Revenge of the Celebrity Secretary: The Career-Ending Extortion of Screen Star Clara Bow Crime in L.A. - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

Revenge of the Celebrity Secretary: The Career-Ending Extortion of Screen Star Clara Bow

Photograph courtesy derangedlacrimes.com

Clara Bow had appeared in about 40 films by the time she made Wings and It in 1927. Both films were financial and critical successes, and Clara was praised as “a joy to behold.” However, she would forever be identified as the It girl.

 There was no question that Clara Bow possessed “It” in spades. The public adored her, and for good reason: Bow had sex appeal infused with enough sweetness and innocence to make her approachable while avoiding saccharin.

Clara was making truckloads of money, as were her contemporaries. Many of them had no clue about what to do with their money except to spend it. Until about 1928, Clara’s money was managed by Bogart Rogers. In 1930 her money and her personal affairs were placed in the hands of her secretary, Daisy De Voe. 

On November 10, 1930, local newspapers reported Clara and Daisy had parted ways, and theirs wasn’t an amicable split. Both Clara and Daisy denied the stories of the break in their professional relationship. De Voe said: “As far as I know, I am still her secretary. Miss Bow has not served notice on me. I guess I’ll have to find out all about it.”

Clara refused to comment.

A few days later the story got even more interesting: it was revealed that Daisy had indeed been fired by Clara, and then had helped herself to some of her former employer’s valuables—diamond jewelry, a sapphire ring, and all of Bow’s insurance papers. In addition, Daisy had taken a $20,000 cashier’s check and a mass of personal papers, including canceled checks, paid and unpaid bills, and personal correspondence.

Despite the fact that De Voe had taken thousands of dollars worth of Clara’s belongings, the cheeky amanuensis was gearing up to file a suit against her former employer for several thousand dollars that she alleged was owed to her for back pay and expenses.

Daisy’s attorney, Nathan O. Freedman, announced that he was going to file a civil suit on her behalf against Buron Fitts (the D.A.) and Blayney Matthews (a chief investigator for the D.A.’s office). According to De Voe, the two had kept her at arm’s length for several days while they cleaned out her safe deposit box. Fitts didn’t think De Voe had much of a case since the majority of the items found in the safe deposit box belonged to Clara Bow. He told reporters:

“This matter came into this office in the nature of a formal request for a criminal complaint against Miss Daisy De Voe for the embezzlement of money and property belonging to Miss Clara Bow. The matter was regularly referred to Mr. Blayney Matthews, chief of the bureau of investigation. After several days of investigation, Mr. Matthews reported back that Miss De Voe had made a thirty-page confession of the theft of some $35,000 of Miss Bow’s money, a great deal of which was found in her possession. It is the policy of this office that before issuing a complaint against a private citizen, to first thoroughly investigate the case in order to prevent a mistake or miscarriage of justice. This investigation was completed today, and this office has no other alternative under the law but to place the matter before the county grand jury.”

Daisy was quick to deny having made a confession, and she boasted that she had nothing to fear from the grand jury, but she had spoken too soon: The grand jury indicted Daisy De Voe on thirty-seven counts of grand theft. Not only was it alleged that De Voe had walked off with some of Bow’s jewelry and personal papers, she was also accused of withdrawing approximately $16,000 [equivalent to $222,434.49 current USD] from one of Clara’s accounts. De Voe was arrested and immediately posted a $1,000 bond so she wouldn’t have to await her arraignment from behind bars.

***

Photograph courtesy derangedlacrimes.com

De Voe’s trial began on January 13, 1931, and Daisy’s attorney quickly directed the jurors’ attention away from Daisy’s alleged bad behavior by shining a light on Clara’s lifestyle. According to information gleaned from canceled checks, Bow spent over $350,000 [equivalent to $4.8 million current USD] between February 1929 and October 1930 on clothing, automobiles, and going out. Freedman’s diversionary tactics included questioning the actress about payments for whiskey (which was illegal at the time).

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