"The only time I ever met Clara socially," said Moore in her book, "was at a party given by Adela Rogers St. Johns in her English country house at Whittier, California. Clara was very bright but flighty, with a sketchy education. Adela and Hope Leighton, a writer at Paramount, were trying to remake her, as it were-to interest her in reading and taking some courses of study.
"As I remember it, the party was being given in honor of William Randolph Hearst. In any case, Mr. Hearst was there, along with a number of other dignified and important people. After dinner we gathered around the fire to listen to them talk. The conversation was a fairly intellectual one, and Clara finally became bored, I guess, and decided the time had come to liven up the party.
"She livened it up considerably. She stood up and, after getting everyone's attention, proceeded to tell the dirtiest story imaginable, with such perfect pantomime nothing was left to the imagination.
"I was as shocked as everyone else, but I had to laugh inside, she did such a first-rate job. As for Adela, she took one last look as her Galatea was winding up this graphic performance, and fled."11
Why Colleen Moore would repeat this concerning someone who had been dead for three years can be summed up in one word-jealousy. Resentment dies hard.
In Dark Star: The Meteoric Rise and Eclipse of John Gilbert, by Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, the author states: "Clara Bow, whose sexual adventures were later rumored to have included the entire University of Southern California football team, appeared in a film called It..."12 It was "rumored"? Immediately, the author renders her statement suspect, an untruth? Fountain goes on to say, "And what about the actors? Could they talk? How well? Clara Bow had a Bronx honk." Clara was actually from Brooklyn and the rumor about the football team was disproved in Stenn's book.
What I find interesting is the omission of John Gilbert's affair with Clara Bow. It is not mentioned in Dark Star. However, it is definitely mentioned in Stenn's book, The It Girl, by Morella and Epstein, Sex Goddesses of the Silent Screen, by Norman Zierold, as well as Movie Star: A Look at the Women Who Made Hollywood, by Ethan Mordden. Perhaps Ms. Fountain feels it was beneath his dignity. This was written twenty years after Clara's death in 1965.
In the unusual film, Zelig, (1983), Woody Allen has a line, "Clara Bow invited him [Zelig] to spend a private weekend and bring all his personalities." The narrator had a touch of disdain in his voice as he said it. It was the low point of the film for me. I don't believe this comment was at all necessary. As a letdown, it detracted from the even flow of the art. Allen hardly moved, let alone acted in this feature, and to me he is not nearly as talented an actor as Clara. This is really a cheap shot from someone who didn't need to do it, and should have known better.
In Show Biz from Vaude to Video, by Abel Green and Joe Laurie, Jr., we read that "Jolson gagged about Clara Bow's 'sleeping cater-cornered in bed'-and listener outrage was so intense that NBC stared poring over scripts."13 Who was Clara alleged to have catered to after she cornered them? My enthusiasm for the art of these two men is now questionable, although others may not find their appreciation diminished. I just don't believe that slandering the deceased will bring you good luck.
Getting back to the written slander. In The Movie Lover's Guide to New York, by Richard Alleman, the author states, "Clara's brief fling with fame is often thought to have been the result of her fling with Schulberg."14 Thought by whom? This is ridiculous. She made a fortune for Schulberg and Paramount and they abused her continously. The old football story is here too, of course.
The next one goes even further. In Hollywood Reporter Star Profiles, Clara Bow's personal secretary, Daisy DeVoe, "described wild weekends in which the accommodating star was gangbanged by entire football teams, who were rewarded with crates of drink."15 Why not include the entire state of California while you're at it? "Bow's penchant for drink" is also mentioned, as it has been before. I wonder why she never became an alcoholic or drug addict, as both would have been excellent cures for her persistent insomnia. She was also rumored to have been a chronic gambler. Why is that none of these addictions plagued her in later life, cumulatively, as they would be so hard to shake individually by the average person? Perhaps because they aren't true. I also suspect Clara Bow was a lot stronger than anyone gave her credit for.
In Permanent Californians-An Illustrated Guide to Cemeteries of California, by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall, "The world learned that Coach Howard Jones had posted a notice in the U.S.C. locker room that 'Clara Bow was off limits to all members of his football team.' Venereal disease and Mexican abortions were sordidly revealed, and it was found that Clara had violated the morals clause in her contract."16 Even in a book on guided tours of cemeteries, Clara is slandered.
There is an old (1930?) MGM short, a studio where she never worked, with an all-canine cast, entitled Hot Dog. The lead character, "Clara Bone," shoots her husband after he finds her with her lover. It's all a dream, of course, with a happy ending. In fact, Clara married once, raised a family and never divorced. Colleen Moore married three times, Mary Pickford married three times, Gloria Swanson married at least three times...The list goes on, so why is Clara Bow singled out for slander?
In Memories magazine, December 1989/January 1990, Steve Govoni wrote an article, "A Confidential Matter," about his father, Al Govoni, managing editor of Confidential, a gossip and expose magazine from 1952-1958. The author alludes to a "phony story" about John Wayne, a case where the paper settled out of court with actress Maureen O'Hara, and the questionability of sources. The courts decided that Confidential had better clean up its act. The author concluded that "Confidential" lost its readership and faded into obscurity. When it folded years later, virtually no one noticed."
What I do question is the author's sense of nostalgic loss on the demise of a scandal sheet. He seems almost sad that it folded. After reading his own account, I'm glad Confidential is no more. How much money would they have made off Clara Bow had they been contemporaries? Would she have been able to defend herself the way Maureen O'Hara did? I doubt it.
In Erotic Movies, by Richard Wortley, a photo is captioned "Lesbians of Yesteryear, Clara Bow and Minna Gombell in Hoopla (1933)."17 This is purely ridiculous. Anyone who has ever seen this charming film will know Wortley hasn't. This is simply a blind journalist at his worst. It is sad so much ink is wasted.
And for an example of the ultimate in excremental journalism, a 1974 edition of Sleazy Scandals of the Silver Screen proves itself the nadir of cowardly, pointless media when it employs comic book form to drag the names and images of some of Hollywood's greatest stars, including Clara, through the toxic waste of its own prurient imagination.
In the June 27/July 3, 1990, edition of N.Y. Press, Mark Newgarden has a small article which has a small article which starts off, "Chaplin was a commie fag."
The Village Voice of May 22, 1990, has a notice for a film series entitled, Who Killed William Desmond Taylor? Mabel Normand is referred to as "his junkie ex-lover."
Is this, then, the purpose of the media? I have always felt the best thing a newspaper could do was to embarrass the corrupt politicians enough to occasionally give the semblance that they were earning the outrageous salaries they were stealing from the people. In a free society, a free press is essential. In the case of Clara Bow, however, among many other victims, they needed freedom from the press. I would prefer you, the reader, to seriusly think about this.