In 1926, Clara Bow was already becoming a solid commodity in motion pictures. The irrepressible redhead had showed her range in a few dramas early on, but after her roles as naughty but nice Cynthia in The Plastic Age or the gold-digging manicurist Alvira in Mantrap, she had found her niche. She was the sexy, devil-may-care flapper who was the envy of every woman and the dream girl of every man.
When the writer Elinor Glyn (infamous for penning a tryst on a tiger-skin rug in Three Weeks) came to Hollywood, and Clara was selected as the lead for It, her career would never be the same.
The Divine Ms. Glyn
Upon meeting Clara for the first time, Glyn supposedly took Clara’s face in her hands and said, “You are my muse!” And crazy as it sounds, maybe she was. But it also may have been the other way around.
After It, Clara, who’d previously been billed as the Brooklyn Bonfire, became The It Girl. And the 1920s ignited.
Audiences probably responded so positively because, other than the fun story and appealing cast, Clara was playing herself– salt of the earth, poor Brooklyn girl Betty Lou Spence. Not only that, but she was helping out her friend and co-worker, Molly (Priscilla Bonner) after the birth of Molly’s baby. She’s letting them stay with her until Molly can go back to work.
Now, I’m the least maternal person I know. I honestly don’t like kids– the crying and whining and carrying on sets my teeth on edge. But this baby (who Clara affectionately calls Toodles) is utterly adorable. They don’t make babies any cuter. Blonde, plump, and cherubic, and she bounces up and down, happy to see Clara.
Okay, how freaking CUTE is this kid?
I saw Wings years ago, and I enjoyed it, but this was the movie that cemented my love for Clara. Because she’s the main attraction here. And this scene is why.
You see, Betty Lou has a crush on her department store owner boss, Cyrus Waltham (Antonio Moreno). Actually, he’s the real boss’s son, left in charge while Waltham, Senior is out of town. Betty thinks Cyrus is the cat’s pajamas. “Sweet Santa Claus, give me him!” she says, upon first seeing him.
She tries to get Cyrus’ attention, but is unsuccessful at first. However, Cyrus’s pal Monty (William Austin) is currently reading It, and he’s convinced Betty has it. He invites Clara to dinner, but she says “only if we go to the Ritz.” She overheard Cyrus telling Monty that he was going there.
Excitedly, she heads into her little flat, out of breath, and full of starry-eyed dreams of Cyrus.
Her interaction with Toodles the baby here is completely natural and so perfectly Clara. She makes faces, picks up the little nipper and holds her while Molly warms a bottle. Her eyes and eyebrows are a perfect concertina of expressions that are completely believable and expressive.
“Crap! What can I wear to the Ritz?“
Realizing she’ll have to have a better frock than what she has, she decides to perform major surgery on the dress she wore to work, enlisting Molly’s help.
“A stitch in time saves nine, right?”
Ensuring her scissors are nice and sharp, she slices it right through the center of the bodice, then has Molly keep going with it, completely removing the massive lace collar. In her inimitable Clara way, she goofs around, wearing the lace collar as a hat, and wincing in pain when Molly accidentally jabs her with the scissors.
“Hey Molly, a little to the right”
After a look away at Clara’s competition, snooty Adela Van Norman (Jacqueline Gadsden), we’re back just in time for an application of talc (in a black dress? Shah, right…), and the Betty Lou pulls the (presumably now basted) frock back over her head.
“Hand me that Shower to Shower, willya?”
She gives us a glimpse of well turned ankle, then drapes a sheer scarf over her head, adding instant glamour. then, she attaches some flowers to the waist of her dress (they did that back then. In my granny Smith’s wedding picture from 1919, they did the same thing).
“Vera Wang, eat your heart out! “
With the addition of the sheer scarf over her already state-of-the-art bob, Betty Lou comes off like a carefree millionairess, and purrs at the camera, lowering those eyelids and convincing anyone and everyone that she really does have It. Monty is already convinced, but Cyrus takes a bit longer to see. After a misunderstanding involving Molly’s baby, things are finally resolved at a yacht party. We see Clara play a ukulele, Clara frolic, and Clara be Clara basically.
Of course she gets the guy (and leaves poor Adela in the dust), but we all knew that would happen anyway. She has It.
“Hey, Cyrus, let me impress you with my mad ukulele skillz”
Wanna watch for yourself? NeilAvon at youtube has kindly posted the scene for your enjoyment: Watch the Dressing for Dinner scene…
And go check out the other And…Scene!” Blogathon entries (read more here at Sister Celluloid’s blog). Good stuff…
The Movie Rat The repeated scene in Persona
Cinephilia The scene after Harry’s wedding in It’s a Wonderful Life
Le Mot du Cinephiliaque The first scene where Jeff snoops on his neighbors in Rear Window
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You The courtroom scene in I’m No Angel
MovieFanFare The Maharaja scene from Three Little Pirates
Another Old Movie Blog Favorite scene in Katie Did It
Vienna’s Classic Hollywood The “Maida revealed” scene in In Name Only
Old Hollywood Films The filibuster scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Nitrate Glow The “descent into the lair” scene in the 1925 version of Phantom of the Opera
Girls Do Film The “bumpy night” scene in All About Eve
Movies Silently The fight scene in Tol’able David
Movie Movie Blog Blog The Looking for Trouble scene in The French Line
Second Sight Cinema The stoop scene in The More the Merrier
Caftan Woman Favorite scene in The Searchers
BNoirDetour The Put the Blame on Mame scene in Gilda
Gina Dalfonzo The drunk scene in The Philadelphia Story
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies The “house plan” scene in Blandings Builds His Dream House
Vivien Leigh Legend The opening scene in Gone With the Wind
Critica Retro The funhouse scene in The Lady from Shanghai
Wolffian Classic Movies Digest The shower scene in Psycho
Back to Golden Days The gin rummy scene in Born Yesterday
Writer’s Rest The porch scene in It’s a Gift
Wide Screen World The “Barton gets suspicious” scene in Double Indemnity
The Wonderful World of Cinema The opening scene in To Be or Not to Be
Back to the Viewer The grapefruit scene in Public Enemy
Defiant Success The party scene in Seconds
The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood The final scene in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Sister Celluloid The love scene in D.O.A. (yes, there is one!)