The easiest comparison is to think of Clara Bow ("The 'It' Girl") as having been to her era what Madonna was to the 1980s: She was smart, vivacious, she showed a relatively generous amount of skin, and she was keyed into the trends of the moment -- those that she didn't herself pioneer -- with pinpoint accuracy. Bow's era was the '20s -- the Jazz Age -- and she was the literal poster child of that historical moment. She wore her brunette hair short, she favored abbreviated hemlines, and, like the Material Girl herself, she projected a make-do, underdog attitude that always won over the guy in the end.

She wasn't called the "It" Girl because it was hard to determine her sex. On the contrary. Rather, the sobriquet comes from the title of the 1927 vehicle that sealed her fame, a film called, in its entirety, It. Taken from a novel by Elinor Glyn, It tells the story of a department store clerk named Betty (Bow) who lures the handsome heir (Antonio Moreno) to the store away from his society girlfriend, thus overcoming the disadvantage of an impoverished, downtown, single girl life. Along the way there are the usual misunderstandings and scandalous goings-on that still fill in the blanks in romantic comedies to this day. (In this instance the dupe is a man named Monty (William Austin) who memorably addresses himself as "old fruit" and his best friend as "old thing.")

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