Who Is Clara Bow? Meet the Actress Named on Taylor Swift's 'Tortured Poets Department'

The actor and original 'It Girl' is the inspiration behind the final track on Swift's 'The Tortured Poet's Department.'

Following a months-long wait, Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, is out! First announced in February as she made history at the Grammys by taking home album of the year for the fourth time, the album has fans bussing over tracks like "Fortnight" with Post Malone and "Florida!!!" with Florence + the Machine, but one song in particular is garnering plenty of attention and leaving fans asking: who is Clara Bow?

Listed as the final track on side D and the closing track of the 16-track album, aside from the bonus tracks – "The Manuscript," "The Albatross," "The Bolter," and "The Black Dog" – "Clara Bow" is named after an actress who rose to fame during the silent film era of the 1920s. Born in 1905 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Bow got her start on the big screen as a teen when, at 16, she won a small part in the film Beyond the Rainbow (1922) by way of a magazine's beauty contest. She went on to move to Hollywood and sign with Preferred Pictures, becoming an Old Hollywood star during the 1920s with roles in Mantrap (1926), Wings (1927), and It (1927). a film adapted from an Elinor Glyn novella. Her success in the films, particularly It, caused her fame to skyrocket and made her one of the original Hollywood "It" girls, according to the Brooklyn-born actress' Biography.com profile.

Reclining Clara
(Photo: John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

Despite her ultra-successful career, Bow retired from acting in 1933 following a number of scandals and a nervous breakdown. According to Biography.com, the actress "suffered from an overloaded work schedule, celebrity scrutiny and the lingering traumas of her upbringing" and had been "associated with a number of men off-screen and her romantic life became the object of much hurtful speculation and gossip," much like Swift's own romantic life. The Guardian reported that Bow was eventually "snubbed by the in-crowd" while "studio executives tried to manipulate her, calling her a 'birdbrain' and 'dumbbell,' while she continued to make them masses of money at the box office."

After suffering a breakdown in 1931, she retired from acting in 1933 and escaped Hollywood altogether, becoming a rancher in Nevada alongside her husband Rex Bell, whom she married in 1931, per Brittanica. According to welcometosilentmovies.com, the couple initially kept their romance secret, with Bow later revealing they did so for the sake of privacy.

The actress, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 1960, died of a heart attack on Sept. 27, 1965, in Los Angeles at the age of 60, per The New York Times.

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(Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Prior to The Tortured Poet's Department's Friday release, Swift had not commented on the track named after Bow, but many fans quickly picked up on the similarities between the singer and Bow. Both women achieved immeasurable fame while they were young, and both were the center of gossip for the better part of their careers. Many fans are also theorized about the placement of "Clara Bow" as the final track on the album.

Reacting to Swift's song named after the actress, Bow's great-granddaughters Nicole Sisneros and Brittany Grace Bell noted that the two icons are "both pioneers in their field. Clara Bow was one of the first really big movie stars and had to pave a way. She just had that larger-than-life presence on screen and was able to portray any role. Her tenacity to focus on her career [is] very similar to Taylor."

"Clara Bow" marks Swift's latest song centered around an actual person. "The Last Great American Dynasty," from her 2020 album folklore, is about Rebekah Harkness, the American socialite who owned the singer's current Rhode Island home, fondly dubbed Holiday House. "Epiphany," also from folklore, is partially inspired by the singer's veteran grandfather Archie Dean and his time in World War II when he fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal. Meanwhile, "Marjorie," from folklore's 2020 sister album evermore, is about Swift's late grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, who was an opera singer and TV personality.