Who Is Clara Bow? Meet the Silent Film Star Who Inspired Taylor Swift’s Song
Swift announced the album during her acceptance speech for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2024 Grammy Awards on Feb. 4. She also nabbed the trophy for Album of the Year for her last studio album, Midnights, making history in the process.
She teased that the album has been a secret she's kept for nearly two years and that it will be available on April 19, 2024.
As for the track list, one title that stands out is "Clara Bow," which closes out the album before a bonus track.
Fans on social media were quick to connect the song to a Hollywood Walk of Fame star located at Sunset and Vine in Los Angeles representing the 1920s actress its named after.
Now, Swifties are eagerly connecting the dots between the "Anti-Hero" singer and the Old Hollywood starlet.
Who Is Clara Bow?
Clara Bow was a Brooklyn-born silent film star and 1920s It Girl who transitioned to "talkies" (i.e. films with sound) in 1929. She became iconic as the face of Roaring Twenties Hollywood as the ultimate flapper and achieved global fame for her film roles.
She starred in 46 silent films and 11 talkies, including Mantrap (1926), It (1927) and her final film, Hoop-La, which was released in 1933.
Bow was so iconic that her films were guaranteed hits and she received thousands of fan letters per month at the height of her fame.
She retired from acting in 1933 after her 1931 marriage to Rex Bell and became a rancher in Nevada along with her two sons.
Bow passed away in 1965 at age 60 from a heart attack.
What Was Clara Bow’s Tragic Life?
Clara Bow's early life was riddled with tragedy.
She was born in Brooklyn in 1905 and grew up with little money, moving frequently. Her father was often out of work and absent and her mother suffered from epilepsy – also reported as schizophrenia by The Guardian – brought on by a fall from a second-story window when she was 16.
Bow spent much of her childhood caring for her mother, who was eventually sent to a sanitarium by her father after she attempted to kill Bow with a butcher knife. Bow's biographer claimed that her father sexually assaulted her when she was 16 while her mother was institutionalized.
The young star also lost a dear friend to a fire in her childhood. Bow attempted to save him by rolling him in a carpet to put out the flames, but he died in her arms.
During her career, she was heavily criticized for her "wild child" ways and working-class upbringing and was often told she was "too fat" by industry professionals.
The Guardian reports Bow was called cruel names like "birdbrain" and "dumbbell" by the studio executives she was making money for with her successful films. "I’m a curiosity in Hollywood. I’m a big freak because I’m myself!" Bow once said.
After Bow attempted suicide in 1944, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental health issues similar to her mother's. She checked herself into an institution in 1949 where she underwent shock treatment. After rejecting psychological diagnoses, she left the facility and moved into a bungalow alone until she died.
Why Did Taylor Swift Name a Song After Clara Bow?
While the official meaning of the song won't be known until the album releases in April, the most plausible speculation is the connection between Bow's status as an "It Girl" and Swift's own star power.
Everyone knows that Swift has had a huge few years with the release of Midnights and her massive Eras Tour becoming one of the highest-selling tours of all time. It makes sense that she might feel a connection to a star nicknamed "The It Girl."
Plus, Bow's love life was notoriously the talk of the tabloids during her fame, and obviously, Swift's love life has been discussed for her entire career, both in the media and in her own songs.
Plus, since Swift has often referenced the hardships that being a woman in the music industry can bring, she may find similarities with Bow in that aspect.
According to The Guardian, actress Lina Basquette once said of Bow, "She wasn’t well-liked amongst other women in the film colony. Her social presence was taboo, and it was rather silly because God knows Marion Davies and Mary Pickford had plenty to hide. It’s just that they hid it, and Clara didn’t."
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Gallery Credit: Ryan Reichard