Clara Gordon Bow (July 29, 1905 - September 27, 1965) was an American actress who rose to stardom in the silent film era of the 1920s. Her acting artistry and high spirits made her the premier flapper and the film It (1927) made her world famous. Bow came to personify the “roaring twenties” and is described as its leading sex symbol.
Bow was born in a tenement in Brooklyn, New York, the only surviving child of a dysfunctional family afflicted with mental illness, poverty, and physical and emotional abuse. She was the third child of Robert Bow and Sarah Gordon; the first two, also daughters, died within days of their births. Bow was born during a severe heat wave, and Bow's mother, hoping that she and her third child would die from the heat, did not bother to call a doctor or get a birth certificate. Bow did not cry after she was born so her grandmother thought her to be dead and tried to make sure of it by shaking her, but miraculously, the baby awoke.
Suffering from severe neglect throughout her childhood, she was often filthy, hungry, and ill-clothed, for which other girls teased and bullied her; instead, Bow became a tomboy and ran the streets with neighborhood boys. One of Bow's only childhood friends, a boy named Johnny, was severely burned and died in her arms when she was nine years old. Years later, she would make herself cry at will on a movie set by asking the band to play the lullaby "Rock-a-bye Baby". She said it reminded her of Johnny because that was the song Johnny's mother would sing to help him fall asleep.