July 29, 1905 – September 27, 1965
Clara had a shitty childhood, ridiculously abusive parents, i.e. her mom tried to kill her several times, and was eventually institutionalized. Sometimes things like that come back. You can read all about her here.
She was a big hit in silent pictures, but when the talkies happened, people heard what she really sounded like (thick, uneducated, Brooklyn accent), and well, that pretty much finished her career. In the 50’s, long after her career had ended, Clara used to watch her old films in the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax.
Big murder story there, do a search. It’s interesting.
She was married to cowboy actor and Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, Rex Bell, who preceded her in death, in July of 1962. She made her first public appearance in 15 years, to attend his funeral. Clara moved back to California after that, and lived out her last days in a modest Culver City home.
Here’s a closer view.
Apparently she had been ill for many years, and was being treated in a rest home for insomnia. In 1965 she was watching an old Gary Cooper (one of her MANY exs and reportedly hugely endowed) film on television late in the night of September 27, 1965, when her heart stopped beating.
Clara is buried with her husband, in the Freedom Mausoleum of Forest Lawn, Glendale. For her funeral, she supposedly left instructions for her to be made up as she appeared in her favorite film, Call Her Savage.
View her grave.
Clara left pretty much everything to her two sons. Her possessions at the time of her death included 6 cans of motion picture film, loads of jewelry, and a few gold coins.
Trivia: One of her many conquests once said that Clara had kissed him so passionately, that his lips bled for days.
I need to thank my late buddy Denis Svoboda for the help with this story. Rest in peace, my friend.
Thanks Marty and Dennis who sent that link to an urban myth page, disproving several rumors about Clara’s sex life, and reputation.
A little more info on Clara Bow’s reputation:
One of the things that contributed greatly to her supposed reputation as a slut in Hollywood was the fact that she was the star of the movie “The It Girl”.
Because of this and the unfair views of her that it brought, she had problems with depression and some drinking.
My buddy Gary Sweeney sends this:
Clara suffered a few nervous breakdowns during her career, some the result of how Paramount treated her. They cashed in on her big time when her films were selling out theaters. She became the most important star at the studio, so much so that they scheduled films for her in advance by “season”, giving them working titles like “Summer Bow”, “Fall Bow”, “Winter Bow”, etc… When talkies began, Clara was terrified of speaking on camera and, in one incident, actually started to pummel one of the mikes physically until someone on the set yelled for it to be hoisted out of her reach. She still made good box office though. However, she couldn’t manage her money very well and had a personal assistant named Daisy DeVoe who handled financial matters for her. When Rex Bell came into the picture, Daisy hated him and swore up and down that he had ulterior motives for being with Clara. Clara stuck by Rex instead of her long-time friend Daisy. A huge trial involving Daisy and Clara eventually came about, largely centering on finances, which resulted in yet another breakdown for Clara. Paramount, realizing that she wasn’t the cash cow she used to be, turned their back on her. Rex moved her out of Hollywood and into a modest shack in the middle of the desert, where she gained weight and seemed genuinely happy, but did eventually return to Hollywood. I highly recommend David Stenn’s biography, titled Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild, for a really in-depth look at Clara’s life and career.
I hope this info is helpful!
The Midnight Palace – Classic Movies – Silents through the Golden Age. http://www.midnightpalace.com
9 thoughts on “Clara Bow”
Matt, thank you so much for that photo of her she does look happy!
I myself share a lot of similarities to Clara Bow’s life: skitzo mother and sexually abusive grandfather and agree with what you’re saying:
It’s amazing she had a career at all!
She stated publicly that her father raped her at 16 which must have been difficult to cope with! Add to that fact how “silent” woman had to be back then about sexual abuse. Growing up in the 70’s I used to read the teen magazines and a girl wrote in to s dear Abby type column saying that her and her girlfriend would sneak out on a Friday night so they could have sex with their boyfriend! One night when they went to meet then they were gang raped. The columnist said “you deserve it”!! So for her to keep silent about it when it happened plus her crazy mother was institutionalized at the time! Jesus it’s amazing she was able to make it past 40! (Yes, I’m aware I used the word “silent” twice!) Poor girl!
I also never heard of drug use being attributed in any way as a cause of death. Also birth date is off by 2 years. She was born in 1905 not 1907.
Is it just me, or does Rex Bell’s death year on the mausoleum marker say “1969” instead of “1962”? Sure looks like it….
It says 62, it’s just in a rounded font and there’s a glare on that number in this photo.
From what I’ve read you left out a couple of pertinent facts regarding Clara. Not only was her Mother homicidally insane (most likely caused by a severe head injury), her alcoholic father raped her from a young age. Once Clara became famous, she “blacked out” this years long sexual abuse and made him her manager!
Daisy DeVoe started out as Clara’s hairdresser and graduated to secretary-be-all. When Clara’s husband Rex Bell entered the pictue he saw what was going on and got Clara to fire DeVoe. DeVoe wasn’t going to give up easily and attempted to blackmail Clara with stolen love letters and/or diaries. Daisy was ultimately sent to jail for embezzlement of Clara’s funds, but not until after she had destroyed what remained of Clara’s reputation with salacious stories in court.
Poor Clara, growing up and surrounded by those kind of people, it’s amazing she had any kind of sane life at all and not surprising that in later years she was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Given that background, that she was able to carve out a career as a major actress, however short lived, is nothing short of miraculous –
Think my favorite photo of Clara. She looks so healthy & happy –
What’s with the ‘acute drug intoxication’ on Clara Bow’s death certificate? I’d never heard anything about it until I saw it this morning. I love the site, thank you!
Here you go: Acute (of a bad, difficult, or unwelcome situation or phenomenon) present or experienced to a severe or intense degree.
However, in medical terms acute = sudden, chronic = long term, constant.