"Sex" was still somewhat of a taboo word during the Roaring 20's. But being a generation blessed with bountiful creativity, they came up with a fair number of synonymous expressions for sex and sex appeal, most notably "IT."
"IT" is that quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With "IT" you win all men if you are a woman—and all women if you are a man. "IT" can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.
So wrote the prolific novelist and later screenwriter and director Elinor Glyn. And no one exemplified "IT" like the film starlet Clara Bow. Bow was born in 1905 in an impoverished Brooklyn tenement, where she grew up abused, neglected, and frightened. She never acted on the stage, and her break into the motion picture industry came as a result of winning a mail-in beauty contest sponsored by Motion Picture Magazine when she was just 15 years old.
Although Clara's sexuality became her defining trademark as an actress, she also possessed a remarkable talent for dramatic acting. Had Paramount Studios been interested in developing this facet of her acting ability, she might have been remembered as one of the period's great dramatic actresses.
Bow was cast as the lead in the 1927 film adaptation of an Elinor Glyn short story entitled IT, where she plays a salesgirl who has her eyes on the handsome eligible bachelor who owns the department store. IT became one of the most successful films of 1927 as well as one of the best known films of the silent era. IT boosted Clara Bow to superstardom.
Here is a wonderful video compilation that shows not only the "flirty salesgirl with brains and a heart of gold" persona that made her so famous, but also highlights her impressive ability to convey emotion through her facial expressions and body language; exquisite talents for a successful silent film actress.
And naturally, "IT' became the subject of many popular songs of the era. Here are two of them:
The University Six recorded She's Got It (Mp3) in May 1927, at the height of "IT" mania. This group was a small ensemble drawn from the personnel of the California Ramblers dance orchestra. This record features prolific singer Arthur Fields as well as trumpeter Chelsea Quealey, Bobby Davis on alto sax, Irving Brodsky on piano, and the great Adrian Rollini doubling on both bass sax and xylophone.
Three years later, singer Annette Hanshaw waxed I've Got 'It' (But It Don't Do Me No Good)(Mp3). This playful little song features Annette at the apex of her vampish charm, as well a sympathetic backing from her Sizzlin' Syncopators including Manny Klein on trumpet, Tommy Dorsey on trombone, Rube Bloom on piano, and Adrian Rollini on bass saxophone.