It (1927) Director: Clarence G. Badger and Josef von Sternberg (uncredited)
It is known almost exclusively for what the film did to Clara Bow’s career. It officially rocketed her into stardom as a quintessential sex icon of the ’20s. Is It an essential film? Probably not, but it is an important film nonetheless for old Hollywood. Clara Bow became the popular “It Girl” –or the poster child for flapper girls everywhere. The story is based on a serialized novella written by Elinor Glyn (a romance writer best known for writing “It Girl”). It was published in Cosmopolitan magazine.
Clara Bow plays Betty Lou Spence, a department store worker who has a crush on her employer, Cyrus, a young owner of the department store chain. Betty takes efforts to clean up her appearance (the film has an amusing product placement of Cosmopolitan). However, Cyrus is betrothed to another woman, and a friend of Cyrus’s shows interest in Betty. She uses this friend as an effort to exploit Cyrus. Eventually, Cyrus and Betty go on a date to a theme park. The plot twist comes when Betty tries to help her roommate, whose child is being taken away by social workers. Betty claims the child is hers, and when Cyrus learns of a child, he changes his intentions with Betty. He essentially offers her the opportunity to be his mistress. In anger, she declines his offer and vows to seek revenge on him. Some time later, she attends a party on a yacht where Cyrus suddenly proposes marriage to Betty when he can contain himself no longer (overwhelmed by her “it factor”) but Betty declines. Shortly thereafter, Cyrus realizes the noble act Betty has performed for her friend, and that she does not actually have a child. In the end, they reconcile and all is well.
It was considered a lost film for many years until a nitrate copy was discovered in Prague in the 1960s. Interestingly enough, a very young Gary Cooper has a minor role in the movie as a newspaper boy (Cooper would later co-star with Bow again in the Academy Award-winner Wings).