Sunday, June 13, 2021

It

It

(1927)
Directed by
Clarence G. Badger
Written by Hope Loring, Louis D. Lighton (screenplay) Elinor Glyn (story and adaptation)
Starring Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno, William Austin, Priscilla Bonner, Elinor Glyn
IMDB Entry
Full Movie on Youtube

The title is familiar, but this isn’t the Stephen King novel (and spinoffs). Nor is it the classic story by Theodore Sturgeon. It was a silent movie far removed in theme, and one of the sensations of its era.

Betty Lou Spence (Clara Bow) is a shop girl in a big department store, who takes a shine to the store’s owner Cyrus Waltham (Antonio Moreno). Cyrus’s silly-ass friend Monty spots Betty Lou and declares she has “It,” a combination of charm and sex appeal, a concept he found in a story by Elinor Glyn in Cosmopolitgan magazine. He asks her out, and she agrees, as a way to get closer to Cyrus. They meet and start seeing each other with a trip to Coney Island.

But there’s a problem. Betty Lou’s roommate, Molly (Priscilla Bonner) is an unwed mother, out of a job. When social workers try to take the baby away, Betty Lou claims the baby is hers, and won’t name the father. This creates complications of class and social norms with Cyrus.

The movie made Clara Bow a sensation.  She had been acting and starring in films throughout the decade, but this was the one that put her on the map. She is charming and clearly personifies the concept of “It.”* She was known as the “It girl” from then on.

The movie was a massive success, as expected for something that creates a new term. Bow became a top box office draw. But her transition to talkies was difficult. Nothing was wrong with her voice, but she didn’t like the restrictions on movement it required and had some trouble to adjusting. Her only major talkie was the Oscar-winning Wings and she retired from acting in 1933.

Oddly for a film that was so successful, it was thought for many years to be lost, but a print showed up in the 1960s and it can be seen on Youtube.

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*Elinor Glyn, who appeared in the movie as herself, never conclusively defined what she meant by it, In the original story, it was a man who had “It,” but Hollywood decided it was better to cast a woman. Glyn was happy to adapt the storyy.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Wicked Woman


Wicked Woman

(1953)
Directed by
Russell Rouse
Written by Clarence Greene and Richard Rouse
Starring Beverly Michaels, Richard Egan, Percy Helton, Evelyn Scott
IMDB Entry

Film Noir is often difficult to define, but a common element involves a woman who entices a man into crime. Wicked Woman is clear in that milieu, as the title indicates.

Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels) shows up in a small town and gets a job as a waitress in a café run by Matt Bannister (Richard Egan) and his wife Dora (Evelyn Scott). Billie makes a play for Matt, who is frustrated at the way his marriage is going, especially since Dora has a drinking problem. She convinces him to sell the place and run off with her to Mexico, but there is a problem, of course:  Dora owns half the café and certainly would not agree to sell, especially under these circumstances. Meanwhile, Billie keeps stringing along her neighbor Charlie (Percy Helton), using him when useful and ignoring his obvious desire for her.

Beverly Michaels portrays Billie as a schemer who has no compunction about manipulating men.  She senses weakness in Matt and draws him into her influence. At the same time, she is willing to be charming to Charlie, a lonely and unattractive man, so he’ll help her out. Eventually, he learns he’s being used.

Michaels had a relatively short career in B movies and as a cheesecake model. She married this film’s director, but had few credits, despite the strength of the performance here.

Percy Helton is especially good. There is a pathos to him, as he doesn’t understand he’s being used.  The actor did a lot of TV in the 50s and 60s, as a short, dumpy man with a squeaky voice.  This was purportedly his favorite role.

Caught in her web

The odd thing is that the movie doesn’t have the courage of its convictions. Film noir usually ends up with the man and the woman he obsesses over destroyed. There may have been censorship problems – Matt is married and wants to leave his wife, something that the Hays Office would not continence.  It probably was what they wanted to do, but rewrote it so that he and his marriage survive – barely.

Overall, though, it's an interesting foray into the genre.