Archive for Clara Bow

Girl Shy (1924)

Posted in Dailies, Silent Film with tags , , , on June 16, 2009 by leclisse

Theatrical poster for Girl Shy (1924)Harold Meadows (Harold Lloyd) is an apprentice to his uncle, who is the town tailor in Little Bend, California.  Poor Harold has made it his life’s mission to study that most elusive of all species, women.  His problem, however, is that he develops a debilitating stutter if forced to interact with them.  He must content himself with observing from afar, and assembles his notes into a guide for the modern man called The Secret of Making Love.  Armed with the completed manuscript, Harold makes his way by train to the big city in order to sell his work to a publisher.  While on the train, however, Harold meets the adorable Mary Buckingham (Jobyna Ralston).  Harold saves Mary’s pet dog from being seized by the train conductor, and the two are obviously smitten.

When Harold finally arrives at the publisher, his manuscript falls into the hands of the office personnel, who find the whole idea of the guide to be uproarious fun.  The publisher doesn’t see the market potential in the book, and sends Harold away with his hopes shattered.  It is only after Harold’s departure that the publisher realizes the comic possibility of such a title, and sends him a check for $3,000 in advance royalties.  Meanwhile, Harold and Mary are in the haze of infatuation, and bump into each other once again.  Even though they are clearly smitten with one another, Harold is convinced that he is a nobody, undeserving of Mary’s love.  He pretends to lose interest in her, and Mary returns home, defeated, and agrees to marry the slimy Ronald De Vore (Carlton Griffith).  Unbeknownst to Mary, Ronald already has a wife that he keeps hidden away in Little Bend.

Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston in Girl Shy (1924)Harold knows the woman who is Ronald’s wife, and the two of them happen to see a newspaper notice announcing Mary’s imminent marriage.  Horrified, Harold leaps into action and begins a lengthy chase scene when he frantically uses any means necessary (at one point comandeering an electric streetcar) to make his way to the Buckingham estate before it’s too late.  The wedding and the chase are shown one step at a time, each inching closer to the finale.  Harold leaps into the ceremony just before the priest is about to announce Mary and Ronald man and wife, and spirits Mary away in true “cave man” style.  Of course, all ends well for Harold and Mary.

Girl Shy is another delightful romp in the cannon of Lloyd films, and is his second pairing with Ralston.  Ralston came in as Lloyd’s choice to replace Mildred Davis as his recurring leading lady.  Their palpable chemistry produces a wonderful emotional depth that only adds to Girl Shy‘s appeal.  After some brief internet browsing, it does not seem that much is known about Ralston’s life.  She was born in South Pittburg, Tennessee in 1899 to stage struck parents who encouraged her to find a life on the stage.  After a brief stint on Broadway, comedian Max Linder convinced her to head West to Hollywood and carve out a career for herself in the burgeoning film industry.  By 1923, she achieved enough notice to be named one of that year’s selection of WAMPAS Baby Stars, an honor that Clara Bow would also go on to win in 1924.  With the WAMPAS award under her belt, she starred with Lloyd in Why Worry? that same year, which would be the first of their six feature-length pairings.

Jobyna RalstonPrivately, Ralston was married two times — the first to a childhood sweetheart, and the second to fellow actor Richard Arlen.  Ralston met Arlen on the set of Wings (1927), the classic WWI aviation spectacle co-starring Arlen, Clara Bow and Charles “Buddy” Rogers.  In Wings, Ralston plays Sylvia Lewis, the girl that both Arlen and Rogers pine for while ignoring Bow as the “girl next door.”  Ralston and Arlen had only one child together, future actor Richard Arlen, Jr.  Ralston ended her film career by 1930 after making only two talkies because she had a noticeable lisp.  She and Arlen finally divorced in 1945, and for the next 22 years she suffered from chronic rheumatism and (later) a series of strokes.  She died at the Motion Picture Country Home in 1967 at the age of 67.


Dancing Mothers (1926)

Posted in Dailies, Silent Film with tags , on May 23, 2009 by leclisse

Review from Variety, February 17, 1926

Dancing Mothers

Famous Players production of the stage play by Edgar Selwyn and Edmund Goulding. Directed by Herbert Brenon and the screen play written by Forrest Halsey. Conway Tearle, Alice Joyce and Clara Bow featured. Reviewed at the Rivoli, New York, Feb. 14. Running time, 71 minutes.

Ethel Westcourt Alice Joyce
Jerry Naughton Conway Tearle
“Kittens” Westcourt Clara Bow
Kenneth Cobb Donald Keith
Mrs. Massarena Dorothy Cumming
Irma Elsie Lawson
Hugh Westcourt Norman Trevor

F.P. isn’t quite sure whether the ending they’re using on Dancing Mothers, wherein the mother gets wise to herself and walks out on her selfish husband and daughter is the right one. So the Rivoli programs carry one of those coupons asking for an audience expression of opinion–the alternative ending probably being that the wife forgives them all and comes back to take up where she left off.

In plot this is the old one about the mother who put on her vamping clothes to get the man with whom her daughter was in love–to get him and throw him over, as a protective measure for the kid. But the mother, who had patiently sat by the fireside for years while her husband and daughter went the wild pace of the day, fell for the man who “threatened” her daughter and the ultimate view shows the mother preparing for an ocean voyage with him. As an excuse for her desertion of her rooster and chick, the plot harps heavily on the point that the father and daughter though only in terms of themselves and their reason for wanting her to stay was to make their own easy lives easier.

Dancing Mothers is a well produced, beautifully played and generally good picture which has one bad feature–and that almost ruinous. It has an anti-climax which makes the concluding episodes seem long and weary. The point of the story is whether the mother really falls for the man she hoped to trick–or whether she resists him. It is quite clear that she falls, and after she does there is a flock of pleading, of subtitles and other choice bits of whatnot to delay the action, which will bring the whole thing to a finish. So for the regular audiences outside the bigger towns, the alternate happy ending and some heavy cutting on the last two reels would seem the solution of the problem.

Alice Joyce runs away with the film. As the mother she is beautiful and attractively gowned in every scene, while her affair is handled nicely by the director. Conway Tearle is okeh as the handsome lover, the only trouble with him is that his makeup worked itself into some creases on the neck.

Clara Bow is the flapper daughter and she appears to greater advantage than at any time since Down to the Sea in Ships. Somebody has told her to quit trying to make everybody believe she’s a great actress and just be herself, for the dark makeup on the eyes is out–the artificial emoting stuff is canned and her performance generally is the excellent result of an excellent director. Norman Trevor is good as the perplexed father, while Dorothy Cumming, as a friend of the wife, gives what she gives to any picture–a good performance.

Dancing Mothers should get over because the scenery, up to that anti-climax, is tight and well knot, and with a possible alternate ending, it would seem that a recutting of the film might turn the trick.

Film Posters and Publicity Stills

Dancing Mothers (1926)Dancing Mothers (1926)Alice Joyce in Dancing Mothers (1926)Clara Bow in Dancing Mothers (1926)

Clara Bow and The Wild Party (1929)

Posted in Books, Dailies with tags , , , on April 6, 2009 by leclisse

Today, I came to the end of David Stenn’s breezy volume on the inimitable “IT” Girl, Clara Bow. On the whole, I quiteFashion plate! enjoyed Stenn’s examination of one of the most “neglected and underrated of all film actresses” – a sentiment not to be taken lightly coming from the likes of Louise Brooks. Aside from the scandals and revelations that wracked Clara’s life, there were a few lighter details of note that I found quite interesting:

  1. While on a European tour to promote 1932’s Call Her Savage, Clara made a stop in Germany.  According to Stenn, in Berlin “a starstruck Adolf Hitler presented her with a signed copy of Mein Kampf. ‘For my most esteemed friend Clara,’ he wrote, ‘with the wish that she derives the same pleasure reading this book as I did writing it.  Adolf.'”  “Madness” was all Clara had to say.
  2. In an interesting twist on Clara’s hedonistic youth, 1964 saw her supporting arch-conservative Barry Goldwater in his bid for the presidency.  Clara wrote to fellow sexual rebel-turned-political reactionary Lina Basquette that “[o]ur dollar has shrunk to a dollarette and people run around seeking more pleasure, less work, more pay.  The Fabian Socialists are ruining us.”  In a letter to Hedda Hopper, she also accused choreographer Agnes DeMille of being a communist.

Despite the attention showered on Clara with the publication of Stenn’s biography, I was unable to find much else in the way of substantial critical analyses of Clara or her films.  Scholarly journal articles appear to be nil – I found one discussing the role of It within the context of rising female consumerism in the 1920’s, and second article looking at the flapper comedienne.  I suppose my expectations were somewhat inflated with the relative wealth of academic work on Louise Brooks that is readily available (not to mention her own scholarly work for the film journal Sight and Sound, among others).

Lobby card from THE WILD PARTYIn the wake of this Clara Bow high, I tried to find some of her other films through the Interlibrary Loan system, but was only able to get a hold of The Wild Party (1929).  Directed by Dorothy Arzner and co-starring Frederic March, The Wild Party sticks close to formula but is notable as Clara’s first talkie.  Clara plays Stella Ames, the party girl with a heart of gold at an all-girls college.  Stella falls for the handsome new anthropology professor, Dr. Gilmore (March), but their love is threatened by disciplinary expulsion from the college.  I think the film stands as an item of curiosity, mainly from the contributions of its star and director (Arzner was one of the few female directors in Hollywood at this time, and the first one to direct a talkie – 1928’s Manhattan Cocktail).  Other than that, however, the film creaks and clunks along due to the primitive state of sound technology in Hollywood at the time.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever seen an early talkie that I would honestly call good.  It’s a wonder I was able to make it through Coquette (also 1929).

I feel like opening it up for general discussion – which early talkies would you consider to be good films?  By “early” I’m referring to the period from 1927 with Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer to about 1930.  By 1931, sound films hit the ground running with the likes of The Public Enemy (which made a star out of Jean Harlow in a role that, incidentally, almost went to Louise Brooks), Dracula, Frankenstein, and M.

Q&A: How did it all begin?

Posted in Dailies, Silent Film with tags , , , on March 29, 2009 by leclisse

From Movie Viewing Girl:

Who was the actor/actress that you were first interested in?
Claudette Colbert.  I remember seeing So Proudly We Hail and It Happened One Night while on vacation at my grandparents’ house.  My grandma always took my brother and me to the library to check out movies for the week, and for some reason these caught my interest.  I was so captivated by Colbert that I had to see every one of her films that I could get my ten-year-old hands on.

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It (1927)

Posted in Dailies, Silent Film with tags , on March 20, 2009 by leclisse

Glass Slide from "IT"What is “IT”?  According to author Elinor Glyn, “It” is a “self-confidence and indifference to whether you are pleasing or not, and something in you that gives the impression that you are not at all cold.”  The fabulous embodiment of it is the vivacious Clara Bow, star of that aptly titled 1927 hit film.

It was the first Clara Bow film I had ever seen, and several years later, I am still spellbound by her vivacity and irresistable charm.  Clara shines as the shopgirl Betty Lou, who is enraptured with her handsome young department store employer.  Betty Lou has plenty of It, and plenty in reserve, too.  She thinks nothing of claiming her friend’s child as her own in order to ward off snooping welfare workers, nor does she let rumor and innuendo stop her from pursuing the man of her dreams.

On its own, It is a delightful tale of a tenacious shopgirl who sets her sight on the handsome and aloof young son of her department store employer, played by Antonio Moreno. 

Clara’s performance is what sets this film apart from being merely a pleasant diversion from the vaults of silent cinema.  Her vivacity and spunk resonate with modern audiences in a way that transcends the typically affected mannerisms of many of her contemporaries. 

Clara captivates her audience with a genuine poignancy, evident not only in her remarkable range of facial emotions, but also in the way she handles the demands of each scene.  She rises above adversity in such a way that garners something more than sympathy or admiration.

“She danced even when her feet were not moving. Some part of her was always in motion, if only her great rolling eyes. It was an elemental magnetism, an animal vitality, that made her the center of attraction in any company.” – Adolph Zukor

2009 Topps Heritage Clara Bow

Posted in eBay, Guest Blogger with tags , , on March 5, 2009 by mjprigge

CROSSOVER ALERT! L’eclisse has been kind enough to invite me to blog about a topic near and dear to me… Trading cards! Particularly this dandy card of the It Girl, Clara Bow.

Clara Bow Topps Heritage Card

Anyway, this is part of the 2009 Topps American Heritage series. Topps has used some of their classic baseball card designs to present a variety of American icons, including Civil Rights leaders, Inventors, Statesmen, Entertainers, etc. Miss Bow is one of the Entertainers in the series, along side Buster Keaton, Joe Namath, Will Rogers, and others. Topps issued a similar sets in 2001 and 2002, called “American Pie” (sorry, no Stifler), although both sets featured baseball-heavy checklists, with a few baby boomer heroes (JFK, Marilyn Monroe) thrown at the end. The American Heritage set, however, is one of the first major sets to feature only historical figures.

This can not properly be considered Clara’s rookie card. Cigarette companies had been offering baseball cards as premiums as early as the 1880s (there were also used to prevent the filter-free smoke from being damaged), and would soon begin to issue cards featuring a wide range of images, from world flags to animals. The first movie-related cards showed up by 1910 and in 1913, the first card series featuring Movie Stars was issued by Major Drapkin Tobacco. By this time American companies had largely stopped issuing trading cards, leaving the vast majority of movie star cards to be issued in Europe. By the mid-twenties, there were over a dozen cigarette makers offering sets of Movie Star cards. The earliest Clara Bow card I was able to find was a 1928 issue, released in England. Bow had several other cards issued throughout the 20’s and 30’s, the majority of which actually were released after the collapse of her career and her 1931 mental break-down that resulted in her being briefly institutionalized.

The great thing about the movie star tobacco cards is their affordability. You can easily find one for less than $10 on eBay, while baseball cards from the same period run about five times higher, even for minor stars. The American Heritage Bow will run you about 50 cents, with the rarer chrome foil version (individually numbered to 1776) for about two bucks.