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Milestone Film & Video presents
IT (Milestone version) (1927)

"Be serious--with you? How silly!"
- Betty Lou (Clara Bow)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: March 10, 2004

Stars: Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin
Other Stars: Priscilla Bonner, Jacqueline Gadsdon, Julia Swayne Gordon, Elinor Glyn, Gary Cooper
Director: Clarence Badger

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:16m:49s
Release Date: March 02, 2004
UPC: 014381197426
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+B+A- B+

DVD Review

Clara Bow, although an extremely talented actress in her day, is today remembered primarily as the "IT" Girl, which is the result of this film and a concomitant publicity stunt. As such, she became the symbol of the Roaring Twenties woman, the flapper who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to go after it. The film that started this sobriquet is a delightful little romantic comedy which is highly entertaining nearly 75 years later.

Betty Lou (Bow) is a shopgirl in Waltham's Department Store, supposedly the largest in the world. The head of the Walthams has gone fishing and left his son Cyrus (Antonio Moreno) in charge. When Cyrus makes an inspection tour of the store, Betty Lou falls hard for him and begins scheming how to end up with him. She's not above using his friend, Monty (William Austin), who develops a thing for her, to get close to Cyrus. Complications ensue when a group of Christian reformers descend upon Betty Lou's roommate, Molly (Priscilla Bonner), and threaten to take Molly's baby away because the mother isn't able to work. Betty Lou steps forward and tells them that she is the mother, and that she's working, in an effort to fend them off. Naturally, this gets back to Cyrus, via Monty, leading Betty Lou to have to take more desperate steps.

We don't even see Bow until after there has been a discussion of "IT". Elinor Glyn was a fading romance novelist who wrote a story about "IT", and she was paid a princely sum of money and given an appearance in the film in order to declare Clara the "IT" Girl. "IT" was subject to different definitions depending on the circumstance, but in its essence it was an unself-conscious appeal to the opposite sex, which did not necessarily need to be physical. Glyn really wasn't necessary to declare Bow the "IT" Girl; anyone seeing her on the screen could have told you that she had "IT" in abundance. Her portrayal of Betty Lou combines equal parts spunk, sauciness and sentimentality, making for a highly appealing character despite the fact that Bow wasn't particularly pretty or sexy herself. She could make herself appealing regardless, part of her formidable acting repertoire. Bow was absolutely perfect for silent films; her moon-face was so plastic and controlled that she could easily convey half a dozen different emotions in the space of a second just by the way she held her head.

Also notable is William Austin, playing Monty, the comic foil to Cyrus. If you imagine John Waters doing an imitation of Monty Python's upper class twit, you'll have a good idea of how he comes across. His timing is superb and his expressions often hilarious, particularly as he examines himself in a mirror to determine whether he has "IT". Moreno doesn't have much interesting to do as Cyrus (though he supposedly was supposed to have "IT" as well). Note a young Gary Cooper as the newspaper reporter who observes the battle between Betty Lou and the reformers. He doesn't get to do much besides pay attention and take notes, but there he is.

Some interesting camera work is visible. The montage of the day Betty Lou and Cyrus spend at an amusement park is imaginatively shot with interesting perspectives and camera movements. On several occasions, Bow is seen running up the steps to her flat, but each time the camera gives a subtly different air to the scene depending on the circumstances. When she is joyful about her coming evening at the Ritz, it playfully bobs up the stairs with her. When she is rushing to Molly's defense, the camera takes a very direct route after her.

One of the oddities about this picture is how highly self-referential it is. Not only is it based on a story by Elinor Glyn, but Monty is shown reading that very story in the early scenes, and it is discussed over dinner, where Mme. Glyn herself makes an appearance to comment upon it. True to the definition of "IT", however, Betty Lou never remarks upon "IT" or even seems to be aware of its existence.

Although at its core "IT" is a fairly light piece of fluff, it's done quite well indeed. As romantic comedies go, this is one of the best of them.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: This disc represents a huge step forward in image quality over the Kino version. The contrast levels are much improved, as are clarity and detail. The picture, slightly windowboxed, is shining with only fairly frequent splices and speckles as a detriment, and in something over 75 years old, that's hardly an issue. Bow's star quality just leaps off the screen in this improved version, making her vibrancy highly immediate and really pushing this picture into a whole new level of appeal. The usual ghosting present in Photoplay transfers is here, unfortunately, but it's easily outweighed by the improved source material. That said, it's only evident in fast movement, where it blurs the picture unnecessarily. It's the only thing keeping this from an A grade.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(music only)yes


Audio Transfer Review: Carl Davis provides an orchestral score, and it sounds quite nice. The lush scoring is appropriate for the thematic material. Depth and presence are good, although directionality is not very noticeable. Hiss and noise are practically nonexistent.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Production Notes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Prof. Jeanine Basinger
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery
Extras Review: Prof. Jeanine Basinger provides an enthusiastic appreciation of the film and of Bow, though she takes quite a few unnecessary slaps at Elinor Glyn. It's full-length, with a substantial examination of Bow's career, sex in the movies, the flapper and the "IT" phenomenon, among other topics. Although a bit academic in delivery, Basinger has plenty of interesting material and it's worth checking out. A .pdf file includes an unpublished 1956 article by director Clarence Badger on the making of the film, his dealings with Elinor Glyn, talking about Bow and also touching on how Gary Cooper went from tugboat captain to bit part to star. The article is also in Word format for those without Adobe Acrobat. Finally there's a gallery of four posters and a baker's dozen of windowboxed still photos.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

One of the great silent romantic comedies, with a much-improved transfer, full orchestral score and a thorough commentary. What are you waiting for?

 


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