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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Invention

Author: tedg (tedg@filmsfolded.com) from Virginia Beach
9 June 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers herein.

I have put this film on my list of required viewing for cineliteracy.

The reason is obvious: here we have the creation of a persona that changed the world of film and indeed the world.

I believe that the relationship between film reflecting society and inventing it is complex, but in some cases the invention is clear. Here is such a case.

You can read elsewhere about the change of independence in women, the unabashed sexuality, the sheer appeal of soft aggression. This woman indeed changed the world, apparently by just being and broadcasting that being.

What interests me is that all this was done with no nudity, no explicit sex, not even much reference to her body at all. It is all a matter of attitude as reflected in the face, dimly shadowed in some body language. She was the first massively popular redhead film star. Though the films were black and white, everyone in the country saw innumerable magazine images of her bright red hair.

The role of sexual icon has since been trammeled in many ways and blurred into normalcy, but the role of the redhead seems to have retained its crispness. When Cate Blanchett dyes her hair red for `Elizabeth,' for instance and toys with men, or when Charlotte Rampling experiences lust in Venice, even when Julianne Moore has an affair to remember, it is always in part a reference to this archetype. Glyn's obscenely simplistic notion gives the illusion of definition, and that's part of the invention here.

Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 4: Every visually literate person should experience this.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

One of the hidden influences on American culture.

7/10
Author: Mmmavis from Portland, OR
12 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Before It, Clara Bow was A Hollywood actress. After It, Clara was THE Hollywood actress. The film catapulted her into super stardom, and it's easy to understand why. The film itself is just Hollywood popcorn fare for it's time---but Clara is an absolute sensation.

This film was like so many other Bow films---it was a vehicle specifically to show her off. Clara is unfortunately not remembered by many today, but she was the prototype for women like Harlow, Monroe, and Madonna. In other words, Clara was the very first mass-marketed sex symbol. She was one of the first 'personality' stars, incredibly popular with the average movie-going public because of her vibrant, bubbly, magnetic and photogenic screen persona. Most of her films were rather cheap, shoddily-made affairs put together solely to show her off and make as much money as cheaply as possible. The difference with this one is that it had a competent director, competent script, and competent actors to surround her with. Even so, she still out-shines everything else around her.

The dynamics between the characters in the film are confusing to us now, but were quite obvious and simplistic for the time. A lot of people today see Monty as gay. He wasn't written that way; he was a common stock character of silent comedies, the silly young man. He's interested in Clara, but willingly helps her snag his friend instead, because that's what friends are for. He's there for comic effect and to contrast with the male lead, Cyrus, who to us seems rather stodgy and dull, but needed to be this way in order to be above reproach: the man worthy of Clara's heart had to be a perfect specimen of propriety. Otherwise, he didn't deserve her. Clara's character today can come across as somewhat scheming and manipulative, but to the 1920's audience, she was a refreshing change from the movie heroines that preceded her; no shrinking violet or sexless schoolgirl, but a girl who would go after what she wanted, and get it.

The film is actually a pretty routine Cinderella story, except for one thing: instead of being pursued, Clara becomes the pursuer, chasing her boss and ensnaring him with her 'It'. The movies made during the roaring 20's helped free Western culture from the restrictive Victorian morals of the late 19th Century. For the first time, it was acceptable for women to pursue men, to openly acknowledge their sex appeal, and movies like this helped society grapple with these concepts. In those days, the word 'sex' was considered unsuitable to be uttered in polite company---hence the euphemism 'it'. The Glyn cameo---while serving her decidedly large ego---actually served an important function here: Glyn looks like the ultimate respectable dowager. If it was okay for someone like her to talk about 'it', well, then it must be okay for us as well! This is where the true genius of the film lies: while not a classic, timeless piece of celluloid, it did fundamentally alter American culture, as did Clara herself. Clara did not play exotic, dangerous characters, the way that Theda Bara or Rudolph Valentino did. She played everyday girls---the kind you might run into while spending the day at Coney Island sucking down hot dogs and hanging with your friends. It was this changing of the idea of the sex symbol, from exotic foreigner to everyday American gal, which was one of the real catalysts for the sexual revolution that occurred during the 20th Century.

This is one of the earliest examples of a concept film. The idea behind the marketing was that after watching this film, people would go home, look in the mirror, and wonder if they had 'it'. If they didn't, they'd wonder how they could get 'it'. They would then pay good money for things that would give them 'it': a new hairstyle, snazzy clothes, a nice car, etc. This, of course, has had an incredible effect on our culture in the last 80 years; we now have entire industries that revolve around us trying claim 'it' for ourselves, and a galaxy of people who's sole purpose is to be professionally beautiful: models of 'it' for us to aspire to.

To sum this up, this film has an important place in cultural history, and it's enjoyable to watch. If you like old movies, I recommend you see it. At the very least, Clara's exuberant and coy performance will enchant you.

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

All Those Years Ago

8/10
Author: August1991 from Montréal
2 February 2004

Watching this film, I couldn't help but think that everyone depicted on the screen is now dead. We live in a changed world because we can now see better how people were before. Would our world today be different if we could see Napoleon or Elizabeth in interview?

Well, Clara Bow was clearly something. Her face explains everything she feels. We all do this at various times but she apparently did it on command.

I prefer 'Wings' to 'It' but that's tantamount to saying I prefer 'The Sand Pebbles' to 'Pretty Woman' - or 'The Quiet American' to 'Chasing Amy'. Wait a second. 'Chasing Amy' is not bad, but this silent movie was made almost 80 years ago and in my humble opinion, "It" is much better. Why? Because of Clara Bow. Check it out.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Shop Girl Nails The Boss

6/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
18 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The ubiquitous It which back in the Roaring Twenties was another name for sex appeal is apparently what Clara Bow had in abundance. How you could explain It or bottle It for mass consumption is still what people are trying to figure out. But whatever It was it certainly worked on Antonio Moreno.

Clara and friend Priscilla Bonner work in the store that is owned by Antonio Moreno. Both of them would love to marry the boss and be living on easy street. However Bow wangles a date with William Austin and they even meet Elinor Glyn who coined the phrase of "It". More importantly as she hoped Bow accidentally on purpose runs into Moreno.

However later on when a couple of nosy welfare workers get the idea that Bow is an unwed single mother they nearly upset all the plans. But It all eventually is put right.

According to the Citadel Film Series book, The Films Of Gary Cooper, Bow who was just beginning a hot and heavy involvement with Cooper after his breakthrough performance demanded that Cooper be in the film with her, however possible. The cast of the principal players was already set, but Gary agreed to take a small role of a reporter in which he's very noticeable in two scenes. Both of their next film, Children Of Divorce, would pair Cooper and Bow as the leads.

Clara Bow with this and a very few other films became the symbol of silent era sexuality. She did not handle the coming of sound very well. The actress in the sound era I could best compare her too would be Gloria Grahame, both had the same kind of sex appeal. You might say they had It.

Next to Bow the performance I liked best was William Austin as the perpetually partying playboy who has some really great expressions throughout the movie. Austin was quite droll in his role.

It is mighty tame stuff compared to what is seen today on the screen even in some G rated films. Still the indefinable It is a great showcase for the talent and sexuality of the Twenties original wild child, Clara Bow.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Clara is completely sweet

10/10
Author: kidboots from Australia
6 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just loved this movie!!!!

The film opens with a zoom shot (the very first in films, I believe) where the camera pans down Waltham's department store and then closes in on the foyer. There is then a discussion between Monty (William Austin) and Cyrus Waltham Jnr. (Antonio Moreno) on the merits of "It"!!! What is "It" and who has "It"???? Even Elinor Glynn makes an appearance to give her opinion. This part seems like a lot of free publicity (which it was) but for people viewing it today who have never heard of "It" and Elinor Glynn and the amazing publicity they both caused, it is very informative.

But Clara Bow steals the show - as Betty Lou, she is completely captivating from her first appearance as a flirty shop girl setting her cap at the new boss. With some fast thinking (and some help from Monty) she makes sure she is noticed...and how!!!!

Betty Lou and Cyrus go on a wonderful date to Coney Island where Cyrus becomes completely enchanted by Betty Lou ...but then... Betty Sue's room-mate is a young mother, Molly (Priscilla Bonner), who has fallen foul of the Welfare bureau. In front of a hall full of witnesses and a very persistent reporter (played by Gary Cooper) Betty Lou tells the welfare that the baby is hers and she has a job at Waltham's Department store. It is to help her pal out of a jam and brave Betty Lou spares no thought that it might get back to her bosses.

Clara Bow struck a chord with movie audiences everywhere. She came from the same type of background that a lot of her movie public did and she identified with them. She was a completely natural actress. The scenes on the rides at Coney Island were such fun. At the end of that part when Cyrus tries to "get fresh" - Betty Lou says "you're one of those minute men - the minute you get a girl in your arms you think you can get fresh!!!" She goes up to her flat in a huff but once there she excitedly goes to the window to see how he is taking her rejection. She then playfully plays with her little rag puppy (a little bit of business, Louise Brooks relates in "Hollywood: the Pioneers" that Clara thought up instantly for the camera). Her rapport with the baby also seemed genuine.

I can heartily recommend this movie.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Spectacular with live theatre organ accompaniment!

10/10
Author: rblacklock from United States
10 June 2007

How sad that so few viewers will be able to experience seeing a silent film accompanied by a masterful artist playing a theatre pipe organ (e.g., Wurlitzer, Kimball, Moller, Barton, Compton, etc.). I recently saw Chris Elliott accompany this delightful movie on the fabulous Dickinson Kimball theatre pipe organ as one of the regular concerts held by the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society (Wilmington, DE). You forget that you are listening to a live accompaniment - the music becomes part of the film as if included in a soundtrack. But it's so much more than a soundtrack played back by a sound system. The organ tells the story just as much as do the facial expressions in these silent movies of the 1920s. The audience's laughter at the looks, antics, and words on the screen create an enjoyment unique to these silent flicks. At the conclusion of the movie, when Clara Bow gets her man, the mighty Kimball roared to a thrilling, full-organ climax at probably near 100 decibels.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Don't miss this original

9/10
Author: Avery Hudson from United States
25 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

So what is "It"? "It… that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes… entirely unself-conscious… full of self-confidence… indifferent to the effect… she is producing and uninfluenced by others." The film begins with a Cosmo extract of a novella by Elinor Glyn, and picks up speed with a newspaper story by an uncredited, luminous Gary Cooper. So it is about writing, but ultimately about the stunning comedic talent of Clara Bow and the anthropologic eye of Clarence Badger, Josef von Sternberg (uncredited) and H. Kinley Martin. Macy's (Waltham's), Coney Island & a 1920's steam-powered yacht.

Clara Bow acts with subtlety, light élan and small, powerful gestures that would set the choreography for women in film for the next century. Don't miss the original. Her final scene on the yacht's anchor with Antonio Moreno is the funniest, sexiest, most artful thing I've seen since I don't know when.

Pity the people who won't hear Maud Nelissen's piano composition behind this brilliant film.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The Icon Who Fell From Grace

10/10
Author: nycritic
3 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Before Marilyn and THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, there was Clara Bow. Even so, both women shared many similarities that places them in a parenthetical position akin to soul-sisters: both came from tragic homes and escaped the wrath and madness of their mothers as well as the abuse from their fathers, both entered Hollywood on a lark and rose to the top of their game playing sexually liberated women who oozed magnetism, and both women's careers -- which never fully used their talent, clearly evident but put aside in lieu of their physical presence -- came to a screeching halt too soon. While an obscure death was the culprit for Marilyn, talkies and Clara's terror of how her voice would sound in this (then) new media was hers.

However, Clara's screen persona has a different approach to the issue of female sensuality, and this is a crucial difference which separates her from Marilyn. In the 1950s, Marilyn suffered from Hollywood's excesses in their quest for the glamorization of women until they were decorative fantasies, hers being the fleshy, dim platinum blond with the breathy whisper of a voice (in strong contrast to the more gamine Audrey Hepburn, who was virtually sexless and fragile). Clara, a woman in the Roaring Twenties, was carnality personified as well, but smart, independent, assertive, a female Bugs Bunny who could turn any situation, no matter how precarious, to her own advantage and walk away with the guy and the entire picture even if it was of mediocre quality.

Plus, she had those eyes, and that capability of expression Marilyn suggested but never truly had. There is a scene in IT -- the movie which defined Clara Bow even if the word's new meaning was "codified" by Elinor Glyn's keen, self-promoting marketing -- when Antonio Moreno, the object of Clara's (rather aggressive) affections, has offered her something less noble than the marriage she wants from him (which is at the heroine's romantic and even conservative core). Her expression changes little, but her eyes are the ones who register so much pain that it literally pours itself out from the screen and into the viewer's lap. (Clara was quoted as saying whenever she needed to emote, she would think of her childhood.) Then again, it was Norma Desmond, the fictional tragic grand dame of SUNSET BLVD. who did say, "We had faces!" How true. The explanatory inter-titles never interfere too much with the action -- many silents suffer from this tendency -- and the actors always seem to be in a natural state of acting rather than a flurry of miming.

Because Clara is in practically every scene in IT, we get the most of her character's Cinderella story from the moment she spies her man (and the camera zooms in on him), concludes he's for her, and then takes us on her own journey from acknowledgment (even when she herself isn't aware how she'll achieve her goal) to the ultimate resolution. Romantic suspense is at its finest here, with the heroine bravely warding off the criticisms of a world apparently beyond her reach, happy in her own mundane yet vibrant existence, going to lengths of self-sacrifice when the "moral women" appear to condemn her house-mate friend (Priscilla Bonner) who is under scrutiny for being a single mother. This is really the essence of a contemporary character who is, while being fictional, an archetype of strength, who eclipses everyone around her just by being there as when late in the film when she attends a boat ride (at a last attempt to set things straight with Moreno), plays the part of a cultural connoisseur to a hilarious level, then stands looking out into the water (still a little hurt; she's not invulnerable) as Moreno looks on and "other woman" Jacqueline Gadsden (remarkably contrasted to Clara) seethes. That is the power of a character and a perfectly cast actor, and Clara, clearly an actress ahead of her time, was "it." If only Hollywood had known this.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The fabulous Clara Bow in a classic gem!

10/10
Author: rubellamylove from midwest
4 June 2000

Clara Bow's fiesty energy shines through as the loveable "It" girl in this silent gem! Sweet story line touches on social issues of the times as well. This film is fun to watch and showcases a great star at her finest!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

It may lack invention, but it has Clara Bow, and is really fast and well made

8/10
Author: secondtake from United States
26 August 2012

It (1927)

The last year before the talkies took over, and so this is silent film drama at its most sophisticated. A great film. Yes, it has creaks and flaws from a more modern perspective. The sentiment isn't what were used to. It is almost a given at the start what will happen by the end.

But this is true with romantic comedies in general. "It" is really snappy and bright. The writing is good, the four main characters are really fun and believable, and most of all, Clara Bow as the girl who has "It" is astonishing. Terrific. Lovable. She makes the screen come alive in a way that makes you realize why people in the 1920s were so crazy about the movies. And their stars.

The plot is boilerplate stuff--girl wants boy, but a problem of class difference and a fluke of a roommate gets in the way. So then the movie has to sort out the difficulties and we laugh and wring our hands as it goes. Well done. And by the end you're glad for how it ended. Of course!

Clara Bow had a painfully short career. By this movie she was a star, and after it she was a legend. By 1930 she was one of just two or three of the most successful actress in Hollywood. That she retired in 1933 to do ranching is astonishing. Her choice. Our loss. She really does represent the liberated girl of the 1920s, which she did at the time. She comes alive on screen like few others--Lillian Gish, Louise Brooks. All through the 1920s she made a whole slew of decent silent films, maturing around the time this one was made. When she transitioned to the talkies she found them stiff and never quite adjusted.

If you like silent films even a little, you need to see this. While not a classic comedy with all those unique charms, this is light and funny in its own way. A mainstream, terrific silent.

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