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  It That Indefinable Something Defined
Year: 1927
Director: Clarence G. Badger
Stars: Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin, Priscilla Bonner, Jacqueline Gadsden, Julia Swayne Gordon, Elinor Glyn, Gary Cooper, Lloyd Corrigan, Dorothy Tree
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: There has been a lot of buzz about a certain quality known as "It", all thanks to a story written by scandalous novelist Elinor Glyn who defined the word as a magnetism that attracts both sexes. If a woman has It, she can get a man to gladly do her bidding, and if a man has It the ladies will be lining up to be near him. This is very interesting to playboy Monty (William Austin), who points out an article on the subject to his best friend Cyrus Waltham Jr (Antonio Moreno), an heir to a department store chain fortune. Cyrus isn't really bothered, but Monty investigates the shopgirls to see if any of them have It... so how about Betty Lou Spence (Clara Bow)?

Nothing to do with killer clowns, this was the original It, a vehicle for the original It Girl, Clara Bow. She was a real live Betty Boop with her large eyes and cartoonish beauty, and a reputation for being a good time gal to match, a reputation which would eventually be her undoing when the stories about her in the press got to be too much. Bow barely made it into the talkies before she retired from the big screen, still only in her twenties, but she is a name to be reckoned with even now when discussing stars who made a huge impact in her era.

Seeing Clara in this film, probably her most celebrated next to her role in first Oscar winner Wings, it's easy to understand her appeal. She had a natural quality, a freshness and directness that instantly makes the viewer warm to her. Did she have that famous "It"? It's hard to define what exactly that was, and there are three slightly different versions offered here, one by co-producer Glyn herself making a guest appearance and looking like a prim old lady rather than the author of sexually racy page-turners - no Jackie Collins, she. That said, if anyone had that special something about her in the twenties it was Clara Bow.

The film did not take the form of Glyn's book, but rather is inspired by it, and has the characters discussing its implications. Instead, this is what they used to call a Women's Picture, yet not with Betty Lou suffering for her man as she is invigoratingly independent for much of the plot, knowing what she wants - that would be Cyrus, then - but not willing to compromise and lower her standards in the process. We never really see her partying, as the most raucous she gets is at a funfair and playing the ukelele on a yacht, but she is obviously the life and soul of any gathering.

To get to Cyrus, Betty Lou goes out with Monty first, and to some eyes she might have been better off with him as he's far less stuffy than his pal. In fact, Cyrus looks twice her age, probably because Moreno was, er, twice Bow's age, but she has her heart set on him even though we're certain she is no golddigger and genuinely grows to love him. There's a surprising amount of sticking up for single mothers in this, with Betty Lou's flatmate an unwed mother to a baby who naturally in a mix-up Cyrus believes is his new girlfriend's. Although he breaks up with her, the film's attitude is, well, so what if she did have a baby? Is that so bad? Although he sees the error of his ways before the finale, a somewhat tagged-on boat accident. All in all, Clara makes It worth seeing and historically important, which might cheer her after all she went through afterwards, wherever she may be.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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