“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.
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.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame
1500 Vine Street, Hollywood
The Hollywood Walk of Fame began as part of a 1956 city improvement plan aimed as means to “maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world.” The Walk of Fame is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust.
Clara Bow’s star is located on the East side of the 1500 block of Vine Street. It is on an awkward spot right on the exit of a parking lot so beware when trying to snap your photos.
1637 Vine Street, Hollywood
Near the corner of Hollywood and Vine resides the late 1930s location of the “It” Café. Opened by Clara Bow and husband Rex Bell on September 3, 1937, the “It” Café was located in the lobby of the Hollywood Plaza Hotel. Clara told the press that she would be a constant presence at the restaurant, supervising the chef and greeting customers. However, Clara became pregnant shortly after the opening so the “It” Café turned out to be a short lived venture for the actress. After Bow sold out, it became Phil Selznick’s “It” Café; Selznick was David O. Selznick’s uncle.
Although the Bells’ restaurant is long gone, the exterior of the building itself remains virtually unhinged. A sign marks the spot as a Hollywood historic site.
Have you visited any Clara Bow sights in Los Angeles or perhaps in New York? Do let me know in the comments!