Clara Bow

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Jennifer Murdoch:
Bow won an evening gown and a silver trophy and the publisher committed to help her "gain a role in films", but nothing happened. Bow's father told her to "haunt" Brewster's office (located in Brooklyn) until they came up with something. "To get rid of me, or maybe they really meant to (give me) all the time and were just busy", Bow was introduced to director Christy Cabanne who cast her in Beyond the Rainbow, produced late 1921 in New York City and released February 19, 1922.[27] Bow did five scenes, impressed Cabanne with true theatrical tears,[12] but was cut from the final print. "I was sick to my stomach," she recalled and thought her mother was right about the movie business. Bow, who dropped out of school (senior year) after she was notified about winning the contest, possibly in October 1921, got an ordinary office job.[28] However, movie ads and newspaper editorial comments from 1922 to 1923 suggest that Bow was not cut from Beyond the Rainbow. Her name is on the cast list among the other stars, usually tagged "Brewster magazine beauty contest winner" and sometimes even with a picture.[29]

Jennifer Murdoch:
Silent films

Encouraged by her father, Bow continued to visit studio agencies asking for parts. "But there was always something. I was too young, or too little, or too fat. Usually I was too fat."[12] Eventually director Elmer Clifton needed a tomboy for his movie Down to the Sea in Ships, saw Bow in Motion Picture Classic magazine and sent for her. In an attempt to overcome her youthful looks, Bow put her hair up and arrived in a dress she "sneaked" from her mother. Clifton said she was too old, but broke into laughter as the stammering Bow made him believe she was the girl in the magazine. Clifton decided to bring Bow with him and offered her $35 a week. Bow held out for $50 and Clifton agreed, but he could not say whether she would "fit the part."[26] Bow later learned that one of Brewsters' sub-editors had urged Clifton to give her a chance.[30]

Down to the Sea in Ships was shot on location in New Bedford, Massachusetts, produced by Independent "The Whaling Film Corporation", and documented the life, love and work in the whale-hunter community. The production relied on a few less-known actors and local talents. It premiered at "Olympia", New Bedford, on September 25, and went on general distribution on March 4, 1923. Bow was billed 10th in the film, but shone through:

    "Miss Bow will undoubtedly gain fame as a screen comedienne".[31]
    "She scored a tremendous hit in Down to the Sea in Ships..(and).. has reached the front rank of motion picture principal players".[32]
    "With her beauty, her brains, her personality and her genuine acting ability it should not be many moons before she enjoys stardom in the fullest sense of the word. You must see 'Down to the Sea in Ships'".[33]
    "In movie parlance, she 'stole' the picture ... ".[34]

Jennifer Murdoch:
By mid-December 1923, primarily due to her merits in Down to the Sea in Ships, Bow was chosen the most successful of the 1924 WAMPAS Baby Stars.[37] Three months before Down to the Sea in Ships was released, Bow danced half ****, on a table, uncredited in Enemies of Women (1923).[38] In spring she got a part in The Daring Years (1923), where she befriended actress Mary Carr, who taught her how to use make-up.[26]

In the summer, she got a "tomboy" part in Grit, a story that dealt with juvenile crime and was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bow met her first boyfriend, cameraman Arthur Jacobson, and she got to know director Frank Tuttle, with whom she worked in five later productions. Tuttle remembered:

    "Her emotions were close to the surface. She could cry on demand, opening the floodgate of tears almost as soon as I asked her to weep. She was dynamite, full of nervous energy and vitality and pitifully eager to please everyone".[26]

Grit was released on January 7, 1924. Variety reviewed;

    "... Clara Bow lingers in the eye, long after the picture has gone."[39]

While shooting Grit at Pyramid Studios, in Astoria, New York, Bow was approached by Jack Bachman of independent Hollywood studio Preferred Pictures. He wanted to contract her for a three months trial, fare paid and $50 a week. "It can't do any harm,"[12] he tried. "Why can't I stay in New York and make movies?" Bow asked her father, but he told her not to worry.[40]

On July 21, 1923 she befriended Louella Parsons, who interviewed her for The New York Morning Telegraph. In 1931 when Bow came under tabloid scrutiny, Parsons defended her and stuck to her first opinion on Bow:[26]

    She is as refreshingly unaffected as if she had never faced a means to pretend. She hasn't any secrets from the world, she trusts everyone ... she is almost too good to be true ... (I) only wish some reformer who believes the screen contaminates all who associate with it could meet this child. Still, on second thought it might not be safe: Clara uses a dangerous pair of eyes.

The interview also revealed that Bow already was cast in Maytime and in great favor of Chinese cuisine.[41]

Jennifer Murdoch:
On July 22, 1923, Bow left New York, her father, and her boyfriend behind for Hollywood.[26] As chaperone for the journey and her subsequent southern California stay, the studio appointed writer/agent Maxine Alton, whom Bow later branded a liar.[12] In late July, Bow entered studio chief B. P. Schulberg's office wearing a simple high-school uniform in which she "had won several gold medals on the cinder track".[42] She was tested and a press-release from early August says Bow had become a member of Preferred Picture's "permanent stock".[43] She and Alton rented an apartment at The Hillview near Hollywood Boulevard.[26] Preferred Pictures was run by Schulberg, who had started as a publicity manager at Famous Players-Lasky, but in the aftermath of the power struggle around the formation of United Artists ended up on the losing side and lost his job. As a result, he founded Preferred in 1919, at the age of 27.[44]

Maytime was Bow's first Hollywood picture, an adaptation of the popular operetta Maytime in which she essayed "Alice Tremaine". Before Maytime was finished, Schulberg announced that Bow was given the lead in the studio's biggest seasonal assessment, Poisoned Paradise,[42] but first she was lent to First National Pictures to co-star in the adaptation of Gertrude Atherton's 1923 best seller Black Oxen, shot in October, and to co-star with Colleen Moore in Painted People, shot in November.[45]

Director Frank Lloyd was casting for the part of high society flapper Janet Oglethorpe, and more than fifty women, most with previous screen experience, auditioned.[26] Bow reminisced: "He had not found exactly what he wanted and finally somebody suggested me to him. When I came into his office a big smile came over his face and he looked just tickled to death."[12] Lloyd told the press, "Bow is the personification of the ideal aristocratic flapper, mischievous, pretty, aggressive, quick-tempered and deeply sentimental.[46] It was released on January 4, 1924.

Jennifer Murdoch:
The New York Times said "The flapper, impersonated by a young actress, Clara Bow, had five speaking titles, and every one of them was so entirely in accord with the character and the mood of the scene that it drew a laugh from what, in film circles, is termed a "hard-boiled" audience",[47] while the Los Angeles Times commented that "Clara Bow, the prize vulgarian of the lot...was amusing and spirited...but didn't belong in the picture".[48] and Variety said that "[...] the horrid little flapper is adorably played [...]".[49]

Colleen Moore made her flapper debut in a successful adaptation of the daring novel Flaming Youth, released November 12, 1923, six weeks before Black Oxen. Both films were produced by First National Pictures, and while Black Oxen was still being edited and Flaming Youth not yet released, Bow was requested to co-star with Moore as her kid sister in Painted People (AKA The Swamp Angel).[50] Moore essayed the baseball-playing tomboy and Bow, according to Moore, said "I don't like my part, I wanna play yours."[51] Moore, a well-established star earning $1200 a week—Bow got $200—took offense and blocked the director from shooting close-ups of Bow. Moore was married to the film's producer and Bow's protests were futile. "I'll get that ****," she told her boyfriend Jacobson, who had arrived from New York. Bow had sinus problems and decided to have them attended to that very evening. With Bow's face now in bandages, the studio had no choice but to recast her part.[52]


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