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When I first started to the Bayside High School in Brooklyn, I was still a tomboy. I wore sweaters and old skirts made over from my mother's. I didn't give a darn about clothes or looks. I only wanted to play with the boys.

I guess I was about fourteen or maybe fifteen when my mother had quite a long spell of being almost herself. Her health was better and things brightened up quite a good deal. Then she began to take a little interest in my clothes and my looks. She combed my hair a new way, so the curls fell around my face, and she made me a pretty dress, that was cut in at the waist and showed pretty plainly that I wasn't a boy after all.

Right away there was a change in the boys' attitude toward me. Oh, I was heart-broken. I couldn't understand it. I didn't want to be treated like a girl.

There was one boy who had always been my pal. We always fought each other's battles and he used to catch on the baseball team I pitched for. Well, one night when we'd been out skating, he kissed me on the way home.

I wasn't sore. I didn't get indignant. I was horrified and hurt. It seemed to me that the end of everything had come. I knew now that I could never go back to being a tomboy. The boys wouldn't let me. They'd always liked me so well, I'd always been their favorite. Not to kiss or be sweet on, but because I was game and could run fast and take care of myself. They'd always liked me better than those sissy girls that put powder on their noses.

Now that was over. No matter how much I wanted to be a tomboy still, I couldn't. The boys wouldn't let me.

I wasn't ready for the dawning of womanhood, for the things that would take place of what I had lost. I'd been cast out by my pals. The girls still made fun of me for being a tomboy. I was absolutely alone.

I had never liked to study. I was just skimming along because I was naturally quick, but I never opened a book and the teachers were always down on me. I don't blame them. I guess I must have looked pretty hopeless. But I often think now, when I come of myself to realize how I love reading, how much I want to know things, that it wasn't all my fault. If they had made me see what I see now, by myself, I know I would have been good.

In this lonesome time, when I wasn't much of anything and hadn't anybody except Dad, who was away most of the time, I had one haven of refuge. Just one place where I could go and forget the misery and gloom of home, the loneliness and heartache of school.

That was to the motion pictures. I can never repay them what they gave me.

I'd save and save and beg Dad for a little money, and every cent of it went into the box office of a motion picture theater. For the first time in my life I knew there was beauty in the world. For the first time I saw distant lands, serene, lovely homes, romance, nobility, glamour.

My whole heart was afire, and my love was the motion picture. Not just the people of the screen, but everything that magic silversheet could represent to a lonely, starved, unhappy child. Wally Reid was my first sweetheart, though I never saw him except on the screen. He was Sir Galahad in all his glory. I worshipped Mary Pickford. How kind and gentle and loving she was. Maybe there were people like that in the world.

A great ambition began to unfold in me. I kept it hidden for fear of being laughed at. I felt myself how ridiculous it was. Why, I wasn't even pretty. I was a square, awkward, funny-faced kid. But all the same I knew I wanted to be a motion picture actress. And I can say one thing, right here. If I have had success beyond my own greatest dreams, it may be that it is the reward for the purity of my motive when I first dreamed that dream. For I truly didn't think of fame or money or anything like that. I just thought of how beautiful it all was and how wonderful it must be to do for people what pictures were doing.

One day I saw in a paper an announcement of a contest. Not a beauty contest. I wouldn't have dared to enter that. This said that acting ability, personality, grace and beauty would be judged in equal parts.

I went to Dad. Shyly, I told him my dream. He was so kind. He always understood. He was harassed and miserable and overworked, but he was kind and understanding always.

He gave me a dollar. I knew, even then, what a sacrifice it was to him. I went down to a little cheap photographer in Brooklyn and he took two pictures of me for that dollar. They were terrible.

Without daring to tell mother, I sent them in to the contest. And sat down to wait and pray.

No star ever has spoken so frankly,
so bravely about her childhood and early
struggles. No actress has written more
dramatically or truthfully about her rise to
fame. In the second installment of her Life
Story, Clara Bow tells Adela Rogers St. Johns
about her first pathetic efforts to find a place
for herself in the movies. You won't want to
miss a word of this great Life Story.

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