Though no longer even slightly funny, Clarence Badger’s romantic comedy It maintains its charm with witty camerawork and a powerhouse performance by the lovely Clara Bow. More than anything, It is a Bow vehicle, designed to get the men oggling and the women dreaming. On this level, the film’s quite a success—Bow dominates every scene, with other characters existing to play off her in some manner. She has a magnetic personality, one that smacks of a man-killer with a heart. As there are few of those around, it’s very appealing. In It, she slides nicely into the role of Betty, a Waltham’s salesgirl with spunk to spare and twice as much self-confidence. She’s sexy and she knows it.
The title refers to that special somethin’, that sex appeal that can’t be put into words. It’s about flamboyance and carrying yourself, an aura of unique splendor. Well, Clara most certainly has *it* and ain’t shy about flaunting it either. Unfortunately, Badger goes overboard with his contrasting casting; everyone else feels like little more than a Waltham’s manequin, and things bog down whenever she’s offscreen, even if it’s just for a split-second. By placing so much weight on Bow’s shoulders, Badger’s taking a big risk, and it only partially pays off. Bow makes the picture worth seeing with her spicy performance, but It isn’t much to boast about on any cinematic level. Visually, the camera mundanely moves along, perking up only when Betty appears in a medium close-up. In fact, the film’s so one-dimensional that almost the entire commentary focuses on Bow’s career, her every movement, her every article of clothing. Hell, the commentator even scoffs at the other actresses! The concept of “It” is fine and dandy, but it’s pounded relentlessly into our heads. The dialogue (shown in intertitles) has its moments, but remains predominantly secondary to Bow’s expressionist acting and reaction shots.
I may sound somewhat harsh, but It really isn’t a bad film at all. It’s simply an unremarkable one, pushed into ‘modestly good’ territory by Bow alone. There aren’t many actresses today who can hoist a picture on their backs, so it’s worth checking It out to see one of those select few. And at just 77 minutes with a spankin’ new DVD release, it won’t take much of your time or effort to seek it out. Kick back, enjoy the sexual overtones (and undertones!), and relax to Bow’s sumptuous persona.