I really do understand. I know first hand, the pain & shame of a brilliant acting career cut down by sex scandals, men, drugs, drink & mental problems. My flame burned out all too soon. I was known briefly & in a select circle as the "IT GUY". I was forgotten all too soon... but you can still re-live the magic with my work on Beta, VHS, & DVDs. Sometimes the world is not ready for the heat that we sex symbols produce. Still, I have not yet been buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Indeed, I am living in impoverishment & obscurity in Portland, Oregon, in a house that is little more than a squatter's shack, with too many dogs & an unhinged, unglued & unzipped husband.
In the 1920s, Clara Bow's spirit & sex appeal defined the newly liberated woman of the flapper era. Clara Bow was Hollywood's brightest light during this time. Clara was known as the-"It Girl", & Clara Bow had "It". The people she worked with claimed that she was full of charm & wit, & a thorough professional.
Clara Bow was an actress of range & depth, but she played mostly manicurists, waitresses, & department store clerks. Her movies helped emancipate young American girls from the restrictive morals of their parents. Clara's characters were unashamed about being attracted to men. Her shop girl in It (1927) spies the boss’s son & says:"Oh Santa, gimme him!" Her characters wore their dresses short, cut off their hair, drank & smoked in public, & danced all night long. At the height of her career, she received 45,000 fan letters a week. She was the idol of working girls & the dream of blue collar guys.
The It Girl was so hot & bright, it seems inevitable that she would burn out personally & professionally. It is shocking to think that her career was over in 1933 at 26 years old, after she had made millions for her studio- Paramount, & was one of the most well known stars in the world. She was condemned by the Hollywood community for her questionable morality. Producer Budd Schulberg, in his book Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince: "Hollywood was a cultural schizophrene: The anti-movie Old Guard with their chamber music & their religious pageants fighting a losing battle against the more dynamic culture who flaunted the bohemianism of Edna St. Vincent Millay & the socialism of Upton Sinclair. But, there was one subject on which staid old Hollywood establishment & the members of the new culture circle would agree: Clara Bow, no matter how great her popularity, was a low-life & a disgrace to the community."
Scandal ruined Clara Bow. She had a breakdown & had to recover in a sanatorium. She left films for good, & moved to Nevada with her new husband- cowboy actor Rex Bell. They had 2 sons, but Clara Bow was battling mental illness. She was a doting mother to her sons, but haunted by a weight problem & profound depression, Clara Bow was eventually confined to a psychiatric hospital & not allowed to see her children. She died of a heart attack in her small house in West L.A., on September 26, 1965, while watching a Gary Cooper movie. She was 60 years old & living in poverty & obscurity. Clara Bow is buried Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Most of Bow's films have been lost. Of her 56 films, silent & sound, only 27 exist in their entirety or in pieces. Only 16 are available on video. The remaining films that survive are in the Library of Congress Film Archive.
Theodosia Burr Goodman was was one of the most popular screen actresses of her era, & one of filmdom’s original sex symbols. She earned her the nickname "The Vamp" (short for vampire). The term "vamp" soon became a popular slang term for a sexually forward woman.
The glamorous star of the 1910s, Theda Bara is also the most inaccessible & mysterious today. Only Mary Pickford & Charlie Chaplin were more popular, but today it's nearly impossible to view her work. Of the more than 40 films she made from 1914 -1926, only 3 remain. Her image remains with film fans 80+ years after her retirement, & she is the only star responsible for a word being placed both in the dictionary. Songs were written about Theda Bara, postcards & magazines featured her face. Dangling earrings, kohled eyes, languorous looks & the catch phrase- "Kiss me, you fool!" became part of the public lexicon.
Theda Bara did not end up as a disillusioned, destitute recluse, like other sex symbols of the Silent Era. In 1921 she married successful director Charles Brabin, a marriage that lasted until her death in 1955. The Brabins were wealthy world travelers, & Theda's Bara’s talent as hostess & gourmet made their Beverly Hills home a favorite with the film community into the 1960s. Theda Bara is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
The fact that Theda Bara never spoke on screen makes her even more fascinating & mysterious. We are able to hear the voices of Mary Pickford, Lon Chaney, Charles Chaplin & Norma Talmadge, only a few stars: Theda Bara, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Reid, Constance Talmadge are silent forever. Theda Bara remains almost invisible as well. It makes me impossibly melancholy that her legacy is crumbling away to dust.