Borzage’s last silent, lost for decades until reappearing in the Netherlands 20 years ago; we’re probably fortunate that it was the genuine silent version, and not the part-talkie (or, worse, a silent version of the part-talkie with intertitles cut into the dialogue scenes), which now exists (and in such remarkably good shape). Also his third with Gaynor and Farrell, this time playing poor folks from rural America rather than the streets of Paris or Naples, and filmed this time by a different cinematographer which presumably explains why it looks different to the other two films. I know I’ve seen entirely studio-created rustic “exteriors” before, but there’s something particularly interesting about this set that I can’t pin down… Anyway, Charles and Janet are our young lovers again, a bit more rough-hewn perhaps but as appealing as ever; he’s the former soldier invalided out of the world war and into a wheelchair, she’s the eldest child of a crusty old farmer’s widow. Isolated somewhat from the rest of the world around him, her increasingly frequent visits to his cottage graduate from her spitefully breaking one of his windows to something more than just friendship. However, this time the love is decidedly triangular: our third partner is the local good-for-nothing who seems to have whored his way through the war, returning home to seduce and abandon another young girl from the local village before setting his sights on little Janet. Meanwhile, her nasty old bag of a mother doesn’t need much convincing that he’s a better deal than Farrell. Once again Borzage gives us the spectacle of love conquering all (the intertitle from Street Angel about love and adversity making people great applies to all these films, and this one perhaps best of all), though on any rational level it’s a hard one to swallow… and yet it works, somehow. You want it to. I really liked this, and I’m not sure that it’s not in fact my favourite of the Borzages I’ve seen so far.
Lucky Star (1929)