Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bad Girl (Frank Borzage) **1/2

Director: Frank Borzage

Cast: James Dunn, Sally Eilers, Minna Gombell

Background: Borzage was the master of melodrama, but here he took a departure from that concept for a more realistic exploration of love. In doing so, he cast two relative unknowns as his leads.

Story: A lower class young couple (Dunn, Eilers) falls in love and gets married, but a pregnancy threatens to doom their marriage.

Thoughts: This is the second time Borzage has attempted a departure from his usual style, and once again the result is merely an interesting failure. Here he doesn't necessarily abandon the melodrama, but the stark realism of the story is a contrast to the fanciful backdrops he's used for his previous films. The main problem here is the events move at an excruciatingly slow pace. The most interesting aspect of the film is the exploration of the difficulties of married life for people who don't have alot of money. Unfortunately, almost half the film is over before they even get married and it's quite a chore to make it to that point. It's interesting that the main problem between them was mostly a simple misunderstanding, which actually feels pretty authentic for the kind of troubles married couples go through. I just wish Borzage had gotten to that point a little sooner, because the first half of the film is almost a complete wash.

Postscript: Borzage won his second Best Director Oscar and the film also won for Best Screenplay. Dunn's most notable work after this would be Elia Kazan's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Sally Eilers made a pretty nice career of supporting roles through the late 40s.

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