Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A discovery: The River, 1929

Frank Brorzage's THE RIVER, a lost silent from 1928/29, has turned out to be an unexpected treat. I only discovered it as two pals over at IMDB were discussing it the other week. 

As Daryl said: Borzge was "The master romanticist of the American cinema! He developed his distinctive romantic style during the silent period, when he became one of the most prominent and celebrated directors at the Fox Studio; though it exists only as a fragment, THE RIVER is one of his most sensual films, with an almost mystical emphasis on the physical connection between the protagonists (and Charles Farrell's nude swim remains enchanting). LILIOM is a gorgeous phantasmagoria: using the leftover sets from Murnau's SUNRISE, Borzage was able to create an entire universe for Molnar's theatrical conceit.,,,,,,  The Janet Gaynor-Charles Farrell partnership was the most celebrated of Fox movie couples, but both would be paired with others in an attempt to show their versatility"
I now have four more Borzage's with them on order: STREET ANGEL, LUCKY STAR, LILIOM (which was turned into CAROUSEL) and 7TH HEAVEN

Borzage died aged 68 in 1962, I also like his MAN'S CASTLE from 1934 with Tracy and Loretta Young as the perfect Depression waif (see 1930s label); Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in THE MORTAL STORM, one of my favourite '40s films; Sullavan again in THREE COMRADES; Crawford and Gable in STRANGE CARGO, and his 1932 version of A FAREWELL TO ARMS was re-released here recently

In all Gaynor and Farrell did 12 films together between 1927 and 1934, yet he is almost forgotten today. Born in 1900 he lived until 1990, so practically all of the 20th century! He retired from movies apart from some television in the '50s (THE CHARLES FARRELL SHOW in 1956), married and moved to Palm Springs where he became mayor. It is interesting now discovering this attractive matinee idol of the late silents and early talkies. 
The 55 minutes that remains of THE RIVER is a marvellous treat now, with its stylised sets for that mining village in the Rockies, its cartoon villain with his pet crow, the deaf mute who saves the day, and the odd romance between innocent Allen John (Farrell) and the more wordlywise Rosalee (Mary Duncan) and that cabin by the river where she first sees him swimming naked ... he amusingly keeps missing the train (surely a model train set) to go to "the city" after sailing downriver on his homemade barge. Oh, those innocent days ... it reminded me of W C Fields' THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER, one of his great shorts which I have also ordered, so more on them, and the Borzage-Farrell films in due course.
Below: a perfect late '20s shot: Johnny Mack Brown, Flash (the dog) and Charles Farrell.

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