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Atlas Presents Silent Film: "IT" (1927)

Atlas Performing Arts Center
Event organized by Atlas Performing Arts Center

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IT (1927)
starring Clara Bow, directed by Clarence Badger
Featuring live, original music by Curator and Resident Musician for the Atlas Silent Film Series, Andrew Earle Simpson

Performance begins at 4 pm

“‘IT’ is that peculiar quality which some persons possess, which attracts others of the opposite sex.” This sentence, drawn from Elinor Glyn’s story of the same name, defines the quality of sex appeal embodied by the term “It.” This film also made Clara Bow a major star: after its success, she was known simply as “The ‘IT’ Girl.”

IT is a classic “flapper” comedy, which portrays shop-girl Betty Lou Spence (Bow) at work and at play, actively pursuing the love of her boss, department store owner Cyrus T. Waltham (Antonio Moreno). Then-traditional divisions of class status are questioned here; for example, Bow’s character agrees to dine with Waltham’s wealthy friend “Monty” Montgomery, and she confidently suggests that they dine at the Ritz. Monty agrees, after some hesitation, and the pair dine together in full sight of high-society fellow diners. As a counterbalance to what might otherwise make Betty Lou a self-interested gold-digger, she is kind-hearted, taking in her friend Molly and Molly’s newborn baby, for example.

Author Elinor Glyn actually appears in the film (at the Ritz), and is asked by some diners to define “IT.” She gives the following answer:

“Self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not – and something in you that gives the impression that you are not all cold. That’s ‘IT’ ”

The screen adaptation is as much a celebration and extended exploration of the cultural phenomenon of “It” as a vehicle for Clara Bow. All the same, Bow shines in the film. IT has delightful comic scenes and a fantastic finale aboard (and overboard) Waltham’s yacht, the aptly-named “ITOLA.”

Andrew Earle Simpson’s new musical score draws on the spirit of this Jazz-Age comedy, capturing the optimism, brightness, and spirit of the picture.

About Andrew Earle Simpson

Andrew Earle Simpson is Curator and Resident Musician for the Atlas Silent Film Series. A renowned and accomplished composer, conductor, and performer, he is the Resident Film Accompanist at the National Gallery of Art, and appears regularly at the Library of Congress, AFI Silver Theater, and many venues across the United States and abroad. He is Professor of Music at the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at The Catholic University of America, where he teaches composition, music theory, and courses in film and music.

Professor Simpson creates live, improvised scores as well as fully-composed scores to accompany silent films. The Atlas screenings feature live piano accompaniment, with scores designed to support and enhance the comic and dramatic elements of each film.