black and white movies!), when they did sales in Henna hair dye tripled!
  5. Like Marilyn Monroe, Clara Bow’s childhood was marred by her mother’s mental illness. Bow’s mother was committed to a sanatorium after she held a butchers knife to her daughter’s throat.
  6. Most of the scandalous things you’ve heard about Clara Bow (the drug taking, the orgies, the lesbianism and when nothing else was on offer her ‘fondness’ for dogs…) were concocted by a tabloid newspaper who tried to blackmail her. She won a court case and the publisher was sent to prison for 8 years but the rumours still stuck!
  7. Remember the fantastic movie The Artist? The character of Peppy Miller was inspired by Clara Bow and actress Bérénice Bejo copied many of Bow’s screen mannerisms.
  8. In her 10 years in the movie business Clara Bow made an amazing 57 movies (46 silent movies and 11 talkies)
  9. Marilyn Monroe dressed up as Clara Bow for a photo shoot by Richard Avedon (see the photos here)
  10. Clara Bow refused to write her autobiography because she thought there were too many things that would embarrass her two sons. She said that all the money in the world would not compensate for their embarrassment.

Read more from our “10 things you didn’t know about…” series

If you’d like to see more photos of Clara Bow (including a photo of her wearing a really strange swastika-themed outfit) you can see my gallery here, and if you’d like to read more about Clara Bow’s life story I recommend this article.


Image source and copyright: This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.