Clara Bow was Hollywood’s It Girl but her personal life was filled with heartbreak and tragedy

She was born Clara Gordon Bow on July 29, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother Sarah suffered from psychosis due to epilepsy. Tragically Sarah was institutionalized after she tried to kill Clara with a butcher knife. With her mother out of the house her alcoholic father Robert Bow started sexually abusing her. When she was sixteen Clara entered a a contest in Motion Picture magazine and won a screen test. She made her film debut int he 1922 drama Beyond The Rainbow. The beautiful brunette signed a contract with Preferred Pictures and in 1924 she was chosen to be a Wampas Baby Star. During this time she also posed nude for photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston. In 1925 she appeared in fourteen films including The Plastic Age, Parisian Love, and The Primrose Path. Clara was cast as a carefree flapper in the 1927 comedy It. The film made her a superstar and from then on she was known as “The It Girl”. Next she starred in the hit drama Wings which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. By 1929 she was the top female box-office star in the country and was getting forty-five thousand fan letters a month.

Clara Bow With Her Dog

When the talkies started she was worried about her thick Brooklyn accent but audiences loved her voice. Her first talkies, The Wild Party and Dangerous Curves, were box office hits. Although she earned more than five thousand dollars a week she lived in a modest seven-room bungalow in Beverly Hills. She hated going to Hollywood events and preferred to stay home and play poker. Clara’s sexy image and her off screen romances made her one of the most gossiped about women in Hollywood. Among her many lovers were Fredric March, Gilbert Roland, Bela Lugosi, and Gary Cooper. She was briefly engaged to director Victor Fleming. Clara once said “A sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.” In 1930 her secretary, Daisy DeVoe, was arrested for stealing money from her. At her trial Daisy testified that Clara was involved in orgies and bestiality. Although these stories were false her reputation was ruined. Shortly after the trial she suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized.

Clara BowClara Bow
Clara Bow

She seemed to finally find true love when she married actor Rex Bell in 1931. Tired of Hollywood she decided to stop making movies. Her final film was the 1933 drama Hoopla. Clara and Rex moved to a large ranch in Nevada. The couple had two sons – Rex Jr and. They also opened a restaurant in Hollywood called “The It Cafe”. Unfortunately she suffered from chronic insomnia and was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. Clara attempted suicide in 1944 by swallowing a bottle of pills. As she got older she became reclusive and rarely left her home. She turned down a lucrative offer to write her autobiography because she didn’t want to embarrass her family. After her husband Rex died from a heart attack in 1962 she moved to Culver City, California. On the evening of September 26, 1965 she watched the film The Virginian on television. It was directed by her former fiance Victor Fleming and starred her former lover Gary Cooper. Early the next morning, on September 27, Clara died at age sixty from a heart attack. She is buried next to Rex at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.