BEFORE E.L. JAMES – ELINOR GLYN, CREATOR OF THE “IT” GIRL AND SAUCY SEXUALITY IN THE MODERN NOVEL

1927 Elinor Glyn and Marion Davies

1927 Elinor Glyn and Marion Davies

She pioneered risqué and sometimes erotic romantic fiction aimed at a female readership which was radical for its time, though her writing would not be considered scandalous by modern standards. She coined the use of It, which is repeatedly yet erroneously described as a euphemism for sexuality, or sex appeal. She wrote magazine articles for the Hearst press giving advice on how to keep your man and health and beauty tips. ‘The Elinor Glyn System of Writing’ (1922) gives insights into writing for Hollywood studios and magazine editors at this time.

From the 1927 novel, It: “To have ‘It’, the fortunate possessor must have that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes… In the animal world ‘It’ demonstrates in tigers and cats–both animals being fascinating and mysterious, and quite unbiddable.” From the 1927 movie, It: “self-confidence and indifference as to whether you are pleasing or not”. She was the celebrated author of such early 20th century bestsellers as It, Three Weeks, Beyond the Rocks, and other novels which were then considered quite racy.

On the strength of the popularity and notoriety of her books, Glyn moved to Hollywood to work in the movie industry in 1920. She is credited with the re-styling of Gloria Swanson from giggly starlet to elegant star. Beyond the Rocks was made into a silent film released in 1922; the Sam Wood-directed film stars Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino as a romantic pair. In 1927 she helped to make a star of actress Clara Bow for whom she coined the sobriquet “the It girl”. In 1928, Bow also starred in Red Hair based on Glyn’s 1905 novel.

Apart from being a scriptwriter for the silent movie industry, working for both MGM and Paramount Pictures in Hollywood in the mid-1920s, she had a brief career as one of the earliest female directors.

via Elinor Glyn – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

7 comments

    • “He had that nameless charm, with a strong magnetism which can only be called “It”, and cats – as well as women – always knew when he came into the room.” In the words of Elinor Glyn… oh, wait, there’s more… “A madness of tender caressing seized her. She purred as a tiger might have done, while she undulated like a snake.” Hm, that seems a neat trick, doesn’t it? I’d undulate on over there and give you a hug, Lanier, but I don’t have enough vertebrae!

  1. Dearest V
    BBC 4 over here devoted to an evening to Clara Bow recently, our tv does things like that for the fun of “It”.
    Interested to hear her talk of magnetism in the sense of appeal, The Dandy wonders if this was in the air when Coty named his No.5 – a – like l’Aimant…
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

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