Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin. Dir: Clarence Badger
You’ve heard of It, and you’ve heard Clara Bow was the “It Girl”. She totally was. She was adorable and sweet and sassy. And adorable.
I think I will have to use quotation marks whenever I write “It” as the movie title, which is troublesome since I’m so unbelievably lazy, but it will get confusing if I don’t. Oh, the sacrifices I make.
“It” is supposedly based on a story by Elinor Glyn, of whom I have discovered I am not a fan, but I’ll get back to that in a minute. The story that Glyn wrote was published in Cosmopolitan after the film was made, but maybe she suggested the story(?), I don’t know. I do know she didn’t write the screenplay, which was penned by Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton, and George Marion Jr.. Glyn was paid handsomely for the concept ($50,000) and given a small part in the film as well as having her name mentioned several times. But let us understand something- Rudyard Kipling discussed the concept of “it” (not the film, the quality) in 1904. And the movie bears almost no resemblance to the story either. So what did Glyn contribute exactly? Her name, for one thing. She was a romance novelist who wrote scandalous stories and was enormously popular. And who knows if she ever read Kipling? Probably the concept was already floating around by the time she thought of a story and named it “It”. The timing and the facts that I have been reading are somewhat conflicting about all of this.
Now, the reason I don’t like this woman is because she wrote a book for wives about how to keep their husbands. Why is that a problem for me? It’s not, so very much, but she couldn’t keep her husband. He took lovers and she took lovers. Maybe “keeping” her husband meant staying married to him even when they were both dating. Again, I don’t know. It’s just the suggestion that a woman is responsible when the man strays is 98% ludicrous with a 2% margin of error.
But let us get back to the movie, which is unbelievably charming.
Clara Bow plays a shop girl who has both an eye for her boss and a roommate with a child. And a guy who is friends with her boss and likes her so she uses him to get closer to her boss. All these things collide into a mess and then there’s a boat and then it’s over.
I really don’t have a lot to say about the men in this movie, except for one who isn’t one of the leads. I wasn’t warned about him before I saw the movie and when he appeared on screen I thought, “Wow! WHO is that man who is so incredibly attractive I can hardly bear to look at him??” I froze the picture on his face because there was just something familiar about him. And then I passed out. When I came to, I was looking at a 26 year old Gary Cooper. That’s who that man was. He was glowing. It was epiphanous. Or something. Please don’t blink or you will miss him.
There are moral lessons to be learned in “It”. Well, mostly we know them now, but they were to be learned in 1927.
Here’s something that makes me happy about “It”- it was considered a lost film until the 1960’s. Every time I hear about a movie I want to see and then find out it’s lost, I die a little inside. Just a very little, I’m not a weirdo. I’m always glad when people discover prints of a movie in some closet in a bowling alley in Zurich or somewhere and then they send them to be restored. Right now the movie I ache about is “London After Midnight” which was also released in 1927 and has been lost since the last known copy of it was destroyed in a 1967 vault fire at MGM. No doubt you have seen a photo from it, but if not, here is a link so you can say “Oh, THAT. I didn’t know that was a lost film!!” TCM gathered the script and some stills and created a semblance of the film in 2002, but, yes, the actual movie is lost.
Anyway, if you have never seen a silent film in your life “It” is a great one to start with. You will be glued to it. And notice the Cosmo product placement too.