Archive for the 'Film' Category
“We had individuality. We did as we pleased. We stayed up late. We dressed the way we wanted. I used to whiz down Sunset Boulevard in my open Kissel, with several red chow dogs to match my hair. Today, they’re sensible and end up with better health. But we had more fun.”
– Clara Bow
Whilst visiting Los Angeles last year, I made a point of visiting as many Clara Bow related locations as I could. Because there’s only so much you can fit in a two week trip, I couldn’t see every single Bow related sight. Therefore, consider this is an incomplete pictorial tour of the places where Clara Bow lived, worked and played. I’m already itching a second visit to the City of Angels so hopefully it won’t be too long before I can do a follow-up post!
Unless otherwise noted, the vintage Bow images are from the incomparable Clara Bow Archive.
Homes: 512 N Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills
“Up one of the winding roads of Beverly Hills, tucked close to a yucca-covered hillside, sprawls a country home of Spanish type. You can see it a mile away, its tile roof of a red blotch, as daring as Clara’s own auburn curls. It is Clara’s place, you know. Exactly the place you would expect a flapper to live. The dazzle of it almost hurt my eyes.”
– Brighter Homes magazine, 1928
This is the residence where Clara Bow lived at the very height of her fame and the location of her infamous parties. The seven-room Spanish style bungalow was built in 1925 and bought by Clara a year later. Once described by Louise Brooks as “Disneyland”, Bow furnished the house by herself and was especially proud of her “Chinese room”. Besides lounging in her boudoir, Clara’s favourite hobby was roller-skating up and down the driveway outside her home.
512 N Bedford Drive today
I had read comments online that said Clara’s old home has recently been demolished and I’m sad to report that the rumours are true. A whole new house now stands where Clara’s one story home once was. It is heartbreaking to see historical buildings demolished – and especially devastating when a piece of Hollywood history is forever gone. It felt bittersweet to walk the street and imagine Clara Bow roller-skating here to a curious audience some 85 years ago.
Final resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Clara Bow’s final resting place is in the Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. She was buried beside husband Rex Bell, who died in 1962. Clara followed three years later, on September 27, 1965.
On our first day in Los Angeles, my friend Meg kindly drove Dan and I to Forest Lawn to pay respects to my favourite Hollywood stars, Clara and Jean Harlow. Unlike Harlow’s, Clara’s crypt is easily accessible by the public. There is a chain at the entrance to the Sanctuary of Heritage, where Clara’s crypt resides, but I sort of… broke and entered (respectfully, mind you!) to leave a rose for our It girl.
5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood
Today, most of the major motion picture studios have left Hollywood for places like Burbank and Culver City. Only one big name movie studio still stands and continually operates in Hollywood: Paramount Studios. Paramount is also one of the few studios that admit the public on regular guided tours of the studio’s huge backlot.
In 1925, Clara Bow’s success in Preferred Pictures’ The Plastic Age led Paramount to snap up the actress, who signed her first contract with the studio in 1926. Clara, “the hottest jazz baby in films”, scored in hit after hit for Paramount in 1926: Dancing Mothers, Mantrap, Kid Boots… In 1927 she became Paramount’s biggest draw when she starred in Wings and It. Several of Clara’s films were shot at the Paramount Studios.
The one studio tour that I knew I absolutely had to do was Paramount. Upon arrival, I immediately expressed my love of Hollywood history to our very friendly tour guide and name-dropped Clara Bow and Billy Wilder’s 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. All of my Norma Desmond-ian fantasies came true as I got to pose by the Bronson Gate and Stage 18, seen in the film during Gloria Swanson’s visit to the studio to meet Cecil B. DeMille. However, apart from a photograph hanging in the lobby of the Paramount Theatre and a building named Bow, there wasn’t anything related to Clara Bow that our tour guide could point out. Nevertheless, a visit to the legendary Paramount Studios is certainly a one of a kind event for all fans of classic Hollywood.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Today, as part of the Jean Harlow Blogathon, I will discuss how the Production Code affected MGM’s Red-Headed Woman (1932, directed by Jack Conway and starring Harlow), a vice film of the pre-Code era. It is an interesting case study, which illustrates the extent of Code activity during the earlier period. Even though the Production Code was not officially enforced until 1934, Red-Headed Woman underwent many revisions ordered by the Studio Relations Committee and was, in fact, heavily affected by the Code. The following write-up is based on one of my recent essays, in which I discuss the treatment of both Red-Headed Woman as well as Warner Bros.’s Baby Face (1933).
The Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code after Will Hays, was the set of censorship guidelines that governed the production of the majority of movies released by major American studios between the years 1930 and 1968. Every story considered, script written and film produced was subjected to a thorough cleansing by industry censors before reaching the screen. The Code was a form of self-censorship on behalf of the film industry. It was created to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image after a series of notorious scandals and keep away the involvement of federal censorship. The Code marks the beginning of Hollywood’s “Golden Age”; it began with the birth of the Code – and ended with its demise. The Production Code was an integral part of the studio production system.
The pre-Code era spans the duration of four years: from March 31, 1930, when the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) formally pledged to abide by the Production Code, until July 2, 1934, when the MPPDA empowered the Production Code Administration to enforce it. During the pre-Code era compliance with the Code was a verbal agreement and it was supervised by the Studio Relations Committee (SRC), which Hays created to implement the guidelines. The SRC worked closely together with the studios to remove material that would offend censors and thus potentially harm the studios’ financial investments. It should be noted that in 1930 neither Hays nor the SRC had authority to order a studio or a film-maker to neither remove material nor ban a movie from being screened.
Pre-Code Hollywood did not generally adhere to the strict regulations on matters of sex, vice, violence and moral meaning forced upon Classical Hollywood Cinema after 1934. Indeed, it is commonly argued that little censorship activity took place during the pre-Code era because compliance with the Code was a negotiation between the SRC and the studio in question.
The Great Depression and the decline of cinema attendance during the 1930s lead the studios to seek profit by new ways, and the films containing racy and violent content resulted in high ticket sales. Vice films, also called “sex films” by the censors, were hugely popular during the period. The films feature aggressive and heavily sexualised female protagonists generally of two kinds: the bad girl or the fallen woman. Although the Production Code was adopted in 1930, it is widely understood that it was most often ignored by the film-makers and studios during the pre-Code era, and the embrace of sex, violence and vice in the content of the films made during the period can be read as a testament to that. The producers viewed the Studio Relations Committee as advisory and saw state censorship boards and other censors as a minority effort, not as representative of mainstream America.
Red-Headed Woman stars Jean Harlow as Lillian ‘Lil’ Andrews, a young woman who targets her rich, married boss, Bill Legendre Jr. (Chester Morris) – and any other male – for social and financial advancement. In the film Lil breaks up a marriage, has multiple affairs, pre-marital sex and attempts to murder Bill by shooting at him. At the end of the film she gets away with all of this without any form of punishment, and ends up living in luxury in Paris. Even Bill refuses to prosecute Lil despite her having moved on to a more powerful man by the time of the shooting.
Richard Maltby notes that the difference between Red-Headed Woman and previous examples of the vice film is that it lacks any sense of melodrama and provides a comic rather than melodramatic conclusion. The ending certainly is a strikingly unusual feature in the picture, considering the time it was made in. The film also features heavy drinking, brief nudity and blatantly sadomasochistic elements. Red-Headed Woman was a box office success and not only ensured the commercial viability of Harlow’s upcoming releases but also resulted in Hays’ fear that other studios would feel themselves obliged to imitate and outdo each other in competing for the sensational element with future cinema releases.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Welcome to 21st Century Flapper!
My name is Riikka and I hail from Helsinki, Finland. I'm a film researcher and a freelance journalist, a sartorial devotee of vintage fashion and endlessly fascinated by early 20th century visual culture. I write about film, fashion, design, architecture - and all things old and pretty.
Olen helsinkiläinen elokuvatutkija ja toimittaja, jonka intohimo on 1900-luvun alkupuolen visuaalinen kulttuuri. Blogi sivuaa kiinnostuksenkohteitani 1920- ja 1930-luvun elokuvista aina ajan muotiin ja designiin asti.
Don’t hesitate to say hi or contact in case of any questions at
riikka @ 21stcenturyflapper.com