In May I was pleased as punch to make my way to Music Box Theatre to watch a screening of the 1927 silent movie "It" with Clara Bow. I had so much fun watching this film and I must say, I saw it the best way possible. Firstly, the Music Box is a stunning jewel of a theater, and is my favorite in the city. Secondly, the film had live organ accompaniment by the house organist Dennis Scott. Truly the way a silent was meant to be seen!
Scott did a fabulous job with the music for this film, adding little bits to funny moments or gestures in the scenes. The movie itself was also loads of fun. I must admit, i never really understood why everyone goes crazy for Clara Bow - yes, she is hot, but so what. Well, now that I have seen her in action, I can understand. She was really a great silent actress; she was able to get across several emotions without being campy. Oh, and did I mention that her character worked the lingerie counter at a department store? My, my, I love department store scenes in old movies and add a bit of lingerie in the mix - pure cinema heaven.
The only actor I was kind of "eh" about was William Austin, who you see above attempting to woo Clara's character, Betty Lou Spence. If there ever was a ham in silent cinema, he was it. At first I couldn't take his overacting, but by mid-movie, her grew on my like a campy little fungus. He also has one of my favorite lines in the film: "I feel so low, old chap, that I could get on stilts and walk under a dachshund."
Of the entire movie, my favorite scene(s) is when Betty Lou goes on a date with her eye candy, Cyrus Waltham Jr., to Luna Park (in Coney Island). I've read about the rides in Luna Park, and their significance to breaking down social barriers in Peiss' book Cheap Amusements, but it was really interesting to see it in action.
Watch the clip from the movie of these two in Luna Park and see how the normal social etiquette is thrown to the wayside. Not only that - but dear me - can we get a peak of stocking? Or better yet, those wind holes in the floor of some of those rides blow a lady's skirt up, allowing the date to see even more.
Ah yes, and in once instance, we can right-out see Bow's knickers, stockings, and garters. Do you notice she is wearing three garters? One inside the roll of the stocking, one right below the roll to hold that up, and then a third as either extra hold-up security or just as plain decor. Whew - being a flapper required a lot of accessories!
This part of the movie really cinched a lot of the reading I've done on the great social changes taking place at this time. It is really amazing just how many new and modern things were popping up, how the masses were trying to deal with the young kids no longer following the social norm. Oh yes, and dating, and heavy petting, and cars where a couple could be by themselves...oh the humanity.
But I digress very much so from the plot of the movie. "IT" is a romantic comedy and is a very good one. At first it was odd to have a large theater full of people just sitting there reading. But after I got into the swing of reading and the music and the images, I became so absorbed into the story I completely forgot these actors weren't speaking and that I was simply reading lines.
If you have a chance to watch this film, even just in your home without an awesome organist, I highly suggest it. Bow is really great, the story is loads of fun, and there is some great imagery in this story. Not to mention that awesome hat she wears for the first half of the film. What the heck are those...large grapes? No matter, I'd wear it in a heartbeat.
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Are you interested in watching a silent film at the Music Box with awesome organ music? Awesome, because this film was just the third in their Saturday Silent Cinema. Every other month the Music Box will have a new silent movie for the watching on Saturday at noon. The next film up is "The Black Pirate" (1926) with Douglas Fairbanks on July 9 at 12:00pm . I'm not much a swash buckling fan myself, but I had so much fun at "IT" that I would love to see this one. Unfortunately, I'll be out of town, so how about you go for me and let me know what you think? Plus, this is the first full-feature film to use the two-strip Technicolor process (a red image and a green image literally glued together to make color), so how can you miss that?