Where Now, Clara?
Paramount sadly writes “finis” to the little Bow girl’s golden days. Can she come back – or is it curtains?
Nothing worked – not even the prayers, letters and boosting of as loyal a crowd of fans as any star ever had. The Bow pictures fell away, and those with their flapping ears to the Hollywood ground knew that it couldn’t be long. And it wasn’t! I’d feel happier about Clara’s chances now if I weren’t pretty darned sure that the day the microphone smote Hollywood was the day that she was slated inevitably for the discard.
For in the days of blessed silence she was all lure and life and sprightliness. She was blistering Youth incarnate. She was the cutest, peppiest girl in town. That rebellious hair, those outspoken eyes, that eloquent and admirable girlish figure – all spoke louder, to her fans, than any talkie apparatus yet devised. She was part and parcel of the silent screen. And when the silversheet went vocal, blooie went the illusion. The little wild-cat went self-conscious, and hence tame. She wasn’t geared for lines. That untrained and uninteresting voice came like a blow at the base of the skull. It became painfully evident that she lacked the essential equipment of an audible actress. – that the microphone had her stopped dead in her tracks.
And from that day to this she has never gotten up steam again! Without cultural background, Clara didn’t build a mental and spiritual present, as some of the greatest of our talkie stars have done. While others studied, perfected themselves and grew both as women and artists, Clara was having beaux and fun. Life was pretty much hoopla and hey-hey – punctuated by periods of black despair when she realizd that a bigger and finer parade was going by, and she wasn’t marching in it. The truth is, no doubt, that the Bow girl has never grown up in the fullest sense. In the great spiritual and mental essentials that turn a feather-brained girl into a smart and resourceful woman, Clara is still the bouncing child of “It”.
And now, for the incurable kiddishness that probably isn’t her fault at all, Clara pays. And here she is at twenty-six, with a new way to make it in the world. She’s had six years in the public heart and the big money, but it is probable she isn’t too well set financially. According to sound evidence in the public prints, appalling sums have slipped through her plump fingers. Without reticence, restraint, sound judgment, thorough training in voice and deportment – Clara’s in a tough spot, and we can only pull hard for her and wish her the best. For not one of us forgets the pleasant and even exciting hours she gave us in the heydays not so long ago.
She’ll get more chances – plenty. For a once-great property is not going to be allowed to rust, not when it’s twenty-six years old, pretty, and sound in wind and limb. And the new chances will call for a brand new deal. What will it be? If you and I knew, we could make a million dollars for us – and for Clara Bow. The answer will be known soon. Meanwhile, Clara Bow is in exile! Is it Elba – or St. Helena?
Photoplay, August of 1931. Written by Leonard Hall.