I love looking at and hanging old photographs. I especially love this book that I rented from my old college library several times that featured women who were in the Ziegfeld Follies during the twenties. More than the films that were eventually produced documenting what the Ziegfeld Follies were, I love hearing about the stories and seeing these beautiful women in sheer clothing creating dance contortions with their bodies. In this book they talk about what the most popular styles for women during the period they are photographing. This was of course the idea of a flapper, but they also mentioned a film from 1927 was wildly popular during its time (and also was one of the films that was cited during the enforcement of the Production Code) was the film “It”. In “It,” a woman (Clara Bow who is gorgeous in this film) who exhibits the best qualities valued in a woman at the time works at a department store where a young beautiful man is poised to take over his family business. She schemes to be in his presence and the man instantly falls in love with her. The reason that he falls in love her is obvious. She is everything that a woman is supposed to be. She is IT. Of course they take the time to define what It is: “self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not.” Misunderstanding drive a wedge between them, but before you discount this film as melodramatic and overwrought, all of the misunderstandings are ironed out and they get together in the end.
I knew I wasn’t going to love this film from the beginning. They bring in every rich guy trope that was probably overdone even then to establish that yes this man is beyond wealthy and every woman wants him. The hero of the film also discusses with his friend the idea of “It” and the articles’ author as if it is one of the most serious articles that have ever been written. They take the article to be some sort of insight into the perfect girl. I found that strange. This film also gives the impression that men propose marriage over the slightest bit of fun they have which is totally not true, even then. She takes you to a carnival and you want to marry her? Really? Come on. (Although that carnival did look really fun. Why don’t have a whirling disc that you sit on until it throws you off anymore? I guess the answer to that is kind of obvious, but still. I want one!)
Clara Bow is a person that I have been interested in for a long time. She is one of the most beautiful people ever to be put to celliod and the directors take full advantage of that fact here. I also would describe her as being far and away the best actor in this film. While everyone else is pantomiming like they are stuck in an invisible box, Clara is fully aware that the lens is right in front of her thus her audience is looking right at her. This is of course forgivable in the other actors’ performances, because they no doubt come from a long tradition of theater that plays to the person in the back row. I also love her playfulness on screen. The scene where she plays with the baby she is helping to look after is one of the best in the film.
Overall this film was a “meh” on the like scale, but I wouldn’t discourage anyone from seeing it. I would just suggest maybe watching better silent films in front of this one. Once you have exhausted the bonified classics, then you can watch this one with my approval. I think only then will you understand its pitfalls and celebrate the camp of the film.