December 24, 2019
It (1927)
Grade: 62/100

Director: Clarence G. Badger
Stars: Clara Bow, William Austin, Antonio Moreno

What it's about. A romantic comedy from the late silent era. Betty Lou (Clara Bow) is a shop clerk in Waltham's, a high-rise department store in the big city. She is a pretty and vivacious brunette determined to win the love of Cyrus Waltham (Antonio Moreno), the wealthy forty-ish store owner. This goal appears impossible, since Cyrus is unaware of Betty Lou, and they are nearly polar opposites in wealth and class. Also, Cyrus has a longtime girlfriend, Adela (Jacqueline Gadsdon).

Betty Lou schemes to date Monty (William Austin), the best friend of Cyrus, then gain Cyrus' attention when the two men are together. An obstacle arises when Monty learns that Betty Lou lives in a slum apartment with unemployed and unmarried young Molly (Priscilla Bonner) and the latter's infant daughter (Cheryl Holt).

Reminiscent of Intolerance (1916), meddling socialite social workers attempt to seize the baby from her distraught mother. Betty Lou then claims to be the mother, and, since she is employed, can provide for the baby. Monty tells this tale to Cyrus, who is shocked.

Nonetheless, Betty Lou finagles a date with Monty on Waltham's yacht. Even though Cyrus' lackluster girlfriend Adele is also there, Cyrus can't help purusing the flirtatious Betty Lou, who spurns his offer of becoming a mistress. But Cyrus is so smitten that he soon proposes.

It was a lost film for decades, until a print showed up in Eastern Europe during the 1960s. The film is loosely based on a story by flamboyant novelist Elinor Glyn, who shows up in the movie as the know-it-all regarding the concept of "it."

How others will see it. It may mark the high point of Clara Bow's career, though she first drew notice in Down to the Sea in Ships (1923), and remained a star until she walked away from Hollywood ten years later. Bow was the female lead in Wings (1927), the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Bow married western moviestar Rex Bell, who eventually was elected Nevada lieutenant governor. They never divorced, but both Bell and Bow died relatively young, around the age of 60.

Although Clara Bow is undeniably the star, message board chatter also focuses on the character of Monty, the energetic and effeminate best friend of Cyrus, Betty Lou's target throughout the film. Is Monty gay? If so, is Cyrus gay? And if Betty Lou is after Cyrus because he is rich, why doesn't she pursue Monty instead, since he is also clearly wealthy?

But then, Cyrus is not only rich, he is also the boss, so he has both wealth and power, which makes him doubly desirable. And he is more attractive. Plus, unlike Monty, Cyrus is unlikely to have a scandal involving the towel boy at the country club.

Today at, It has nearly 2800 user votes, a high total for a silent film. The user ratings range from 6.9 (from men under age 30) to 7.7 (from women over age 45). The story is a trife, another version of Cinderella. But they identify completely with the emotive Clara Bow, and want to see her conquer the stupid wealthy men she has targeted. Nobody considers her a shallow gold-digger, as they might if all the genders were reversed.

How I felt about it. It is undeniable that It is entertaining. The film's appeal comes from its casting, especially the spunky Clara Bow. We almost feel sorry for Cyrus Waltham. He is accustomed to a sedate life of privilege, and has never seen the likes of Betty Lou.

Because it is a movie, her every scheme works, though not necessarily at once. The wealthy men are no more than fish in a barrel, unaware that the hook in front of them will reel them in.

The secondary plot of Molly and her baby is also an old film trope, e.g. Bachelor Mother (1939). Its purpose, aside from adding a degree of difficulty to her romantic conquest, is to show that Betty Lou will fight for those she loves, even when there is no direct benefit to herself. Thus, her interest in Cyrus might not be strictly mercenary after all.