Friday, August 15, 2008

It (Clarence Badger) **1/2

Director: Clarence Badger

Cast: Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin, Priscilla Bonner

Background: After the great success of her 1925 film The Plastic Age, Clara Bow became a huge celebrity. She was one of the most talked about stars of her era, gaining as much attention for her off screen escapades as her on screen performances. In 1927, Elinor Glyn adapted her own novel It for the big screen and Bow was cast in the lead role.

Story: Betty Lou Spence (Bow) is a salesgirl who falls in love with her rich boss, Cyrus Waltham Jr. (Moreno), despite the fact that he's already engaged. Their courtship has some roadblocks, including differing social classes, Cyrus's silly friend Monty, and a misunderstanding about her living situation.

Thoughts: This one is certainly better than My Best Girl, mainly because Clara Bow is allowed to be a real woman. If "It" = sex appeal, then Clara has it in spades. She almost makes this film work all on her own. There are still some problematic developments. Moreno is not an interesting enough leading man for her. William Austin's memorable comic turn as Monty completely overshadows him throughout the film. The other problem is the contrived conflict created to separate the couple in the third act. It's all a silly misunderstanding that anyone with two brain cells would have figured out much sooner. The real road block should have been the fact that Cyrus is engaged, but his fiance is given an alarming lack of sympathy. We see nothing that shows why she deserves the treatment she gets in this film, other than a speech from Monty at the end that explains she just doesn't have "It". That's a pretty harsh message for a romantic comedy.

Postscript: It was a huge success at the box office and Bow would become known as The "It" Girl. The same year, she would appear in eventual BEst Picture winner Wings. However, the introduction of talkies and her own personable problems severely limited her career and she made her last film in 1933. Moreno continued getting roles as romantic leads and his career would span through the 50's. Austin played mostly supporting roles throughout his career, including a turn as Alfred in the 1943 film version of Batman. This was the last notable film that Clarence Badger would direct.

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