Who is Silent Film Star Clara Bow? Her Name is a Track on Taylor Swift’s New Album ‘The Tortured Poets Department’

Red Hair Clara Bow, 1928
Everett Collection

In case you’re sick of hearing about Taylor Swift, don’t worry, this article only slightly mentions her. She just dropped her brand-new album titled The Tortured Poets Department and one of the tracks is called “Clara Bow” and left fans wondering if it is about the life of silent film star Clara Bow. Let’s find out who Clara Bow was and what she was famous for. If you are a Swiftie, this might help you decode some of the lyrics too.

Listen to the song below and hear the Stevie Nicks reference too.

Who is Clara Bow?

Bow was one of the biggest stars during the 1920s silent era. She was born on July 29, 1905, in Brooklyn, New York, and had a rough upbringing. Her mother was institutionalized after suffering from mental illness and Bow was left under the care of her abusive father. To escape her home life, she competed in Brewster Publications’ annual “Fame and Fortune contest” and won, proving to herself that she could become a star, and moved to Hollywood in 1923.

Call Her Savage Clara Bow,1932

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

What movie made Clara Bow famous?

While she did become a star, she was also known for her party-girl ways and sex appeal. She is often credited as the inspiration for the cartoon character Betty Boop, who also had short hair and a red-lipped cupid’s bow mouth. During her career, she starred in 46 silent films and 11 “talkies.” Perhaps her most famous film was It in 1927, and no there are no killer clowns in this one. She starred as Betty Lou, a shopgirl who aims to woo her employer, and the film gave her the highly-coveted title of an “It girl.” The same year, she also starred in Wings, a film that became the first to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

It Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, 1927

Everett Collection

Just as she was becoming an “It girl,” she was also the victim of many vicious rumors, fueled by her partying ways. The press put her personal life under a microscope and in 1931, things got even worse as her former secretary Daisy De Voe was indicted for stealing money, jewelry, and personal papers from Bow, exposing some of Bow’s love letters and illegal dealings with alcohol (remember, this was the time of Prohibition). The trial and its fallout broke Bow and forced her to check into a sanitarium, and eventually retire from acting altogether. She died on September 27, 1965, after having a heart attack.

Wings Clara Bow, 1927

Everett Collection

We can see how Swift might make some obvious comparisons between herself and Bow, both are women who were under the scrutiny of the public eye and often criticized for every choice.

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May 2020

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