Thursday, March 14, 2024

The NFR Project: "It" (1927)


Dir: Clarence Badger, Josef von Sternberg

Scr: Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton

Pho: H. Kinley Martin

Ed: E. Lloyd Sheldon

Premiere: Feb 19, 1927

72 min.

This is a story about early cross-promotion, or, as you might call it, a racket.

Elinor Glyn was an English writer who specialized in popular literature – that is, lightly erotic and racy material, stuff to amuse the casual reader of romances. She went to Hollywood, and crafted 28 screenplays there in the course of a decade during the silent period. She was phenomenally successful, and she began to be regarded as an arbiter of taste.

She coined the idea of “It” in 1914. A simple euphemism for sex appeal, she wrote on “It” in Cosmopolitan, a popular magazine. She dubbed up-and-coming actress Clara Bow as the “’It’ Girl.” Glyn supplied the source material for the film “It”, adapted it, and appeared in the film starring Bow to boot, to define her concept of “It.” The film was a smash hit, and everyone involved profited. Bow was now a star, and Glyn’s name and ideas were cast broadly across the culture.

“It” is an inoffensive, Cinderella story about a lowly shopgirl (Bow) who finds love and contentment with her boss, the young and sociable Cyrus (Antonio Moreno) despite a few minor setbacks and misunderstandings. Bow plays Betty Lou as an energetic, charismatic do-gooder with a heart of gold, a spunky lass whose big eyes and healthy grin make her an ambassador of the “It” concept.

Badger, who also directed two of Raymond Griffith’s best silent comedies, would see his career slow to an end at the beginning of the sound era. Von Sternberg would of course move on to sweeping epics with Marlene Dietrich at their centers. Bow would continue to make films for a decade, finally retiring young at the age of 28. Glyn returned to England and went back to writing novels.

The NFR is one writer’s attempt to review all the films listed in the National Film Registry in chronological order. Next time: The Jazz Singer.

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