Monday, September 7, 2009

Lucky Star (Frank Borzage) ***1/2

Frank Borzage

Cast: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Guinn Williams, Hedwiga Reicher

Story: Mary (Gaynor) is a poor farm girl who meets Tim (Farrell) just as World War 1 breaks out. Tim goes off to war, but comes back in a wheelchair. Tim and the now older Mary begin to fall for one another, but Mary's mother does not approve of her marrying a "cripple".

Background: This is the third collaboration between Borzage, Gaynor, and Farrell after Seventh Heaven and Street Angel. Gaynor had just won the first Best Actress Oscar (partly for her performance in Seventh Heaven) and Borzage won the Best Director Oscar (also for Seventh Heaven).

Thoughts: A much improved outing for the trio after the dismal Street Angel. This one contains all the romanticism of Seventh Heaven and avoids the nonsensical plot twists that doomed Street Angel. In fact, it's pretty remarkable that the film remains interesting despite most of the scenes consist of Mary and Tim talking to one another. But oh how wonderful those scenes are! There's even a very sensual moment when he begins to wash Mary (in his attempt to remake her), but gets shy when he starts to undress her. By now, Gaynor and Farrell were such a perfectly matched pair that they could sleepwalk through their roles and still be convincing lovers, but they invest everything in these roles, completely selling even the corniest of moments. The ending is just perfect and includes a shot of Farrell in the distance that is one of the best images Borzage has produced.

Postscript: This would be the last film the trio would make together, but Gaynor and Farrell would continue working together in 8 more films. Borzage would win another Oscar for 1931's Bad Girl and continue directing until he made his final film in 1959.

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