It (1927)

A review by Shlomoh Sherman
November 10, 2014

It (1927)
Plot: A salesgirl with plenty of "it" (sex appeal) pursues a handsome playboy.
Directors: Clarence G. Badger, Josef von Sternberg (uncredited)
Writers: Elinor Glyn (story), Hope Loring (screen play), Louis D. Lighton (screen play), George Marion Jr. (titles)
Stars: Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin
Plot Keywords: department store - newspaper reporter - reporter - hot dog - mother -
Genres: Comedy - Romance
Certificate: UK:U / USA:Passed (National Board of Review)
Country: USA
Release Date: February 15, 1927 (USA)
Also Known As: Das Gewisse Etwas
Company Credits:
Production Co: Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, Paramount Pictures
Runtime: 72 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White

I always knew there was a silent film called IT [not the Stephen King story] but that's all I knew except that I also knew that the star of the film ever after became known as "The It Girl". I didn't remember it but her name was Clara Bow. I didn't know anything about Clara, having never seen her in any movie.

Last week I had the opportunity to see IT on Turner Classic Movies channel, and boy am I glad that I did.

The story of IT is really quite simple. It's a romantic comedy about a department store salesgirl, Betty Lou, who becomes attracted to Cyrus Waltham, the owner of the department store where she works. Betty Lou makes friends with Monty, Cyrus' best friend, in the hopes that he will formally introduce her to him.
Her plan succeeeds and shorty lafter meeting Betty Lou, Cyrus falls in love with her and breaks off his engagement with his fiancee, Adela Van Norman. Betty's and Cyrus' romance cools when a newspaper reporter mistakenly writes a piece saying that Betty Lou is an unwed mother. It is now up to Monty to let his friend Cyrus know that the accusation is false. The story, of course, has a happy ending but the story of the movie IT is not the significant reason that I wrote this review.

Oh no! Clara Bow is the reason that I wrote the review.

I stated at the beginning that I had never seen Clara Bow before and the only thing that I might have known about her was that she was the famous "It girl", that is, if I might have remembered that the "It girl" was the actress Clara Bow. It may sound trite and damatic to say but Clara Bow won my heart. She was incredible!

I would not call her beautiful in the same way that Charlize Theron is beautiful, for example, but she is by far the prettiest, the most attractive actress that I have ever seen on the screen, and it is no wonder that America fell in love with her. But it is not only her looks that were attractive. It was her acting ability and what she did with her looks that attracted audiences, and most of all males. Clara Bow was made for movies. The camera loved her!

With amazing nuance, which came naturally to her, she could smile, weep, or convey ANY emotion which made the audience [me at least] love her and want to rescue her from whatever misfortune she found herself in. I said it came naturally to her. Clara Bow had no formal training in acting but it seems that as soon as the camera began to roll and got her in its frame, she just knew what to do. There is a sense of vulnerability about her that makes you want her to find protection in the arms of the right man. Perhaps while you are watching her on the screen, if you are a male, you might want to fancy yourself as that man.

Reviewers said that she was "Box Office Gold"; and that "the 'IT girl' was dynamic and "brought realism to film not seen before". She starred in the 1929 film WINGS - the first film to receive an Oscar. It was for Best Picture of the year.

Billy Wilder, filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films, said that Clara Bow "had the ability to appear 3 dimenstional in a 2 dimensional medium; only she and Marilyn Monroe shared that unique quality!"

If ANY actor or actress had "IT", it was Clara.

What exactly is IT, you ask? Elinor Glyn, in her 1927 novel, "It", said "To have 'It', the fortunate possessor must have that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes... In the animal world 'It' demonstrates in tigers and catsóboth animals being fascinating and mysterious, and quite unbiddable." The movie descibes "It" as "self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not". Glyn was an early 20th century author of novels which were then considered quite racy at the time but by 21st century standards would seem quite tame. Glyn appears in the movie as herself and was portrayed by Joanna Lumley in the film The Cat's Meow (2001), the semi-true story of the Hollywood murder that occurred at a star-studded gathering aboard William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924.

Not only did Clara Bow have no actual acting training; coming from a Brooklyn tenement neighborhood the density of which one writer described as more congested than Calcutta, and from a family with a history of mental illness and abuse, Clara had no education at all except what she picked up from the Brooklyn streets. But in the early 20th century, she was of first generation influenced by movies and she wanted to be a part of the movie world. But her childhood was tragic.

Clara's mother was a whore. Once she tried to kill Clara because she thought that her desire to become an actress was evil, more evil than being a prostitute. Her father, who was a drunk, raped her. After her success, he came to Hollywood to live with her and to sponge off her.

Clara Bow was the first film sex goddess. In life she had many sexual dalliances and was the subject of many sex scandals. There were rumors that she had sex in public, sex with women, sex with animals. By the age of 28 her career was ruined by scandal. She retired to private life, got married and had a family. But she suffered depression in that her loss of career led to a loss of her personal identity as a star. In 1965, she died at age 60.

Personally I am not negatively influenced by sex scandals in the life of any celebrity. I believe in the famous motto that "the spirit may be willing [to live well] but the flesh is weak". And after all, knowing about her traumatic childhood, her sex addiction comes as no surprise. My heart has been captured not by the "fallen woman" but by the delightful very sympathetic adorable actress, the IT girl! I hope that the Turner network will show more of her films, especially the talkies. I understand that her voice was as attractive as her face. Apparently I am not the only man moved by Clara Bow. Here's what a precocious teen ager has to say about her performance in IT.

Incalculacable (, from Perth, WA), in his own review, has this to say:
It's one of the best - I decided I'd watch a little bit of this film on the computer. Knowing me I usually get distracted and stop watching but this film was so very different. My first silent film, and already a favourite. I could literally not stop watching Clara Bow, she was absolutely fascinating. I'd read David Stenn's wonderful biography on her so it was great to see her finally acting. When she's on screen you block out everything else and her acting ability is wonderful - she can cry at the drop of a hat! So, instead of getting distracted I watched this movie the whole way through and enjoyed every moment of it... but my favourite parts were definitely with Clara. In fact, you could say I wasn't really interested in anyone else! This movie is HER movie. It's fun, flirty and just a great movie. I recommend it for anyone who loves silent movies, Clara Bow, or flirtatious movies pushing the limit. Age wise, I think I can recommend it for about 15 onwards - I'm 14 and I really enjoyed it - but not all teenagers will appreciate the film. Which is a pity, because it's wonderful!

He's 14, folks, and he already he's a great reviewer!

In a biography of Clara Bow, Priscilla Bonner recalled that Elinor Glyn visited the set a couple of times, wearing several purple veils that, it was obvious, were meant to mask recent plastic surgery scars that had not yet healed. Bonner said she disliked Glyn right away, finding her to be pretentious and artificial. However, she said she loved working with Clara Bow.
Though the film is billed as an adaptation of Elinor Glyn's novel "It," the two stories have nothing to do with each other except that both revolve around her concept of "It." In her preface to the novel, Glyn wrote, "This is not the story of the moving picture entitled 'It,' but a character study of the story which the people in the picture read and discuss."
Elinor Glyn gave many confusing and sometimes contradictory explanations for what "It" meant, but she always said that "It" did not mean "sex appeal" and anyone who said it did was vulgarizing her concept. Nonetheless, it was as a euphemism for "sex appeal" that "It" entered the language in the 1920s.

On the yacht, after playing the banjolele, Betty runs out of the frame carrying the instrument but in the next scene, she is empty-handed.

Inter-title card: In a shopgirl's day, the first thousand customers are the crabbiest.
[about slapping Cyrus when he tried to kiss her] Betty Lou: I'm sorry, but a girl has to do that. You know how things are.
Monty Montgomery: I feel so low, old chap, that I could get on stilts and walk under a daschund.
[Betty Lou first lays eyes on Cyrus Waltham Jr] Betty Lou Spence: Sweet Santa Claus, give me *him*!
[On whether Betty Lou lacks "reserve."] Cyrus Waltham Jr.: Personally, I think she has plenty - in reserve!
Betty Lou: So you're one of those Minute Men - the minute you meet a girl you think you can kiss her!
[Regarding Monty] Betty Lou: Him? He couldn't even give birth to a suspicion.
Cyrus Waltham Jr.: Madame Glyn, we've been talking about your latest story. Just what *is* this "IT"?
Madame Glyn: Self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not - and something in you that gives the impression that you are not all cold. That's "IT"!
Madame Glyn: [emphasizing, with her finger, to Cyrus] If you have "IT", you will win the girl you love.
Cyrts Waltham Jr.: Betty, I'm crazy about you...
Betty Lou Spence: [ebullient] I love you too!
Cyrus Waltham Jr.: I'll buy you diamonds, clothes, anything you want...
Betty Lou Spence: [insulted] What are you trying to do? Offer me one of those "left-hand" arrangements?
Cyrus Waltham Jr.: I'm crazy about you! Isn't that enough?
Betty Lou Spence: [walking out] I suppose that's what you men call "love"!
Monty Montgomery: [after he's crashed the yacht into a sailboat] Silly of me, but I'm afraid I overdid it - made a left-hand turn and what not...
Inter-title card: In a shopgirl's day, the first thousand customers are the crabbiest.
[last lines] Monty Montgomery: [consoling Adela Van Norman] We're just a couple of It-less "ITS"!
Cyrus Waltham Jr.: You idiot! Who's the girl?
Monty Montgomery: She's a ripping sort, really. She's positively top heavy with IT!
Cyrus Waltham Jr.: You know what sort she is - with a fatherless child!
Monty Montgomery: But I say - he isn't fatherless.
Inter-title card: Poverty is no disgrace - until meddling neighbors hear of it.

Message Boards:
Recent Posts:
Clara Bow! Is it me or is she the most beautiful woman I have seen? - prmass1
Romantic Comedy! - Beautiful_heretic
What's in Monty's hand? - strei022

Discuss It (1927) on the IMDb message boards

First Billed:
Clara Bow            ... Betty Lou
Antonio Moreno          ... Cyrus Waltham
William Austin      ... Monty
Priscilla Bonner      ... Molly
Jacqueline Gadsden      ... Adela Van Norman  
Julia Swayne Gordon ... Mrs. Van Norman
Elinor Glyn Elinor Glyn ... as herself

You can see two videos about the life and times of Clara Bow
by clicking the links below:

Hollywoods Lost Screen Goddess Clara Bow

Mysteries And Scandals - Clara Bow

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