Who is Clara Bow? Taylor Swift's new song title sparks theories about meaning

6 February 2024, 12:43

Taylor Swift makes Grammy history as female musicians sweep top gongs

By Katie Louise Smith

The final track on The Tortured Poets Department tracklist is called 'Clara Bow' but who is she and how does her life story connect to Taylor Swift?

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Less than a day after announcing her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, Taylor Swift has unveiled the tracklist.

Swifties have already discovered easter eggs that most of the songs could be about Taylor's ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn ('London Boy' to 'So Long, London', anyone?) but there's one other name on the tracklist that has prompted a wave of theories. Who is 'Clara Bow'?

Throughout her discography, Taylor has sung about a handful of real life famous people, including Rebekah Harkness ('The Last Great American Dynasty') and her own grandmother Marjorie Finlay, who was an opera singer and TV personality. Clara Bow can now be added to that category, as she was a legendary silent film actress.

In those songs, Taylor draws comparisons between their lives and hers so, naturally, fans are now speculating as to how Clara Bow fits into Taylor's storytelling. We won't know for sure until the track drops but until then, here's all the latest theories.

Who is Clara Bow and how does she relate to Taylor Swift?

Who is Clara Bow and how is she connected to Taylor Swift? Swifties already have theories about the song
Who is Clara Bow and how is she connected to Taylor Swift? Swifties already have theories about the song. Picture: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Clara Bow was an American actress who rose to fame in the silent film era of the 1920s. She was one of the few stars who successfully transitioned to the "talkies" era.

She later became known as Hollywood's "It Girl" and is considered a personification of the Roaring Twenties thanks to her iconic flapper style. She's also credited as having a key role in shaping film and fashion culture.

However, despite successful professional career, her personal life was often the focus. Biography.com writes that Clara had "an overloaded work schedule" and was constantly under "celebrity scrutiny".

"She had been associated with a number of men off-screen and her romantic life became the object of much hurtful speculation and gossip, including a pamphlet put forth by an assistant with stories of Bow's relationships," the profile writes.

Clara sadly suffered a breakdown and retired from acting in 1933 and became a rancher in order to escape Hollywood. She married and had two children but continued to struggle with her emotional and mental health. She died at the age of 60 in 1965.

While we have no idea what the song is actually about, fans have already drawn several comparisons between Taylor and Clara – particularly the parts about the intense media scrutiny and speculation about her private, romantic relationships.

Fans have also started sharing one particular quote issued by Clara in 1933 that echoes Taylor's "I had a marvellous time ruining everything" lyric from 'TLGAD'.

"My life in Hollywood contained plenty of uproar. I'm sorry for a lot of it but not awfully sorry. I never did anything to hurt anyone else. I made a place for myself on the screen and you can't do that by being Mrs. Alcott's idea of a Little Woman."

The real gag of this quote, however? It was published in The Kansas City Star newspaper... Kansas City? What are the chances!?

Others have also theorised that the significance of 'Clara Bow's placement on the Tortured Poets Department tracklist could be a hint at what to expect from the song.

'Clara Bow' is the final song on album (not including the bonus track, 'The Manuscript'), and fans think the placement could hint at Taylor moving out of her 'silent' era (a.k.a. the six years she spent away from the public eye with Joe Alwyn), and into her new era, where she is vocal and unapologetic about her successes, and maybe even her relationships.

More theories will no doubt pop up about the meaning behind the song when it's released on April 19th...

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