Clara Bow

  1. Peggy Shannon, The Secret Call, 1930.   And talking of calls… In Hollywood for just a few days, Ziegfeld girl Shannon got a surprise phone order from Paramount to turn up next morning to play Wanda Kelly in the (first?) phone-tapping drama. Because Bow, The It Girl, had, in turn, called Paramount saying she’d be a no-show when shooting started the next day. She’d had a nervous collapse, the fall-out of the court case exposing her “shocking” private life (“stealing”   Hollywood husbands and allegedly screwing the entire University of Southern California football team during a weekend party). She hung on for a while, but basically, she was finished in movies.
  2. Sylvia Sidney, City Streets,  l931.  Paramount  chief BP Schulberg punished Gary Cooper’s pay-strike by shoving him into Dashiell Hammett’s only original script (ten murders, none seen), while Rouben Mamoulian coached Bow about talkies.  She then got embroiled in litigation with her secretary Daisy  DeVoe  and  the project was almost  canceled until Mamoulian  told Schulberg: “Sylvia  Sidney  can run away with the  part!”  No wonder she referred to Mamoulian as Mr God. “If it hadn’t been for him, I’d never  have  been a film star.”  Or succeeded Bow as Schulberg’s mistress.
  3. Jean Harlow, Red-Headed Woman, 1931.     A major star is born… The blonde Harlow beat off eager competition from Bow, Joan Crawford, Lilian Roth, Barbara Stanwyck – even Greta Garbo! (Clara said she’d come back only as a director. She didn’t). Britain’s King George V had his own VIP copy of what Hollywood Reportert called “the sexiest performance since Clara Bow discovered It.” HM has better luck than his subjects as the film was first banned in the UK. Oh, it’s good to be a king.
  4. Constance Bennett, What Price Hollywood? (aka Hollywood Merry-Go-Round), 1932.   Bow wanted more It ! (Money, this time). And found it at Fox… So it was Bennett’s waitress being discovered by drunken LA director Lowell Sherman.   The re-makes were called A Star Is Born. All based on actress Colleen Moore and First National production chief John McCormick. The idea didn’t inspire RKO because Hollywood stories were like Bow – bad at the box-office.    
  5. Ethel Clayton,  Secrets,  1933.     In  her  last  film,  Mary Pickford  wanted  Clara  as her sister because “she’s a very great actress and her only  trouble has  been  that she hasn’t known enough about life to live it the way she wanted to live it.”  Hollywood’s first woman director Dorothy Arzner told the New York Times in 1977:  

“Clara Bow was a darling child, and she was thrown to the wolves,” “She was a vivacious, hair-trigger silent actress, with a marvelous variety of expressions, but when the talkies came in, they just threw her right in, and the poor child stuttered all the way through The Wild Party. Oh, you wouldn’t believe what the studios did to young people in those days.”
  6. Madge Evans, Stand Up and Cheer!, 1933.      Bow passed Mary to (good) Evans due to, er, health issues. The premise came from Will Rogers: US Pesident Roosevelt appointing a stage producer as Secretary of Amusement to raise the depressed nation’s spirits. His daughter made a better job of it. Of course, she did. She was Shirley Temple!
  7. Ketti Gallian, Marie Galante, 1934.     In ’33, Bow had been set opposite Spencer Tracy and then – as per usual – changed her mind.Tracy went into the Preston Sturgess (and not Graham Greene) tale, The Power And The Glory, and six films later, he was back intoGalante with a new Marie – a Harlowesque French blonde who failed to make the Hollywood big time.
  8. Madge Evans, Stand Up and Cheer, 1934.     She had the role until studio chief William Fox sacked her because Hoop-La bit the dust in 1932. Evans, 25 at the time, had been used to cameras since shooting Fairy Soap  commercials at age two. Clara  threw in  the towel, married B-cowpoke Rex Bell and high-tailed it out of town for Nevada… where he became Lieutenant Governor from 1954-1962.  
  9. Claudette Colbert, Under Two Flags, 1936.    Fox asked Clara to take over as Ronald Colman’s French Foreign Legion “mascot” girl, Cigarette,  when Simone  Simon  proved  temperamental. .  Bow would have  required  more  than two  flags to  cover her increasing weight.  
  10. Harriet Nelson, Take It Big, 1943.   Try as they might, producers William H Pine and William C Thomas could not talk Bow into a comeback. She quit – at 27 – after her 59th film, Hoopla, in 1932. Nelson, of course, was the Harriet of ABC’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (and their sons, David and Ricky) during 1952-1966.

 Birth year: 1905Death year: 1965Other name: Casting Calls:  10