Friday, October 19, 2012

It (1927) with Clara Bow

Clara Bow's Betty Lou flirts with her boss Waltham played by Antonio Moreno
Image Source

Clara Bow was one of those mega-watt stars whose light burned bright in the silent film era. What makes an actress like Clara Bow a star? The x-factor and she had “it”. Now the x-factor isn’t one solitary thing. It’s a combination of things including personality, looks, appeal, approachability, charisma and talent. Not everyone has the x-factor. There is no way to manufacture it or manipulate it. You either have “it” or you don’t. And Clara Bow had “it”.

The film It (1927) explores another kind of x-factor: sex appeal.  This is how a quote from the film explains “it”.

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

Clara Bow plays Betty Lou, a poor shop girl with good looks and an eye out for the boss Waltham (Antonio Moreno). While Waltham doesn’t know she exists, his employee Monty (William Austin) has eyes for Betty. But Betty wants Waltham and she’s desperate to get his attention. She has “it” and he needs to know “it”. However, when she stands up for her sick friend Molly (Priscilla Bonner) whose baby is about to be taken away from her, Betty Lou’s two suitors, her boss and his employee, are turned off by her appearance of single motherhood. Just one bit of miscommunication and the it factor is snuffed out. What’s a girl to do?

One of the sad things about the x-factor or having “it” is that you are almost guaranteed to lose it. Some stars keep it forever, like Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart, but that’s very rare. Most of those who have “it” lose “it”. And how depressing that must be to be on top of the world only to be knocked off. It’s something I’m sure Clara Bow and many other stars struggled with.

I think a lot of folks today purposefully ignore the “it” factor. Some of us think too highly of ourselves to come to the realization that we’ll never have “it”.  It is something that I struggle with too.

I had never seen a Clara Bow film before so watching this was a real treat. My friend Paulie from Art, Wood, Movies and Whatnot   is a huge Clara Bow fan and has done several very fine illustrations of her.  I had hoped that I would see this film on the big screen with live musical accompaniment but the opportunity escaped me. Maybe I will someday in the future. It’s a nice film and most interesting for its lead star and its focus on that elusive “it” factor.

Note: Author Elinor Glyn meant "it" to be more about the overall x-factor than specifically sex appeal. But Hollywood had other ideas.

It (1927) used to be available on DVD but that DVD is now out of print. You can watch it on Netflix Instant or rent it through Classicflix.


  1. Clara Bow is one of the just carn cutest actresses ever. She certainly had "it"! I loved your discussion about what "it" is and how easy it is to lose. I think in real life it may be that the women who had "it" lost it because they got older -- the ones who died young kept the title forever. Men are allowed to be "it" until they practically dodder into the grave! I really enjoyed your piece.

    1. Becky - That's a very astute observation. If someone never gets old and they had IT, they'll never really lose IT. Like Marilyn Monroe. And yes it really applies only to women. Ugh. THanks for stopping by! You've always been a big supporter of this blog and I really appreciate it.

  2. That is supposed to say "darn" cutest, not "carn"!

  3. very nice review Quele and thank you for the kind words and linkie :D Clara is so charming, gorgeous, vivacious and adorable in that film it really wouldnt matter what it was about, it would still be worth seeing! and that's my totally objective opinion and I'm sticking with it lol.

    i agree it must be sad when one has it and then loses it... or is it sadder to never have it at all? didnt William Austin call himself and the girl Waltham threw over for Clara "a couple of itless its"..something like that right? i have probably seen IT a dozen times or so since i first saw it back in the mid 1990's but its been quite a while now, hmmmm maybe i will have to revisit IT soon :D if you ever get a chance to read David Stenns bio on her i'm sure you would find it fascinating (tho it is quite sad too) Clara did NOT like Glyn at all, called her a snob or something similar. apparently she carried on like a diva but was really just a 3rd rate hack writer for the most part.

    1. Thanks Paulie! I watched this movie and wrote this blog post with you in mind. You definitely inspired me to watch a Clara Bow film and now I want to watch more. I'm not surprised that Clara did not like Glyn. Glyn sounded like quite the character.

    2. I imagine Priscilla Bonner (Waltham's girlfriend) got sick of knowing or being told she didn't have 'it' during filming. It would really stink to be the girl they use as a counterpoint to Clara and sex appeal or charisma or whatever it is.

  4. oh and i want to add YAY for finally seeing one of her films :D

  5. I lov Clara's story. I'm glad there is an Youtube channel called Clara Bow Archive that has basically all of her films. I really hope to explore this channel in my next vacation. "It" has a small appearance by Gary Cooper, right?

  6. Enjoyed your piece! Clara Bow is great in this film though I thought as a whole it was a bit patchy - I was amused by the bit where Elinor Glyn wanders in to plug her book!

    Bow is also fantastic in 'Wings', which is also one of my favourite silent films. Apart from that the only one I've seen of hers is 'Children of Divorce', a silent melodrama also starring Gary Cooper, which sadly hasn't had a DVD release as yet, though I saw a great print at a von Sternberg festival (he directed part of it) in London.


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