Sunday, January 26, 2014

Silent Sundays: "It" (1927)

“ ‘IT’ is that peculiar quality which attracts others of the opposite sex. The possessor of ‘IT’ must be absolutely, un-selfconcious and must have that magnetic ‘sex appeal’ which is irresistible.”

            When an actress today is called an “It girl” we do not think anything of it. We know the actress is currently popular and usually is pretty. But have you ever wondered where the term “It” to describe a woman or even a man originated from? Apparently it originated in the mid-1920s from a novel by Elinor Glyn called IT then it was turned into one of Clara Bow’s most famous films with the same title and at the time was deemed the first “IT Girl”.
            Cyrus Waltham has just taken over his family’s successful department store. On the first day of Cyrus’s take over his friend Montgomery comes into his office with a large bouquet of flowers that says “Good Luck” across it. Montgomery sees that his friend has a book entitled IT and takes a look at the book. The author explains that when someone has “IT” they have a certain appeal to them that cannot simply be explained. Before the end of the day Cyrus goes down to the department floor. Betty Lou Spence (Bow) is one of the sale girls in the area where Cyrus is walking. All the girls, including Betty, think their boss is handsome. Montgomery is busy looking for a girl who has “IT” and he comes across Betty. He cannot believe his eyes when he takes a look at her. He tries to get Cyrus to take notice of Betty but the boss is too busy.
            On the way out of the store Betty sees Cyrus. She pretends to have bumped into to get him to notice her but her plan does not work. Outside the store Montgomery asks Betty if he can take her home in his car. She convinces him to take her “car” which is actually the city bus. When they arrive at her apartment building Montgomery asks Betty out to dinner. She remembers hearing that Cyrus would be at the Ritz and has Montgomery take her there. He agrees to pick her up later. Betty lives in an apartment with her friend Molly who used to work at the store and Molly’s baby. Molly cannot go back to work yet under doctor’s orders and she is worried about Betty taking care of her and the baby. Betty does not mind. That night Molly helps Betty refurbish her work dress into an evening dress to go out to dinner with Montgomery.
            Betty has the waiter at the Ritz move them to a table close to Cyrus. Eventually her plan works and Cyrus takes notice of her. He even comments to his date that he finds Montgomery’s date attractive. Betty asks Montgomery who Cyrus is with and he tells her the woman is Adela and that Cyrus will most likely marry her. Montgomery introduces Betty to Cyrus. She tells Cyrus that if they meet again he will probably not recognize her.
            The following day Betty is sent up to see Cyrus after a customer complained about her. Cyrus does not even realize who she is just like she said he would not. When he does recognize her he is happy to see her. Cyrus cancels his dinner plans with Adela to out with Betty. She has him take her to the boardwalk. They have a great time together. Cyrus takes Betty home and he tries to kiss her goodnight. She slaps him in the face saying he has misunderstood her she is not that kind of girl. Betty runs up to her apartment. Secretly she liked that Cyrus tried to kiss her.
            One day two women come to take Molly’s baby away because she is not right. Betty comes home just in time to see Molly hanging out the window with the baby in her arms. Betty is disgusted with the women. In order for the baby to stay Betty tells the two old biddies that the baby is hers. When they ask who the father is Betty tells them that is none of their business. Montgomery saw what was happening from the street along with a reporter. The two men come up. When everything calms down Montgomery asks Betty if the baby is really hers. The two women are still hanging around so she replies that of course the baby is hers. The women go to see Cyrus as part of their investigation. Cyrus backs Betty up. His attitude towards Betty changes. When he gives the salesgirls their bonuses personally he does not even look at Betty. She stays behind and talks/flirts with him. Cyrus looks disgusted you can see that he is thinking of how she can possibly flirt like nothing is wrong when she has a baby at home. He tells her he is crazy about her and wants to give her everything she wants. Betty thinks about his deal and then she realizes he said what he did because he thinks she is not a good woman.
            Betty quits her job. Montgomery comes over to say he forgives her. She tells him the baby is not really hers. He tells her he told Cyrus about the baby. Betty is upset with both Montgomery and with Cyrus. Cyrus more so because he did not give her the benefit of the doubt. Betty comes up with the idea to get Cyrus to propose to her and then she will laugh at him. Montgomery gets Betty onto Cyrus’s yacht. He nervously tells Cyrus and Adela that he has brought along a girl he met while he was in Paris. Cyrus is stunned and surprised to see Betty. Montgomery tells Cyrus the truth about Betty and the baby. Now Cyrus wants to marry her and he asks. She laughs at him and walks away. She tells Montgomery that she thought she would be happy but now she is just sad that she laughed at him.
            Montgomery takes over the yacht from Cyrus when Cyrus wants to go speak to Betty. Montgomery winds up crashing the yacht and throwing Betty and Adela overboard. Cyrus jumps in to save both women. Betty tells him she is swimming home. She swims up to the anchor and climbs on it. Cyrus finds her, climbs on the anchor, and the two of them kiss.

            I like It. I liked the story and Clara Bow’s character. I thought Betty was different because she stuck up for her friend and did so without even thinking about what might happen. I think I really liked how Molly had a baby and she was not even married (All I have to say to that is damn the Code when it was enforced in 1934!). Bow definitely fit the “IT” title. There was something to her that was definitely appealing. She was not that pretty but she had a great on screen presence and personality. I can see why she appealed to 1920s audiences. If you are a fan of classic films especially silent ones you cannot miss It. It is currently available to view in full on Youtube