frank borzage

Street Angel (1928) Review | Jamie Daily

 

Street Angel (1928)
1st Academy Awards 1929
4/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Actress (Janet Gaynor).
Watched September 17, 2012.

 

Yet another Frank Borzage film starring none other than Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.  Perhaps Gaynor’s true talent was in playing a small waif of an innocent street walker in Italy, and Farrell’s in playing the dreamer who falls in love, because this film, very similarly to 7th Heaven, is another romance between the two.  Ironically, it is a Hollywood followup, as the original romance between director and actors must be recreated.

 

Janet Gaynor has done it again, but in this film, she is a vivacious vixen from the beginning.  In the opening scenes in Naples, her mother’s health leads her to regrettably and desperately walk the streets, attempting to earn money for medicine.  When her wiles fail her, she resorts to theft, but in being caught is sentenced to a year in the workhouses.  Desperately, she flees and is helped in her escape by circus performers.  Having a natural talent (or I should say almost flawless balance), she joins the troupe easily.  It is while traveling and performing that she meets Gino the painter (Farrell).  He is taken in by her fiery personality immediately and decides to travel with the group, insisting that he must paint her.  Initially, she is very put off by him and insists that love is silly, but really, who can think that for very long when Charles Farrell is around?

When Gaynor’s character Angela is injured in a fall, Gino immediately volunteers to take her to Naples for a doctor.  Through her healing process, Angela learns to love Gino and we see a relationship as sweet as can be.  This relationship, unlike that in 7th Heaven, requires much less of a suspension of reality.  It is still romanticized, but in a more realistic way.  We can be pulled in and believe that their love is true.  The moments of tenderness as well as of irritation are expertly done, and Farrell’s continued use of puppy-dog eyes don’t hurt along the way.

 

Inevitably, the police recognize Angela and cart her away, leaving Gino a shell of the man he used to be.  If you know Borzage, however, you won’t fear too much that there will not be a happy ending.

 

Technically, the film is not a master, however, there are several key follow shots that are breathtaking.  My favourite in particular is when Angela is taken to jail. Gino wanders the streets, at first frantically searching, and eventually he is merely dejectedly dragging his feet as he navigates the crowds, finally ending to lean against a wall in despair.  The acting is superb and the characters are lovable.  The writing is a bit unoriginal, but that could also be because this is the original, and all the films after it are only chasing greatness.

 

If you are looking for a cute romance, a strong female character, or a look into Naples in the past, I would highly suggest this film!

 

 

Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesSenses of CinemaCinema SightsSilent Hollywood

7th Heaven (1927) Review | Jamie Daily

7th Heaven (1927)
1st Academy Awards (1929)
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 5 awards, of which it won 3.
Nominated for Art Direction (Harry Oliver) and Outstanding Picture.
Won Best Actress (Janet Gaynor), Directing–Dramatic (Frank Borzage), and Writing–Adaptation (Benjamin Glazer).
Watched: July 13, 2012.

7th heaven

This film is the definition of a cheesy, wholesome romance.  There was passion, comedy, predictability, and it was all wonderful.  My memories of the 2011 French film, “The Artist,” now pale in comparison.  It is difficult to hold a candle to an original silent film.  They were the norm in the 20s and no one had to be introduced to their artistry because they were already a well-appreciated genre.  Today, making a silent film is a novelty and an experiment; the filmmakers have to somehow make it understandable to today’s society.

I loved this film.  Almost everything about it made me fall in love with 1920s filmmaking.  Even though the film was silent and occasionally overacted, I enjoyed every second of it.  I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m a huge romantic.

Janet Gaynor, who plays Diane, is a genius.  Her range of emotions would put to shame many of today’s actors.  Her ability to laugh and cry at the same time, and her completely genuine expression of “I’m not used to being happy.  It’s funny… it hurts” are just some examples of why this 21-year-old won the first ever Oscar for Best Actress.  Presenting a prostitute as a pure innocent soul trapped by her circumstances is not an original concept, but Gaynor’s angelic face and large, expressive eyes pull you into her life story and make you believe you have never seen a character like her before.

The setting of “7th Heaven” is the early 20s in Paris.  Diane lives with her sister Nana (Gladys Brockwell), who is an abusive drunk.  After Diane confesses their misconduct to their wealthy relatives, Nana drags her into the street, where she proceeds to beat and strangle her.  Chico (Charles Farrell), who is a sewer worker, finally pulls Nana off of Diane and forces her to stop.  The rest of their love story is history.

As two so completely different characters – one who has given up hope in life, and one whose life goal is to move from the sewers to the streets – it is a wonder that they ever find love for one another.  Diane is rescued by a tall, handsome man, and thus falls hard and fast, but Chico, who is “a remarkable fellow,” has his head up in the clouds and it takes him a little longer to come around.

Once the director, Frank Borzage gets us to Chico’s seventh floor apartment, time and space slow and blend.  Love is not a subtlety or mired in hidden symbolism.  Diane’s timidity gives way to bravery as Chico tells her to never look down, but always keep her head up!  The passing of time has no meaning and all that there seems to be in the world is their story up in the heavens.

I will say it again, 7th Heaven is very cheesy–so cheesy that if you aren’t a sappy romantic (like me), or a film noir silent film advocate, you might want to think twice before you pick this film as your Friday night flick.  However, this is something I would love to add to my collection and will certainly think of watching it on any rainy afternoon I can.

 

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Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesNew York TimesCinema SightsShooting Down Pictures