Where Now, Clara?
Paramount sadly writes “finis” to the little Bow girl’s golden days. Can she come back – or is it curtains?
Tell me, wise ones – do they ever come back? Ask old Jim Jeffries – ask Pola Negri – ask Trotsky – ask me, and I’ll shrug my shoulders. But we’ve got to know. For Clara Bow, since 1925 the idol of America’s jazz babies, has toppled off her pedestal. In the fall, her slippers came off, and there were the feet of clay! Paramount, after stupendous efforts to keep her on the wall of public favor, decided that Clara had done a complete humpty-dumpty – settled what was left of her contract – allowed Clara to go into the desert and try to patch and caulk her nervous system.
The Bow belle has had a bad fall.Can all Hollywood’s horses and all Hollywood’s men put poor little Clara together again? It’s the one question that now agitates the ranks of the nation’s cinemaniacs. As this powerful piece is tapped off on my palatial estate at Beverly-on-Harlem, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is said to be about to take on the job of gluing together the pieces of Clara Bow.The boys are said to figure that with proper handling, smart casting and a lot of road work, the Brooklyn Smudge can be made to blaze all over again.
It’s a great idea and a laudable effort. So good luck all round! It may be that Metro knows the lucky numbers, and that the little fire-brand who made old fans young in ’26 will set eyes a-popping in ’32. And yet – there’s a horrible and understandable suspicion that Clara’s present debacle isn’t a mere skid from the highway of public favor, but a headlong brodie into the deep ditch whence no stars return in full glory. This horrid doubt wouldn’t oppress us if it weren’t for the fact that Paramount did everything to keep her going, save buy our way into the theaters to see her pictures. They gave Bow evry break and every chance.
B. P. Schulberg, Clara’s Paramount sponsor, fought for her, tooth and nail. Through bad publicity culminating in the sad De Voe mess, through a sad succession of boy-friends, through a welter of the talkie revolution, Schulberg stayed in there punching on Clara’s side. Schulberg – and the company – kept faith right up to the last split second. And when he sent the towel sailing into the ring, signifying that the once invincible Battling Bow was on the point of going down for the count of ten, it meant that there wasn’t a laundryman’s chance that the fool had any more box-office fight in her – at the moment. For nobody need fool himself – when the contract of star or featured player is bought up, or allowed to lapse, it means only one thing. It’s Rule A, No. 1, in the motion picture guidebook.
When big stars go down the chute, there’s just one answer – namely, they have ceased to lure enough kopecks into the little ticket window. Any other given reason is so much smoke screen, and can safely be handed the Bronx cheer. You may be told that the actors are ill, or voluntarily retiring to raise wallabies in Australia, or to open a chain of filling stations in the Gobi Desert. These sops are just nice (?)uts for the player. And that is the answer to Clara Bow’s swift slide down the well-greased toboggan.
Bad publicity can be forgiven and forgotten. A little alleged misunderstanding on a gambling debt can be chuckled off, as a good clean girlish fun. A sweetheart every six months is just a maidenly prank. But failure to draw is the Eighth Deadly Sin, and means a sigh, a parting handclasp and a quick exit from the payroll. As I have said, Paramount gave Clara every shot it had in the locker. They tried her in schoolgirl comedy. They – God help us! – let her sing! They let her make hot love to Fred March in a sailor suit. In response to the widespread public feeling that she could do drama if given a crack at it, they turned her loose to emote in Kick In, last and saddest of the opera. If Clara could have played the zither, or walked the slack wire, Paramount would have fixed up some pictures for her. For Bow, in her great days, meant beaucoup dollars at the ticket wagon.
- Freed from that “ole devil” microphone, which helped to shatter her nerves, Clara Bow and Rex Bell, the broad-shouldered cowboy actor who is her present steady, are photographed as they arrived at his broad-acred ranch at nipton, Calif.
- And Clara, going platinum blonde while recuperating, seems to like the idea of having someone to cling to while the question of her future settles itself. Those slave bracelets on Rex’s right and Clara’s left arm look rather significant
Photoplay, August of 1931. Written by Leonard Hall.