Clara Bow has been thinking. She's been thinking about producers and fame and picture people and newspaper men and fans and marriage and children and talkies and whoopee and Harry Richman---in fact, about Life. And her thoughts are pretty bitter for a twenty-three-year-old girl who is supposed to have everything.
You couldn't find a more genuine or a more honest person than Clara. She is still---when they'll let her be----that crazy kid from Brooklyn. Sweet, generous, simple-hearted.
She was put down in the most cruel and artificial city in the world, and forced to spend her youth there. And she is still at war with the life she has to lead.
After seven years she can no more change her temperament to suit this life, than she can change herself physically into a svelte woman of the world.
You can almost see on her face the constant battle that is raging. One minute, brooding and bitter. The next, radiant and child-like.
Clara is confused. She is still instinctively friendly and trusting. But she has had so many slaps in the face that cynicism is putting up a hard fight against her natural sweetness.
Sensational in personality and in success, she has been persecuted more than any other individual in pictures. Everything she does is seized upon and exaggerated.
By a gradual process of shutting out the world, she is trying to shield herself from the constant barbs. Her beach house is plastered with signs, "Invited Guests Only." But even the high wall she has built around her section of beach can't shut out the prying eyes. So Clara Stays in the house, a prisoner to her own longing for privacy.
She has been harshly attacked by movie critics. Once she read every word and cried. Now she has learned never to look at reviews of her pictures. Not even the good ones.
She even turns night into day in her effort to escape from the world. Between pictures, she sleeps until three or four in the afternoon, and leads her life after most people have gone to bed.
When the phonograph is going full blast and she's alone with her friends, Clara is happy. But when she's alone with her thoughts, life is pretty black.
"I was thinking," Clara said, curling up in a big chair, "and I have learned that pictures take away more than they give. You spend all your youth and all your energy to attain the thing you thought you wanted more than anything else in the world, and when you get it, you find you don't want it. It not only doesn't bring you happiness, but you find it has robbed you of all the other things that might have given you happiness.
"People say to me, 'Clara, you should be the happiest girl in the world.' But what have I got? Money never meant anything to me when I was poor, and it doesn't mean anything now. It's only in the last two years that I've made anything to speak of. And I'm not a girl who is alone---I have a family to support, and I'm always giving money to all kinds of charities. If I weren't a picture star, I could live on a hundred and fifty dollars a week just as well as I live now.
"I hardly ever go out, because I don't like being recognized in public the way a lot of stars do. I feel awfully uncomfortable, get red in the face and can't enjoy myself. And I know all the time that, a few years from now, no one will know me.
"Some people kid themselves about their fame, and that alone is enough to make up to them for everything. But not Clara Bow. I may be dumb about a lot of things, but that's one thing I've thought out, and I don't kid myself. I'm glad people like me, and that thousands of them write me letters. But I know that isn't real friendship, and that the minute I do something on the screen they don't like, they'll turn against me. I'm famous, but it means nothing to me except a lot of hard work and people staring at me on the street and snooping into everything I do. It means nothing to me but a lot of unseen bars.
"It's awful the way you're driven by the studio. The first two years had a lot of glamour, but after that it seemed like work. They give you two weeks off and you have to spend every minute of it posing for pictures, making appearances, giving interviews. You can never go away for even a few days. The minute you go away, they send for you. Your life isn't your own for a minute. You can't love the man you want to, or get married, or have children, without the whole world prying into your affairs, asking impertinent questions. If you don't tell them every intimate detail of your life, they think you're disagreeable and high-hat.
Why, I like to have little secrets---you know what I mean. But I can't have any.
"What if I went to Mr. Schulberg, and said, 'What did you have for breakfast? Where do you live? Where did you spend the night? How old are you?' He'd give me a good crack in the face. Yet he thinks we should tell all those things to perfect strangers.
"People don't know the truth about pictures, and there's just one reason: because the studios don't want them to know it. People don't know that the studios are factories that you get up at seven and work hard all day under uncomfortable conditions, and get home, dead-tired, in time to have supper and go to bed.
"They think you get up when you please, go to the studio when you please, make the pictures that you like in the way you like, and then have a grand and glorious time all night.
"Some day I'm going to write a book---get someone to help me, someone to write the words and phrases. And I'll just talk to them and tell the truth about the whole thing. it's awful, the way it takes the best years of your life away, the way you have to work all the time, be driven by the studio, give up everything else, and spend those years in one place---and such an awful place! Gorgeous to look at, but full of terrible people---so mean, so petty!
Picture people are the worst of all. They're so jealous of each other, so anxious to find something to criticize. They're the ones who look over my fence---they want to see who's here, who Bow has on the string now. So I stay indoors most of the time, but they even try to look in the windows.
"You know, I'm just the opposite of what people say about me. I'm not a whoopee girl. I have five or six friends who don't criticize me. I can be myself with them---I can be silent if I don't feel like making a lot of noise, I can sit still if I don't feel like throwing my arms and legs around. I have my secretary and her boy-friend down, play cards and dance around. I'm happy if I have a highball and three meals a day and a place to sleep. I know that's all there is. Just as long as I'm left to myself and not spied on.
"I didn't have any fun in New York at all, because Harry and I were followed and spied on every minute by reporters who thought we might get married without letting them know. They even followed us up to Boston. We didn't get married, as we had planned to, just because of that.
"And then they were furious because we didn't! They expect you to regulate your whole life just so they can get a good story.
"I got awfully sore at the newspaper people in New York, because they were terribly mean to me---really nasty, you know what I mean. I finally got so I wouldn't pose for pictures or say anything.
"Then they said, 'She's really mad about publicity. She's just putting on an act.'
"But when I did try to be nice and obliging and posed without any fuss they said, 'Miss Bow was only too anxious---!'"
Clara paused with a helpless gesture. "So what are you going to do? Whatever I do, it's wrong. If I act gay, people say I'm wild. If I'm quiet, they say, 'Oh, she wants to be poised.' and the most harmless little things, that someone else could do without being criticized, are terrible if I do them.
"The reporters lied about me and misquoted me. Well, I won't be misquoted again. Just once more, and I'm going to stop all interviews. I won't stand for it. It's cruel. It's unfair, to make a person's life utterly miserable.
"And I get the reputation for being mean and disagreeable. I'm naturally a sweet person and I want to get along with everybody, if they'll just let me alone. I don't care what anybody else does. It doesn't matter to me. And I want to help people and be nice to them, not knock them and drag them down all the time. Why can't they be the same way with me?
"I love children. Oh, I know every girl in pictures says, 'I want a home and babies,' but that's not it. I adore puppies, and anything that's little and babyish. And when I get ready to get married and have a baby, I'm going to do it, and I'm not going to let the screen or anything else get in my way.
"All I ask is to be let alone and to have the privacy everyone is entitled to. And I'm going to have it, even if I have to leave the screen to get it!"
Clara sat up straight, with her eyes blazing.
"I'd leave right now, if I could afford to. I hate talkies. They're stiff and limiting. You lose a lot of your cuteness, because there's no chance for action, and action is the most important thing to me. And people are so quick to pounce on you if your voice isn't perfect.
"But I can't buck progress, and I have to do the best I can. Now they're having me sing. I sort of half-sing, half-talk, with hips-and-eye stuff. You know what I mean---like Chevalier. I used to sing at home and people would say, 'Pipe down! You're terrible!' But the studio thinks my voice is great. I don't like it, but I never like anything I do. I look on myself as I would another girl.
"And I'm really not the girl I play. I wish I were. She's much happier than I am.
"Once a man explained to me why I'm more successful in those flapper parts than anybody else. Because all the time the flapper is laughing and dancing, there's a feeling of tragedy underneath. She' kind of unhappy and disillusioned all the time. That's what people sense. They can't analyze it, but it's what makes her different from other whoopee girls.
"And I guess it's true, because I really feel that way. I smile, but my eyes never smile. Kind of a Laugh, Clown, Laugh idea---you know what I mean."