Clara Bow The “It” Girl Made Only One Film In Color, and This One Minute Fragment Is All That That Survives
(And What Exactly is “It”)
Most movie fans never saw Clara Bow’s beautiful red hair except when illustrated on magazine covers. All but one of her films was made in black and white. Her red hair and Brooklyn childhood earned her, her original nickname “The Brooklyn Bonfire.”
So seeing the primitive color film clip below is a pleasant treat for classic movie fans.
With the exception of one film, Red Hair” which is now considered lost, this one minute fragment is all that survives of Clara Bow filmed in color.
If the last minute of Red Hair could be found we would see Clara Bow in as little clothing as the censors would allow.
So what exactly is “It”? Writer Elinor Glin wrote a magazine article called “It.” and a movie soon followed in 1927 starring Clara Bow. The sobriquet The “It Girl” was immediately and permanently attached to Clara Bow.
“Either you have “It” or you don’t have” It.” “It” is sex appeal definitely, but much more than that.
In a 1927 interview, writer Glyn said you must have ALL of the following qualities:
“A person who was a complex mix of many things. A person who was free from all self-consciousness. A person who has an irresistible magnetic appeal. A person who has complete self confidence. A person who must be indifferent to general opinion – but quite firm about your own. You must give the impression that nothing on earth could hold you or influence you unless you wished it. You must have individuality. You must be completely fearless. You must be perfectly true to yourself, whether that self is good or bad, for no sham of any kind can have ‘It’. And last of all you must be capable of deep and sincere love.”
Today “It” sounds like a lot of self absorbed famous for doing nothing celebrities – minus the love part.
In the 1920s “It” connotated something much more positive.
Bow’s flirtatious movie personality suited the “It” title character well, even if Bow herself could not define exactly what “It” was.
Bow said “I am a madcap, the spirit of the jazz age, the premier flapper, as they call me.”
This was what the public wanted to hear and Bow accommodated them by adapting that screen persona. But fame is fickle and Bow’s film career was relatively short. Bow made her screen debut in 1922 and her final film was made in 1933, at the young age of 28.
In an autobiographical article published in 1928 Bow explained. “You see, I had to make a niche for myself. If I am different, if I’m the “super-flapper” and “jazz-baby” of pictures, it’s because I had to create a character for myself. Otherwise, I’d probably not be in pictures at all. They certainly didn’t want me.
I was the wrong type to play ingenues. I was too small for a leading woman and too kiddish for heavies. I had too much of what my wonderful friend Elinor Glyn calls “It,” apparently, for the average second role or anything of that sort. I got turned down for more jobs, I guess, than any other girl who ever tried to break into pictures.”
Clara Bow assessed her off-screen life like this:
“I live in my little bungalow in Beverly Hills with my father. I work very, very hard. I like young people and gaiety, and have a lot of both around me whenever I have time. I like to swim and ride and play tennis. I have a few close friends, but not many acquaintances. I don’t have time. I am happy – as happy as anyone can be who believes that life isn’t quite to be trusted. I give everything I can to my pictures and the rest to being young and trying to make my father happy, and filling up the gaps in my education.
I don’t think I’m very different from any other girl – except that I work harder and have suffered more. And I have red hair.”
Clara Bow died in 1965 of a heart attack at the age of 60.