Clara Bow: Run Wild

David Stern, Author, David Stenn, Author Doubleday Books $18.95 (338p) ISBN 978-0-385-24125-0
In his first book, Stenn, a screenwriter, has produced a movie biography that tops most of the current crop of Hollywood stories. Assiduously researched, the book contains hitherto unpublished material from Clara Bow's son and others who knew the screen goddess who expressed the spirit of flaming youth during the 1920s. Mistreated by a psychotic mother and abusive father, Bow grew up in the Brooklyn slum where she was born in 1902. She escaped by winning a ``fame and fortune'' contest in her teens and a part in a silent film. Before long the pretty redhead's singular talents made her extremely popular with producers and public alike. She personified sex as fun, earning the sobriquet ``The It Girl,'' coined by Elinor Glyn to define her allure. The actress lived the role offscreen as well, having affairs with Gary Cooper, Gilbert Roland, Victor Fleming and others, creating scandals that prompted even her amoral father to ask her, ``Why can't you be like Lillian Gish?'' But as Stenn's admirably balanced profile shows, Bow was not as wild as accounts paint her. Notoriety, nevertheless, ended her career before she was 30, after starring in numerous silents as well as early talkies for which she learned to temper her Brooklynese accent. Apart from one or two roles, like her part in the World War I aviation epic Wings , her films did not show the real gifts of this star who was usually cast in profitable potboilers, notes Stenn. Bow, married to Rex Bell and living in semi-seclusion, died in 1965. In this sensitive biography, readers will find a vibrant woman to empathize with, as well as an engrossing history of early picture-making. Photos not seen by PW. (September)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 08/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
Discover what to read next