As I promised last night on Facebook, here is a short, factional piece I wrote last night. To recap, for those who are new visitors, or have short memories, last month I underwent a past life regression last month. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered I was an actress in Hollywood in the 20’s, and 30’s, though not Jean Harlow. A small part actress named Clara Johnson, in fact.
Given that I have a contest running somewhere, where one of the options is to have her, and Jean Harlow in the same piece, I came up with this.
A more regular blog will follow shortly
Before anyone gets any ideas, pretty much all of this is fiction. I have included a few of the glimpses of knowledge I have about my previous life in this, but unfortunately, the ‘interview’ between her, and S. lasted about 10 minutes or so, and no longer. So, only a few questions got asked.
If anyone wants to pay my airfare, so that he can put me under, and regress me for several hours, and do a full interview, well, we might learn a lot more about her. But for now…
The Clara Johnson story
Oh, hi. Never thought a small time actress like me would ever get to tell her life story, but I’m told people want to hear it, so…I’m told its less for what I did, and more for who I knew! 😉
A brief resumee of my early life. I was born in 1905, just outside Philadephia, the second of four children, named after my maternal grandmother. Somewhere, up the coast in Brooklyn to be exact, a more famous Clara was also born in the same year, but more on her later. Oh, and yes, I worked with her, as an extra, once or twice! My background was a lot better than Ms Bow’s, but not as high class as Harlow, if you were curious.
Despite my quiet, genial nature, I seemed to have an acting talent. Got to appear in many plays at school, which is why, at the age of 18, I headed up to New York, to try and become a movie star. Yes, I got to work in the movies, but only as an extra, not a real star. But as I quickly learnt, if you were flexible, and you were keen, then it wasnt so hard to live on the pay of an extra, if you worked most days, and I did.
I wasnt going to live like Mary Pickford, but my own little place, in New York City, you bet I could!
(For those who dont know, back in the early 20’s, NYC ran Hollywood a close second as a movie making centre)
But moving on, in 1925, I couldnt resist the buzz, and excitement coming out of the West Coast, and decided to head out there for a while, and see if the new city could make dear little Clara a big star, just like her namesake, Clara Bow was already doing.
No, you guessed it, especially if you look on the film lists of the era, never happened. But again, a willingness to work, and an ability to not turn into a studio with a hangover, got me plenty of bit part, and extra work. And yes, the wages were decent enough, that Clara could have her own little place, near to the studios, and have a good little life. Ten dollars a day may not sound a lot now, but back then, it paid for a lot of things, if you worked 4, or 5 days a week, as I did.
I worked with most of the big names, though you would never have noticed me, even if all those films had survived over the years (I gather they havent, shame). Bow, Pickford, Lloyd, Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and plenty more. Quite a list, even if I never made the casting lists to prove it, but believe me, I was there.
But OK, I’ve read the press advert, I know who you want to know about, Jean Harlow. Yes, I got to work with her again, after she made it a couple of times, but I knew her long before then. She was sweet, down to earth, and always told me that she couldnt see why I hadnt got the big break, and tried to point it out to a few people. But, to be honest, by then I was less focussed on my movie career, and more on how my man, Clark was doing in his, so I was happy sticking to the bit part work by then, in all honesty.
No, not Gable, I wish! Clark Davis, cameraman, in fact. But anyway, thats getting ahead of myself.
I was first introduced to Jean in 1928. She was working as an extra with Stan, and Ollie, losing her dress, or most of it, so I gathered. I was working in a studio across the road, with Keaton (name dropping again), as a girl that he literally ran into, and a few things that, err, developed from there. Best part of a week’s work, for little effort, suited me fine.
She was fine, we shared cigarettes, we shared booze, we certainly had fun together too. No, not in that sense, we were both very much into boys! Or her, older men, it seemed, but besides… Demanding mother, crazy step father, and all that, just made me glad I was living on my own, with no hassle. Fine, within 3 years, I got a boyfriend, within 5 I was married, but hey, who’s counting? 😉
For a year or so, we shared cigs, and booze, and boys, and then she got her lucky break, when the talkies came along. Me, my voice was fine, I kept working, unlike some. But my work was still the bit parts, even if the pay that brought in was still enough for me. I did see what Jean was supposed to be earning, and I wish…ah well!
But then, one day, I was working on a William Powell movie, and one of the young(ish) guys working the cameras, asked me out for lunch. About my age, mid twenties, nice looking, so I went for it, especially as I hadnt really had much of a lunch mate, since Jean made it.
Yes, Clark. Good company, all round nice guy, and by all reports (I checked around the MGM studio to be sure), a guy who was going to be going places. And what’s more, he fancied a sweet girl, me! So yes, we continued to date, he got me a few bit parts I might not have otherwise got (handy connections), as well as the work I was getting for myself. And yes, about 18 months later, he proposed, I said yes, and a year later we got married.
And shortly after that, well, I teamed up with Jean again. She was the big star, making a movie called ‘Bombshell’, and Clark, and a few others, knowing our history, got me a small part in the movie. Never credited, but it was a decent part, all the same, about 3 weeks work in fact!
The thing that amazed me, was that the moment I walked on set, Jean recognised me, squealed with delight, and ran up and hugged me, and asked how things were. That day, I ended up having lunch with her, just like old times, but this time it was at her ‘little place’ at the studio, not just by the side of a food van. Oh wow, how the other half lived, but it was fun, we talked about the old times, and for most of the 3 weeks I was around, for filming, we did the same thing most days.
No, Clark wasnt working on that movie, but he was at the studio, working on something else. Yes, 2nd Cameraman, a pretty important role, earning a tidy sum of money. In truth, I didnt really need to be working by then, his money would have given both of us a comfortable life, but I enjoyed the work, and hey, it was all I knew. But yes, the promotions continued, and so did his wages increase, and about 3 years later, we both wanted to have a kid, and I agreed, 2 more films, and then I’d retire, and become a mother.
The last film, in the less than stellar career of Carla Johnson (I’d kept my single name, for my acting career) was a movie called Thin Ice, starring the ex Ice Skater, Sonja Henje, and a promising new actor named Tyrone Power. Me, I had a small part in the movie, and for the first time in my life, my name actually appeared in the credits. Nothing personal you understand, just that until about 1935, or 36, anyone less than the stars never got credited. But now, things were changing, and there I was, Carla Johnson, on the cast list.
And it was in the last few days of filming that I heard some really sad news. Firstly, that Jean had been taken really ill, and had gone home from working on Saratoga. Then even worse, she went and died. Kidney failure or something, nothing that could be done back then about it, couldnt believe she was gone, at the age of 26.
I couldnt get to her funeral, only the ‘big folk’ got to do that, and even if Clark was now one of the head cameramen, we werent high enough up the MGM picking list to be selected. We waited for the fuss to die down (and heavens, there was plenty of fuss at the time), and then went up to Glendale, and paid our respects.
A few months later, well, I was in the family way! 6 months or so later, a baby daughter was born to the Clark family, and let me tell you, labour was painful. I think Clark thought I was kidding when I said no more children, but as he discovered, I meant it. We had plentiful sex, but only at the safe times of the month!
Clark didnt get called up to serve in the war, he was in his late 30’s by then, and given his movie making skills, they let him serve at home, doing those. I’m not saying I’m sorry about that, a lot of brave men went to the war, never returned, but…
Though I never worked in the movies again, it wasnt actually the end of my career. Did a few small things on radio, bringing in a few extra dollars, even if we didnt really need it by then. He may not have earned what Jean did, but Clark’s salary was pretty decent, shall we say? But it was fun, working on this new fangled thing, and I could easily do it, while having my daughter close by, and it didnt matter that I was fast approaching 40, I could still play breathy ‘young things’ on the radio, all the same.
Thing was, back then, we all regarded smoking as cool, and trendy. Yes, I know, now you know differently, but back then…So, by the early 50’s, I was struggling with my breathing, and went to the doc’s. Lung cancer, all the smoking I’d done for about 25 years had caught up with me.
I lasted until 1953, when it all finally caught up with me, and I died. My husband, and my now teenage daughter cared for me, until the end. I too was buried at Glendale, though in a site far tamer, and less expansively than Jean’s! Oh, her name? Guess what, we called her Jean too! Not that it was Harlow’s real name, but anyway…
I got to heaven (seemingly I made the grade), and heard a squeal of delight. Yes, Jean was there waiting for me.
5 years later, I got the call, had the chance to go back again, and have a new life. Fine, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, but I went for it, and…the rest is history!
The only things in there that I know are fact, are her approximate birth date, and location, the fact she was in Hollywood by 1927, that she married someone called Clark, had one daughter, and died somewhere in the early 50’s, from lung cancer, or some other smoking related illness. Oh, and she was in that film, its the only one she actually gets credited at Imdb for! One day, I need to be regressed again, and find out so much more