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Remind Me

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Modern Hollywood may be ruled by shrewd marketing campaigns, but even Mel Gibson would be hard-pressed to beat the success of B.P. Schulberg, the producer of It (now available on Milestone Films DVD.) It is a winning silent comedy about a young woman who sets her sights on the man of her dreams. Though the film was released way back in 1927, Schulberg's publicity department managed to brand his star, Clara Bow, as "The It Girl" for the rest of her life...and then some. Even today, people who couldn't pick Bow out of a police lineup know her by that alias.

Bow, who became the biggest sex symbol of the Roaring Twenties, plays Betty Lou, a lowly shopgirl at a big city department store. When Betty Lou lays eyes on Cyrus (Antonio Moreno), the son of the store owner, she immediately embarks on a plan to win his love. Betty Lou will stop at nothing to land Cyrus. She even tries to use Cyrus's friend, Monty (William Austin), to get close to him. But Monty soon develops a crush on Betty Lou. Things get even more complex when Betty Lou, in order keep her friend Molly (Priscilla Bonner) from having her baby taken away by a group of Christian reformers, pretends to be the child's mother. When Monty hears that Betty Lou is supposedly a mom, she really has her work cut out for her.

Okay. But, what, you may be asking, is "It?" This is where the movie gets post-modern about 50 years ahead of schedule. Elinor Glyn was a relatively popular romance novelist in the 1920s who wrote a story about an alluring personality trait she called "It." Generally speaking, "It" is a natural quality that some women exude. When all is said and done, you might as well define this indefinable something as "an indefinable something."

Glyn's groundbreaking "theory" landed her a fat check from It's producers, and she also got to play herself in the film, which further helped designate Bow as "The It Girl." In an early scene, Monty is even shown reading Glyn's original story about "It," which further blurs the line between fantasy and reality. And you thought Charlie Kaufman invented this kind of screenwriting.

Bow, of course, more than lived up to her billing. Even today, she's an extremely charismatic performer, a vivacious, funny young woman who wasn't a classic beauty but was a first-rate movie star- the Julia Roberts of her time, if you will. Anyone who's interested in sheer star quality should definitely check this picture out. As much as any performer from the silent period, Bow's appeal remains extraordinarily in step with modern times.

The film hasn't been restored to any heroic degree. This is just a quality print of a very old movie, so there are scratches and blemishes at certain points. But, overall, it looks pretty great, and there are a several stunning close-ups of Bow that haven't been effected in the least by the ravages of time. She simply lights up the screen at these moments. Extras include a pretty dry audio commentary by film professor Jeanine Basinger that makes you feel like you should be taking notes, a nice stills gallery, and a rare article by It's director, Clarence Badger, which can only be accessed on a computer by using Acrobat Reader. This is a disc worth adding to a real film buff's collection.

For more information about It, visit Milestone Films. To order It, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Tatara