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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Clara Bow Retrospective at UCLA's Hammer Museum

You may or may not know much about silent and early sound star Clara Bow. Either way, you don’t want to miss out on the retrospective happening at the Los Angeles Hammer Museum. There’s lots to love in an atmosphere of true fans.

Fridays and Saturdays, now through February 10 the UCLA Film & Television Archive at the Billy Wilder Theatre inside the Hammer Museum in Westwood is holding a great retrospective on the silent and early sound star Clara Bow. The double feature lineups exemplify the Bow personae as the ideal flapper of the 1920s (the popular party girl of that era) and the filmmaking standards of a much under-appreciated period of cinema history. This is an ideal opportunity to see one of the most beloved talents of the silent era on the big screen amongst an audience of her adoring fans. I can’t think of a better way to appreciate these sepia gems, or the explosive talent of a by gone star.

I learned about this little retrospective from a “Meet Up” group I belong to called TCM Classic Movie Fan Club - Los Angeles. I don’t usually join these kinds of things, but I noticed that the organizer (goes by JONO) was really on the ball and getting notices of rare and unique classic film screenings and events long before I was. And lots of them too! Basically his cache of contacts, connections and information feeds are what I long to provide here at (I’m very envious, but in a very admiring manner).

Although I had heard about many previous events my schedule is such that I’ve only been able to go to one other (the Jerry Lewis Tribute at the Academy), and the crowd was so big I didn’t get a chance to meet anyone from the group. This time around not only did I meet a very friendly and enthusiastic classic film fan (hi, Brooke!), I also had a wonderful time mingling with the other audience members who shared my affinity for old movies. It was just a golden evening from the moment I bought my ticket. There’s something very friendly about the Hammer Museum that embraces you into the fold as if you’re a member of a special community and the crowd it attracted that night shared that same attitude. It was obvious to me that many of the ticket holders knew each other from having met at similar screenings, so their ease of talking to each other just naturally extended to a new-comer: me.

Not only did I strike up a conversation with my seat neighbors on both sides of me, but also the three of us gathered together, side-by-side in order to share the experience together. And then in between the films those behind and in front of me also started up conversations just like that. As if we knew each other. Of course, in a way we did. After all, you kind of already know something about a fellow film lover before you’ve ever met, and it’s that kindred spirit that binds you long before you offer a word of introduction. In fact it is that love of the movies that makes that introduction for you.

Of course the films were a lot of fun to watch, and the experience was made that much more special due to the positive energy of the audience. I had never seen Hoopla or Call Her Savage before, so seeing them for the first time on the big screen was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. Little did I know that the event would not only expand my film knowledge, but my circle of friends. By the end of the evening the lady to the right of me and I exchanged cards (she too writes about classic films - I hope to feature her site soon), the gentleman on my left and I established enough of a report that we will undoubtedly sit together the next time we meet, and my fellow Meet Up group member and I will likely make that extra effort to attend more of the group events because of our recent connection.

All in all it was an excellent way for me to kick off my year of classic film watching. I encourage you to catch these Clara Bow films while you can, and dare you to make a new friend or two. It an atmosphere like the Billy Wilder Theatre it’s impossible not too. If you do go look for me, I’ll be wearing the black baseball cap with @ClassicFilms written on the front. I hope to see you soon!

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