Clara Bow may have been one of the most famous women in the world in the 1920s, but she’s back in the news a century later thanks to Taylor Swift.
Renewed interest in the late actress sparked after the songstress announced her 11th studio album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” at the 2024 Grammy Awards, revealing the track list shortly thereafter.
One song in particular, titled “Clara Bow,” caught the eye of many Swifties, who were quick to draw parallels between the lives of the two famous women.
Read on for everything you need to know about the silent film star.
Who was Clara Bow, and what made her famous?
Brooklyn-born Bow first pursued a career in acting as a teenager.
After winning Brewster Publications’ annual “Fame and Fortune contest,” she moved from New York to Hollywood, Calif., in 1923.
She found success during the silent film era, most notably in the 1927 smash “It,” which launched her to megastardom.
Following her turn as the plucky shopgirl Betty Lou, she was dubbed “The It Girl,” which became a colloquialism used to this day.
Known for her magnetic charm, Bow often subverted gender conventions and wielded her sex appeal to create her public image.
In addition to her career, which spanned 46 silent films and 11 talking pictures, Bow’s personal life became fodder for tabloids. She was reportedly a lot more “brazen” than her fellow movie stars of the time, according to The Guardian.
“She wasn’t well liked amongst other women in the film colony,” actress Lina Basquette once said of Bow, per the outlet.
“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.”
Did Clara Bow ever marry?
Bow met Western actor Rex Bell on the set of their 1930 film, “True to the Navy.”
They said “I do” the following year and welcomed two sons: Tony Beldam (who later changed his name to Rex Anthony Bell Jr.) and George Beldam Jr.
The couple retired from public life in 1933 and moved to a ranch in Nevada with their kids.
The former actors were married for more than three decades until Bell died of a heart attack on July 4, 1962.
How did Clara Bow inspire Taylor Swift?
While fans will have to wait until April 19 to find out exactly how Swift took inspiration from Bow, some believe there are clear parallels between their lives and careers.
The Grammy winner previously told a similar story with her “Folklore” song “The Last Great American Dynasty,” in which she channeled socialite Rebekah Harkness, who lived in the Rhode Island mansion now owned by Swift.
Bow, for her part, retired from acting at the age of 28 — the same age Swift was when she retreated from the public eye in the lead up to her “Reputation” era.
BBC documentary producer Elaine Shepherd said Hollywood took a toll on Bow, who quickly rose to international stardom.
“The studios were working her to death. She was on heaps of primitive pills to get her out of bed in the morning and to get her to sleep at night,” Shepherd previously told the BBC.
“Executives were trying to exploit her as much as possible, gossip magazines were writing the most awful lies about her, and she was dealing with all that on her own, as a woman in her twenties,” she continued. “She just found it way too stressful.”
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How did Clara Bow die?
Bow spent her final years in Culver City, Calif., where she died of a heart attack on Sept. 27, 1965.
She was 60 at the time.
Are there any other links to Taylor Swift’s music?
Swift’s legion of dedicated fans were quick to point out that Bow’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which she received in February 1960, is located at the corner of Vine St. and Sunset Blvd.
In her song “Gorgeous,” Swift croons, “Whisky on ice, Sunset and Vine / You’ve ruined my life, by not being mine.”
It may be a pure coincidence, but fans will soon find out when Swift drops “The Tortured Poets Department.”