#211) It (1927)

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#211) It (1927)

OR “Pound Foolish”

Directed by Clarence Badger (with help from Josef von Sternberg)

Written by Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton. Based on the novella by Elinor Glyn.

Class of 2001

The Plot: Betty Lou Spence (Clara Bow) works at the Waltham department store and catches the eye of store owner Cyrus (Antonio Moreno) and his friend Monty (William Austin), who both believe she has the “It” quality they both read about in “Cosmopolitan”. Cyrus is infatuated with Betty, but they come from two different social classes, which is a romantic comedy no-no. When Betty goes to defend her roommate Molly (Priscilla Bonner) by claiming Molly’s son is her own, word gets back to Cyrus and misunderstandings ensue. But Betty makes it all work out thanks to her defining…allure? Is that the word I’m thinking of?

Why It Matters: The NFR gives some historical context to the film, calls the plot “frothy”, but does praise Clara Bow’s “incandescence”. There’s also an essay by film preservationist Dino Everett.

But Does It Really?: Oh sure. “It” is a perfect encapsulation of the ‘20s flapper era, and has a love story simple enough to still hold up today. I laughed a lot during this film, and Clara Bow’s performance is justifiably praised.  “It” is the kind of female-driven film we need more of, where the woman goes out and gets what she wants and her male co-stars are the one-dimensional, uninteresting ones. And above all, from start to finish this film has a certain…enticement? No, that’s not right either.

Everybody Gets One: Author Elinor Glyn came to prominence in the early 1900s with a radical concept: romance novels that appealed to female readers. Such scandalous titles as “Beyond the Rocks” and “Three Weeks” led to worldwide fame and the inevitable call from Hollywood. She spent the last few decades of her life overseeing her work’s film adaptations, penning a few screenplays and even directing one or two. “It” is also the only NFR appearance for Clara Bow’s two leading men: Antonio Moren and William Austin.

Wow, That’s Dated: Phrases like “old fruit” and “hot socks”, and the social stigma of unwed mothers.

Other notes

  • This film adaptation has very little to do with the original novella, but Elinor Glyn signed off on it, as well as declaring Clara Bow the “It” girl (according to the studio press at least).
  • Director Clarence Badger fell ill during filming, and was briefly replaced by Josef von Sternberg, who would go on to direct such NFR entries as “Morocco” and “The Last Command”.
  • Uh-oh, the intertitles were written by George Marion Jr., the guy who gave me all the flowery titles from “Ella Cinders”. I’m keeping my eye on you, Marion.
  • Fun Fact: William Austin was the first actor to play Batman’s Alfred the Butler on film.
  • Monty seems to be wearing a lot of eyeliner. That’s not smokey eye, that’s a forest fire!
  • My favorite ‘20s phrase in this film is when Betty exclaims “Sweet Santa Claus!” I presume this is a substitution for taking the lord’s name in vain. But hey, if you gotta pray to someone…
  • It’s a little tough to watch all this commercialism and decadence knowing that the economy will tank in two years.
  • Toodles? The baby’s name is Toodles? Someone lost their marbles.
  • Why does Betty have to alter her clothing to make a new dress? Surely Waltham’s offers an employee discount.
  • The appetizers at the Ritz are $2, while their entrees are $4.50. Today those figures would be, respectively, roughly $30 and $65. Yeesh!
  • When your girlfriend and her mother ask you who that woman is, never answer with “I don’t know, but isn’t she attractive?” Get the couch ready.
  • This may be the only movie to reference its source material in the actual film. Not only do characters read the issue of “Cosmopolitan” the first installment of “It” appeared in, but Elinor Glyn makes a cameo appearance as herself giving her own definition of “it”.
  • Is that the same beachside carnival they visit in “Sunrise”?
  • There’s a brief shot where Betty has to hold down her skirt while the wind blows it up. Clara Bow Marilyn-ed before Marilyn!
  • If that news reporter wants a real scoop he should just look in the mirror: He’s a young Gary Cooper in one of his early films!
  • Between this and “Ella Cinders”, I feel like there were a lot more movies in the ‘20s that starred independent women who weren’t defined by their men. What happened? The Depression? The rise of the studio system and the institutional sexism within? Both?
  • Hmmm, a ‘20s party that takes place on a yacht. Where did Eleanor get the idea for that one?
  • “I feel so low, old chap, that I could get on stilts and walk under a dachshund!” Marion!
  • The final shot has the best “Arrested Development”-esque sight gag this side of, well, “Arrested Development”.

Legacy

  • Clara Bow’s star power rose exponentially thanks to the success of this film. She had several other hits throughout the ‘20s and, while she successfully transitioned to sound film, retired from film in the early ‘30s to live on a ranch with her husband, western movie star and future Lt. Governor of Nevada Rex Bell.
  • The phrase “it girl” was first popularized when linked to Clara Bow and her performance in this film, and continues to be in common usage today.
  • The screenplay was adapted into the 2001 musical “The It Girl”. The show played Off-Broadway from May 2001 to…May 2001. But the original website is still up and the show can be licensed out for performance. Let’s paint the barn and put on a show, kids!

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