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It (1927)

June 11, 2012

Possessing “It” is a special quality that can’t be taught or learned. It’s a unique addition to a person that makes them glow brighter than most, a certain je nais se quoi. People who make their careers as socialites seem to have “It” while a slew of actors do as well despite their lack of genuine talent (Cough*GeorgeClooney*Cough). Arguably the first film star to have “It” and even introduce the term to the mainstream was the 1920s iconic actress Clara Bow. Shining like a beacon, Clara Bow simply had the face, the humor, the personality, style and coy sex appeal needed to transform her from a 16-year-old tomboy to a renowned and beloved Hollywood star during the silent era. Her legacy has lived on despite her short career and It is the reason.

When Cyrus, a new wealthy businessman and heir of a large retail store, reads an article in a popular magazine about the element of “It,” he and his assistant Monty set out to find someone who possesses such a trait. They soon take notice of Betty (Clara Bow), a bubbly good humored shop girl with a crush on the powerful Cyrus. Instantly attracted to each other, Betty and Cyrus embark on a turbulent relationship made more complicated by the fact that Cyrus is dating a wealthy socialite and Betty is of a lower social class.

Clara Bow defines what it means to be the star of a film and her ability to have “It” is what makes the film so enjoyable. With her tuft of curly hair, a pair of innocently expressive eyes and long sullen brows, Bow was an original unlike any other star of her time and since. She’s like a mix of Lucille Ball and Natalie Portman but cooler and with more spunk. Bow came off as genuine; throughout It she’s able to be funny, sexy, shy and tomboyish all the same. If she were around today she would be the type of girl I’d want to get dolled up with to go out for a night of drinking, flirting with men, public back alley peeing and ending the night with the munchies and a video game.

However, it’s not just Bow that makes It an entertaining and whimsical tale of a struggling romance. Every character holds their own and is equally funny and convincing. Also like most silent films, It is just a beautiful look at the at the world in the 1920s, and if you like sociological history like I do then seeing the fashion, customs, living situations and roles of men and women is enough to keep you interested.

Further enjoyment of the film depends on one’s personal taste, however. Silent films can be considered an acquired taste for some. The music is hokey and typical of the era and the action may come off slow and lethargic. At times, characters talk to each other yet no intertitle comes up explaining what was just said to viewers, making me feel like I missed possibly great moments of character development throughout the film. Also silent films don’t always focus on ironing out details in depth, so certain elements of the film, like Cyrus’ desperation to find someone with “It” anyway is a bit trite and superficial but hey times were crazy then.

If you can take these elements with a grain of salt, then It is an enjoyable heartwarming rags to riches story with a magnetizing lead. In fact I’m still waiting for the 1920s to make a comeback so I can start wearing more scarves, knee high pantyhose and do the Charleston in public without getting ostracized.

SEE IT. At least to understand what having “It” is all about.

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