Clara Bow’s Movies 8

Clara Bow’s twenty-seventh movie was The Best Bad Man, released by Fox, November 29, 1925. Clara played Peggy Swain. A co-star was ‘Tony the Wonder Horse’ who played himself.

Loaned out by B.P. Schulberg, Clara was hopelessly miscast as a frontier gal in a vehicle for cowboy star Tom Mix. After the success of Clara’s previous movie, The Plastic Age, The Best Bad Man was a backward step.

B.P. Schulberg was a ‘dollars and cents’ producer with no real feel for artistry or a person’s career. Schulberg helped Clara to become a star, but without his help she would have become a star sooner.

Clara Bow’s twenty-eighth movie, released on December 27, 1925, was The Ancient Mariner, a silent fantasy based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Clara played Doris Matthews, a beautiful, innocent young girl. At this stage of her life, Clara was still young and had certainly retained her looks. However, even before she set foot in Hollywood, her innocence had long gone.

Once again, as an actress Clara was literally and figuratively treading water. That said, the film, now sadly lost, did receive excellent reviews from the critics.

Clara Bow’s twenty-ninth movie was The Shadow of the Law, a silent crime drama produced during the Fall of 1925 and released on January 24, 1926. Clara played Mary Brophy a woman sent to prison for a crime she did not commit, similar to characters she’d played before.

The Shadow of the Law was another marking time movie for Clara. It disappeared on the daily-change circuit and is now considered lost.

Clara Bow’s thirtieth movie was Two Can Play, another low-budget affair that was beneath Clara’s talent. The movie was released on February 21, 1926, disappeared on the daily-change circuit and is now presumed lost.

After thirty movies, Clara had certainly served her apprenticeship. All she needed was the right script, and the right lifestyle guidance, to propel her to superstardom. The script arrived with her thirty-first movie, Dancing Mothers. Whether the lifestyle guidance ever arrived is a matter for debate.

Clara Bow’s thirty-first movie was Dancing Mothers, released on March 1, 1926.

Paramount cast Clara as Kittens, the second lead in the movie. Clara was too talented to play second-fiddle to anyone, and she duly stole the picture. She said, “I played her (Kittens) as a girl out for havin’ fun. When I said mean things, I tried t’put over the idea with a look after I’d said the thing: “Oh, why’d I say that? I didn’t really mean it.”

Clara always added depth to her roles, a depth that wasn’t always evident on the printed page. She had an intuitive understanding of her characters and, just as importantly, a knowledge of how various members of the audience would interpret her characters. She played each scene accordingly, with the aim of connecting with the entire audience.

Clara imbued her characters, and movies, with a great sense of energy. She also had the gift of suggesting a hidden sensitivity, even in characters that displayed a superficial façade. As Louise Brooks said, “She was absolutely a sensation in Dancing Mothers. Clara was so marvellous; she just swept the country! I thought she was oh, so wonderful; everybody did. She became a star overnight with nobody’s help.”

At the age of twenty, Clara Bow was already a movie veteran. Her thirty-second movie was My Lady of Whims, a silent comedy released on June 25, 1926. Clara played the lead, Prudence Severn. 

The skintight, transparent dress Clara wore during the party sequence caused a sensation. The Cedar Rapids Tribune said that the dress made “the eyes of every flapper bulge.”

This would not be the last time Clara caused a sensation, on and off screen.

After her success in My Lady of Whims, Clara Bow was billed as “Clara Bow – Movie Star” in her thirty-third movie, Fascinating Youth, which went on general release on August 23, 1926. 

Fascinating Youth was a silent romantic comedy. The movie starred Charles “Buddy” Rogers, on debut. Buddy Rogers would soon become a regular in Clara’s personal and professional lives. 

Many well-known personalities, including Clara, made guest appearances in Fascinating Youth, judging a beauty contest. 

This movie was just a filler for Clara. Paramount recognised that they had a star on their hands, and were keen to cast her in bigger projects. At twenty, Clara’s star was bright, and it would become even brighter as the decade unfolded.

Clara Bow’s thirty-fourth movie was The Runaway, a melodrama produced between January 26, 1926 and February 27, 1926, and released on April 5, 1926. 

Clara played Cynthia Meade, a movie star who erroneously assumes that she has murdered someone and consequently flees to Kentucky. 

William Powell featured in the picture which, sadly, is now regarded as lost.

Clara Bow’s thirty-fifth movie was Mantrap a silent comedy directed by Victor Fleming. Fleming also directed The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and many others. 

Mantrap was produced between April 7 – May 12, 1926 with location shooting at Lake Arrowhead, California, and released on July 24, 1926. Clara played Alverna, a flirtatious manicurist.

Clara and Fleming had an affair, at the same time that Clara was conducting a relationship with actor Gilbert Roland. Indeed, affairs were commonplace during this phase of her life.

In the silent era, through no fault of her own, Clara Bow was the most undereducated star to make the grade. Furthermore, she was the only star at Paramount without a morals clause in her contract. Ironically, she was the star in greatest needed of one. 

Clara needed guidance and Fleming, a much older man, offered that to some extent. But for Clara the person to thrive, someone at Paramount should have devoted time to her wellbeing. Instead, the studio’s focus was on the millions of dollars Clara was making for the company.

Clara Bow’s thirty-sixth movie was Kid Boots a silent comedy produced between June 14 and July 26, 1926, and released on October 4, 1926. Clara played Clara McCoy. Eddie Cantor co-starred in his first film.

Clara was a very generous actress who assisted her fellow players. An example of her generosity can be found in Kid Boots. In one scene, Clara’s character was supposed to quarrel with Eddie Cantor’s character. They played that (silent) scene as a quarrel, but in reality, while conveying anger to the camera, Clara was offering Cantor words of encouragement.

Cantor offered this insight: “She told me, ‘be yourself’. She is. She is never camera conscious and acts on the set as she would in her home. While the camera ground away and caught all her pretty frowns, she was saying, ‘Eddie, ya doin’ fine! Just flash them banjo eyes and there ain’t nothin’ to it!’”

When Kid Boots opened in Manhattan, police were needed to control the crowds. Clara Bow, superstar, had well and truly arrived.

1920s – 1960s