Monday, February 26, 2007


Cyrus inherits his father's department store, and Betty Lou, a perky young salesgirl, falls for her dashing new boss. Monty, Cyrus' foppish friend, is obsessed with finding a girl with "It".

What is "It"? Writer Elinor Glyn, who coined the term, makes a cameo appearance to explain. "It" is "That strange magnetism which attracts both sexes... entirely unself-conscious... full of self-confidence... indifferent to the effect... she is producing and uninfluenced by others." In short, sex appeal. And, as Monty observes, Betty Lou is "positively top-heavy with 'It'".

Betty Lou's and Cyrus' attraction to each other is mutual, but naturally there are a series of misunderstandings that threaten to prevent them from being together. Will the poor but pretty girl will end up with the rich and handsome man? I wouldn't bet against it.


Sexual attitudes were loosening during the 20s, and Clara Bow personified the new attitude: higher hemlines, lower necklines, and more assertive and shameless flirting. But some of the movie's progressive elements are tempered with concessions to more traditional values. Betty Lou brashly comes on to her boss and tricks him into taking her on a date, but when he kisses her after the date, she slaps him. She supports a friend who is an unwed mother, but when she finds out Cyrus believes the baby is hers, she's offended that he would think she was that kind of woman.

The attitude toward the unwed mother seems particularly quaint today. Apparently being unmarried is not only grounds for having your baby taken away by meddling social service workers (didn't I see these same busybodies taking the baby away from a woman who had a bottle of wine in the house in Intolerance?), but it's also newsworthy enough to be published in the newspaper.


Modern workplaces are more sensitive to issues of sexual harassment. Monty scoping out the salesgirls trying to find who has "It" would by condemned today. We also wouldn't find such gender specific wording in our employment ads as: "Female worker wanted... neat appearance"

No comments: