That Awful “It”!: Photoplay (July 1930)

That Awful “It”!

Clara Bow detests the little word that made her famous

Clara Bow’s hair is red and so are her fingernails. Neither hue is nature’s. The hair was a sort of red to begin with, but Clara had varying ideas on the matter from time to time. So it’s been everything from blonde to brunette. Now it’s such a red that even Katherine Albert, with all her wizardry of words, couldn’t call it anything but “red red” when she tried to describe it, As for her fingernails, Clara used to polish ’em pink, but since Paris has gone in for real color, “pink” isn’t the adequate word. “Red” is nearer.

Clara gestures with her eyebrows, yet she hasn’t got any. That’s just one of a thousand-and-one paradoxes that make up the Bow. Her eyebrows are either shaved or plucked to a virtual nothingness. Where they once were, she wears heavy makeup – almost as heavy for street wear as for the camera. When she talks, she emphasizes her ideas with eyebrow-movings that go even Adolphe Menjou one better, rather than gesturing with her hands.

Time and clocks are just one of the many things that make life so complicated for her. She’s never on time at the studio. But when she gets to work, she’s a hound for keeping at it! It’s more of a job stopping her than starting her. Same way with portrait gallery appointments. She dodges them to the utmost, but once she’s in for a sitting, she works hours at a stretch, and is the photographer’s delight, because she can take and make poses easier and faster than any other camera-subject in or out of the movies.

Appointments are precarious affairs, for quite often she simply doesn’t keep them. That’s made more interviewers mad! Her idea of Heaven is a place where she wouldn’t have to go to work until about one P.M. She hates mornings. Except for sleeping. Noon’s the time for breakfast, not lunch she says. She’s a great traveler – on paper or imagination. She was seventeen before she took her first train ride, and now she spends much of her time planning trips she never takes. The favorite places she intends to go, but never does, are Texas, the Dakota black Hills and Europe.

She simply adores Texas and people that come from that state but if you ask her why, she tells you she hasn’t the slightest idea. She insists she’s going to Europe in a few months, but she’s been insisting that for a long time now. She doesn’t care for airplane riding yet when she did go up – once, at Catalina in a seaplane, with Harry Richman, she got as much kick out of it as a kid with a beanshooter. But she’s not hot about going up again. She has two automobiles – a limousine and a sports touring car – and (at this writing) no chauffeur. Yet she doesn’t like to drive on her own. But when she does, she goes like a bad word.

And she loves boats. Sailors, too. She’s never happier than when she’s working on a picture about the navy, with lots of sailors in it, In Paramount on Parade, she sings “True to the Navy.” She’s a good sailor herself and doesn’t get seasick even in rough weather. Maybe it’s this affinity for things nautical that makes her Malibu beach cottage her favorite place. She spends most of her spare time there, enjoying the ocean and such friends as she invites.Who they are doesn’t read like “Who’s Who in Pictures.” She doesn’t pal around much with the stars. Her closest acquaintances are likely to be extra girls and prop-boys and ordinary folk like that. Strange, but Clara, who’s one of the most popular girls in the history of the screen, is one of the loneliest in Hollywood.

She doesn’t go “out” much. Prefers to stay at home for her fun. Trouble is that every place she goes, she’s mobbed by fans. And she doesn’t like it. She usually resorts to disguises like dark sunglasses and wigs to dodge crowds. She doesn’t like the radio, but buys nearly every new dance record that’s put out for her phonographs. She has three of them – a combination radio-phonograph at her in-town home, another at her beach place, and a portable phonograph in her dressing room. She rarely turns on the radio, but the phonograph is rarely still. And she likes it loud! “I’ve never seen  Red Seal record on her phonograph,” says a friend who knows her well. Baritone recordings of popular songs seem to be her prime favorites. Lon Reisman’s orchestra is her current favorite dance band. Her greatest hero is still Charles Augustus Lindbergh, and Rudolph Valentino, in her estimation, was the greatest actor, bar none, that ever lived. Her living favorite actor is Laurence Tibbett.

Her favorite sports are roller-skating and football. She does the former up and down the driveway beside her house until the crowd of watchers gets too big. Then she goes in. When football season is on, she goes to every game she can get to – and every year, she entertains the whole University of Southern California team en masse at her home. Now and then, a few of them individually. Football coaches don’t approve.

She’s wild about dogs, but can’t keep them. They either run away, get stolen or die. She’s had about one hundred and fifty altogether at various times – all kinds. She has four now. No other pets, although she once owned one of those Australian honey-bears that feed on eucalyptus leaves. She got tired of it and didn’t know how to get rid of it. So she gave it to a maid she didn’t like and then fired the maid and made her take the honey-bear with her. Her income is up in the thousand a week, yet she lives in a house a $100-a-week wage earner could maintain. She has three servants – two maids and her secretary, Daisy Devoe. Sometimes she has a chauffeur. She doesn’t like many people about in her home, and rarely gives parties or attends them.

She has little or no taste in clothes, and she has a roomful of them. The room is fitted up like the interior of a women’s clothing store, with glass cases to hold all her dresses. Skirt, scarf, sweater, low-heeled sports shoes – that’s her favorite attire. She has no color likes or dislikes. She’s very fond of exotic perfumes, and has a great collection of them. She also has quite a collection of parlor games and likes to play them – things like throwing darts at a target, or rolling balls into holes, or shooting things from popguns at marks, or the sort of thing one plays on boards, like parcheesi and checkers. She doesn’t like bridge.

Her voice is low, and when she’s not excited she talks throatily and pleasingly. But let her get excited, and up goes her voice into the shrill register. She can croon songs like nobody’s business, but if she tries to sing them in an arty fashion, it’s not so hot. She’s shrill on the high notes, but she can break your heart with a low-moaned blues song. She never thought she could sing and dance until they talked her into doing a specialty for Paramount on Parade, and now she’s delighted to find she can. Her conversation is unusually rapid and – well, peppy.

She doesn’t go to pictures much. She doesn’t like to attend the premières of her own pictures; prefers to wait a month or so and then go incognito to watch them at a neighborhood movie house some place. When she does see a picture she likes, she sees it several times. In Hollywood, she hardly ever goes to the legitimate theater, but when she’s in New York, she goes often. She has no library to speak of at her home, yet she always seems to manage to have read the book that’s being currently talked about. Probably the reason she hasn’t a book collection is because she gives them away after reading them. She’s generous to a fault, but hates to be thanked or complimented for it. It embarrasses her, and she doesn’t know how to take it gracefully. She likes sincere praise, though, but thinks flatterers are saps.

She gets an annual case of sunburn. She doesn’t do anything to avoid it, because each year she figures: This year I’ll tan, not burn! She loves the sunlight, but dislikes bright electric lights. All the lights in her home are soft and shaded. Her likes and dislikes in food and drink are few. She likes chop suey. And she has tea for breakfast instead of coffee. She dislikes personal appearances and interviewers, and would rather be a featured player than a star, because she thinks featured players can win praise by good performances, whereas a star is only talked about when she flops. She’s always very nervous when starting a new production, and then draws heavily on he stock of sedatives that are always by her bedside.

She is heartily sick of the word “IT” and wishes people would quit asking her what “IT” is, because she doesn’t know, herself. She gets thousands of fan letters a week and rarely answers any of them. Nevertheless, she attaches great importance to the sentiments and opinions therein. She hates artificiality and poseurs, and is herself one of the most unaffected persons on pictures. She dislikes gossip and is unquestionably one of the most gossiped-about women in Hollywood. She admits having been madly in love with four men – Gilbert Roland, Victor Fleming, Gary Cooper and Harry Richman. And as this is being written she still insists she’s going to marry Richman.

P.S. – But since it was written Rex Bell seems to be the heavy boy friend. Oh, the bow and the weather!

Captions

  1. If there’s one thing Clara Bow likes more than another, it’s roller-skating up and down the concrete driveway outside her modest home. But when the crowd gets too thick she just retires
  2. Clara gets seasick – but she loves the Navy!
  3. La Bow is crazy for perfumes and parlor games

Photoplay, July of 1930. Written by Michael Woodward. Illustrated by Arthur Crouch.

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