“Quit Pickin’ On Me!” says Clara Bow
The famous little Brooklyn Bonfire, snapping back at her critics, says she is giving up boy friends for hard work in big dramatic talkie rôles
“The trouble with me is – i’m not a sneak!” There is Clara Bow’s own diagnosis of the scandals which nearly cost her her job and her screen career. Clara is hurt. First she suffered ridicule because she fell in love with Harry Richman. She was a single girl and he, a single man, but did their mutual eligibility matter? Then the newspapers noticed she was gaining weight! They hooted. Then an unhappy, intensely personal affair in Texas. Reporters tore her decency to shreds! Finally, gambling – with Clara this time luridly represented as a welcher.
Now Clara is tired of being picked on. She is afraid, too, pitifully fearful, of the hostility she imagines everywhere, in everything, in everybody. In New York, where she was engaged in making scenes for No Limit, the horror of a new misunderstanding so gripped the little Bow that she would shut herself up in her hotel immediately after working hours. She would see nobody, go no place. And because she didn’t like the hotel kitchen, she made herself bilious dining on chocolate creams.
I found her there, wretched over the abuse she believes she has suffered, grimly determined to give the newspapers no further oppurtunity to misrepresent her. And a more frail, crushed, self-pitying little soul you never did see than the tempestuous “It” girl. It’s quite true that Clara lacks the armor of pretense and evasion with which a more sophisticated girl might have protected herself. And she knows it.
“I’ve never been a sneak, that’s the trouble with me,” she diagnosed shrewdly. “Why, I’ve never done a thing that everybody else in Hollywood hasn’t done. I’ve never done a thing actually bad. I’ve been so convinced of that, I never even tried to learn how to be sneaky! I may have made mistakes. I certainly must have been foolish. But my greatest mistake seems to have been that I was open and above-board about everything. Reporters would come to see me,” Clara illustrated her honesty, “I’d always receive them. I’d tell them the truth. But they never printed it. They never even quoted what I had said, but made up something different. Everyone tried to picture me as tough,” she continued plaintively, “They tried to make me seem to talk out of the side of my mouth. What could I do?”
What could Clara do indeed? She never learned the cycle of newspaper personality. One reporter writes a clever story in which a character appears tough. Another reporter borrows the tough characteristic in the next story. A third intensifies it. A fourth intensifies the third. Until a monumantal toughness is achieved. And it sticks to that personality in every press reference thereafter.
Clara doesn’t understand this game to which she has lent herself. She feels crushed and humiliated by the unfairness of it. And her reaction has been her vindication. The Brooklyn bonfire, the hotsy-totsy red-head, who, they say, “gets mixed up in unsavory romances,” who “welches on gambling debts,” could have reacted in only one way. The bizarre Clara Bow heroine on the screen would have reacted in only one way. That wild girl would have gone out to show ’em. A little bolder, a little wilder, a little louder. Her answer to the challenge would have been defiance.
But Clara is licked. She distrusts and suspects the world. Never having learned to be guarded in her conversation, she prefers not to talk to anyone. She dresses more quietly. Carries herself with more dignity. “I’m anxious to throw off the old personality, even on the screen,” said Clara. “I’m going to be grown up and discreet. I’m going to play more dramatic stories, a more dignified type of rôle. I’m going to make pictures which give me something to do. I’m going to work hard.”
All Hollywood agrees that Clara Bow is a hard worker. And she never is so happy as when she’s working. She never gives the studio so little trouble, or herself so few regrets. Clara is a trouper born, and she wears scars of work. Scars on her shoulder record one cene in which she had to drop a burning cigarette from her lips. A long, vicious scar down her finger testifies to another courageous work day.
- Clara Bow’s critics – the press, the hoity-toity public and other actors are forever denouncing her, poking fun at her and other wise making her life miserable. Now she has turned. And in this picture you see the great flapper taking the offensive
Photoplay, January of 1931. Written by Paul Jarvis. Illustrated by Van Arsdale. Cropping of illustration used by kind permission of the Clara Bow Archive