03 March 2008

It (1927)

The first time I ever heard of the movie It was many moons ago. I used to have a rather large tome entitled The Chronicle of the 20th Century which contained a year-by-year, month-by-month recounting of the major events of the last century. It was a rather dated book, ending in January of 1987 (I never read that far anyway; I usually only read through 1945, largely because everything after that year was too modern and familiar to be of interest, and also because major wars became somewhat less frequent). In that chapter of the book dedicated to 1927, there was a picture of an advertisement for a movie entitled simply "It". At the time, I had no idea what this "it" was--I though it was horror movie, like the 1990 movie of the same name. I could not have been more wrong.

It is an early specimen of that sort of romantic comedy fluff that the film industry has been producing since time immemorial, but I couldn't help liking It, first of all because it's a silent film from the 1920s (my favorite decade, don't you know) and also because it's soundtrack wasn't polluted by the completely interchangable pop music love songs that are ubiquitous in romantic comedies. But enough invective about music; what about the film itself?

Clara Bow plays the part of shopgirl Betty Lou Spence, who has eyes for her employer, Cyrus Waltham (played by Antonio Moreno). She initially fails to gain his notice, but succeds in garnering the attention of his friend, Monty Montgomery (played by William Austin, who wears entirely too much makeup), who recognizes a girl with "it" when he sees one. Betty Lou catches Mr. Waltham's attention while at dinner with the hapless Monty, and succeeds in getting him to spring for a date. Cryus is smitten, but difficulties arise when Betty Lou claims her sickly flatmate's baby as her own (in order to prevent a pair of social workers from taking the child), doing much damage to her reputation. At the same time, Betty Lou must compete with high society lady Adela Van Norman (played by Jacqueline Gadsen, whom I'd never heard of before, but who was also quite the dish, as the saying goes) for Mr. Waltham's affections.

Naturally everything works out, and Betty Lou and Cyrus hook up, leaving Adela and Monty to bemoan their it-lessness.

On the whole, It is a highly enjoyable flick. A couple scenes I found particularly interesting, particularly Betty Lou's date with Cyrus at the beach--from the nature of some of the rides and attractions at the amusement park, one gets the impression that risking a debilitating injury was merely part of having a good time back in the day, especially on the social mixer--I can only imagine the potential for all manner of bruised ribs and mild concussions. There's no way you'd find anything like that at a modern amusement park--I guess people really were tougher back in the day.

And all that without a single demonic clown (well, William Austin was fairly frightening, but that's another story).

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