Saturday, March 13, 2010

Madonna, Clara Bow, Elinor Glyn, Gloria Swanson, Marilyn Monroe, and 'It'.

Being obsessed with the 1920's, 50's and the 80's with the spillover into each new decade...usually the first 2 to 3 years, as a teenager, I thoroughly investigated the first two decades of the aforementioned. Around 1986, I discovered Clara Bow and 'It' - I've been enamored ever since. As I was writing this post, I was listening to my 1920's Radio Network. Coincidentally, Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians Memory Lane (1924) played.

Novelist and scriptwriter Elinor Glyn, who was born and died while the sun was in Libra, wrote a novel called "It" in 1927.  She coined the term It and gave many confusing and sometimes contradictory explanations for what "It" meant, but she always said that "It" did not mean "sex appeal" and anyone who said it did was vulgarizing her concept. Nonetheless, it was as a euphemism for "sex appeal" that "It" entered the language in the 1920s.  From this we get the concept of Clara Bow's film It.

Screen Cap from the film It:

In David Stenn's Clara Bow biography Running Wild (1988), he spoke of Madonna's continuing interest in playing silent film star Clara Bow on the big screen. Unfortunately, this never happened.

Smoldering Clara circa 1928:

Madonna by Steven Meisel in Bow-esque pose in 1991:

Monroe as Clara Bow photographed by Richard Avedon in 1958:


Here is a clip of Clara in Mantrap (1926) - the film that inspired both Monroe and Madonna.

Elinor also wrote Beyond the Rocks, which starred that other glamour silent film queen, Gloria SwansonBeyond the Rocks had been long lost, then found and restored in the Netherlands in 2005. Here we have a dapper Rudolph Valentino and a Swanson looking most vampish, groovy and cool.  It is one of my favorite silents starring Gloria.  Elinor is also credited with personally revamping Gloria from a giggly starlet into an elegant movie queen.

Prince's Around The World in a Day record cover featuring Clara:



  1. I'm also very interested in those decades mentioned, adding the 30s (which were especially good for movies I find) and really, 20th century arts/culture in general. I saw "It" early last year - what a hilarious film, and Clara Bow was adorable in it. And of course, if anyone has that "it" factor, it's Madonna.

    Great pics, vids and info!

  2. Genius post, Pud. I've always thought the David Stenn bio on Clara would make a great biopic. Except it would be difficult to find someone to play her, I think. (I am often disappointed at the casting choices when it comes to biopics. For instance, the rumored film about Blondie with Kirsten Dunst as Debbie Harry? Um, NO.)

    If there ever IS a Bow film, maybe Madonna could produce?

  3. These video snips are AWESOME. I wish I could travel back in time when all these were filmed.

  4. Madonna always make us see all the best things.

  5. bd - glad you liked it. love 20th century arts and culture across the board - just more drawn to the 20's, 50's & 80's. xo

    getty - great idea!!! she should direct.

    shane - wanst that gloria swanson one insane? im so obsessed with her.

    ique - totally. xo