Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Street Angel (Frank Borzage) **

Director: Frank Borzage

Cast: Charles Farrell, Janet Gaynor

Background: Borzage had previously directed Gaynor and Farrell in 1927's Seventh Heaven. That was one of the highest grossing films of the previous year, and the studio brought the team back together for another melodramatic romance.

Story: Angela (Gaynor) tries to work as a prostitute to make money for her dying mother, but ends up getting caught. She escapes from prison and ends up traveling with a circus, where she meets talented artist Gino. As the two begin to fallin love, Angela is worried that her past will catch up with her.

Thoughts: I had high expectations for this reunion of Gaynor, Farrell, and Borzage, but was left very disappointed. Sure, they make a great on screen couple and Gaynor is particularly impressive, but this story mostly plods along without much focus or common sense. There's a particularly terrible moment when Angela has to finally face the truth, but she deceives Gino in a way that makes things so much worse for him. Seriously, the decision Gaynor's character makes in this film is one of the most nonsensical and basically mean spirited I've ever seen in a film. Why did anyone think this made sense at the time? Gaynor is one of the best actresses I've discovered while doing this project, but she deserved so much better than this character. This also misses the visual flair that the inventive set decoration of Seventh Heaven provided. This is a major disappointment.

Postscript: The trio would work together one more time, in 1929's Lucky Star. Gaynor and Farrell would continue working together, eventually appearing in 12 films together. All theee would survive the transition to sound and have very successful careers.

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