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Frank Borzage (1893-1962)


pandorainmay
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Could you please share your evaluations of director Frank Borzage's work, (silent & sound)? I'm particularly interested in your assessment of the role of spirituality in the his largely romantic stories. Do you think that he deserves revival among modern viewers? Thanks in advance for any of your insights, comments or criticisms.

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I saw "Seventh Heaven" nearly 20 years ago. I really found myself enjoying it more than I expected to. I know what you mean about "spirituality." I would have called it "romanticism" myself. I don't know if modern audiences would sit still for that type of deep longing/mystical bond between characters in a story set in WWI. Of course, I didn't see the recent French film "A Very Long Engagement," but it sounded as if that film attempted something like that.

 

Sorry my comments aren't more specific, but it has been a long time. Still, I've always thought favorably of Borzage ever since seeing "Seventh Heaven." However, I've not really had a chance to see his films since.

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" Strange Cargo ",directed by Borzage, starring Cable and Crawford is one of my favorite films. Cardinal Spellman, of NYC, pressured the Catholic Legion of Decency to condemn the film, forbidding Catholics, under the pain of mortal sin, to see the film. Strange Cargo is, to my way of thinking, is one of the most Catholic films ever made.

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Thanks for your replies; my original query was based on the fact that Borzage's films interest me and I don't think I've seen enough of them to know alot about his work, and I'm especially interested in TCM viewers' take on a few of the more obscure, but intriguing-sounding films, such as Little Man, What Now?, History Is Made at Night, and Moonrise.

 

Vallo, though I'm already familiar with the IMDb profile of Borzage, I hope that others check it out for a look at this interesting filmmakers work. My initial inquiry was prompted by my affection for two of the director's films, The Mortal Storm and Strange Cargo--both of which have a lingering afterlife in memory as quietly moving--though I'm not sure that I can articulate why entirely. Here's a link that I found to be an interesting assessment of Borzage:

http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/03/borzage.html

 

Ken,

Unfortunately, Cardinal Spellman had a tendency to condemn many films, books and people without seeing, reading or meeting any of the folks who were affected by his considerable misuse of his apostolic power at the time. Be that as it may, Strange Cargo's moving story is interesting because it refuses to spell everything out in big block letters and the message of forgiveness and love is not delivered courtesy of a Hollywood stock clergyman. These elements make it quite a bit more interesting, imho.

 

Glad to know that a few other people are aware of Borzage's work. Thanks, and I hope others chime in or you expand on your comments.

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Those movies I've seen of his I have truly enjoyed and appreciated. I remember a couple that starred Janet Gaynor and Charlie Farrell that were especially touching, including STREET ANGEL (1928). His more sophisticated and glossier movis are also among my favorites: MANNEQUIN (with Spencer Tracy & Joan Crawford), DESIRE (as much a Lubitsch film as it is Borzage), HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (I have been hoping TCM will show this rare gem starring Boyer and Jean Arthur---it's been years since I saw it, but like many of Borzage's films, it stayed with me long after); THREE COMERADES (really tender story---the ending is a bit much. This is F. Scott Fitzgerald's only credited screenplay); and TILL WE MEET AGAIN.

 

He was a real artist in my opinion.

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Moira,

 

Your posts are always so interesting and your tastes match mine too, Lucky me, because you write so beautifully and express your ideas in such an exquisite way.

 

Frank Borzage has always been one of the most intriguing directors ever, IMO. Even before I'd seen any of his films, I'd read so much about this master of Romance that I could feel I'd seen his work. In fact, I'm looking forward to buy the new book that's being released on him. I could say he's my favorite-yet-to-be-discovered director and I'm sure that when I've seen more of his "oeuvre", I'll admire him as much as I admire now Willy Wyler, my all-time favorite Director.

 

Sadly, I haven't seen any of his Silent Films ("Seventh Heaven", "Humoresque", "Street Angel", "The River"), but I've seen some of his talkies and from what I've seen, his approach to moviemaking and his way of telling a story and focusing on the characters matches perfectly my tastes. Indeed, I like Romantic films with an ethereal quality to them.

 

"History is Made at Night" left a such a lasting impression on me that I wrote a review of it at Amazon. I was lucky enough to buy the out-of-print VHS, and I was so right about what I expected from it! Such a unique, sensitive, un-typical movie which blends perfectly drama, comedy, romance, action, adventure....It's my favorite Borzage movie; GREAT!!

 

"Strange Cargo" was another discovery, such and atmospheric, offbeat film. Loved its religious overtones. And what a cast!!

 

Then there was "The Shining Hour" which is generally regarded as a mediocre film by most critics and it really surpassed my expectations; while it's not a masterpiece, I liked the delineation of characters and the handling of the human relationships between the principal players. Margaret Sullavan and Joan Crawford's different acting styles are contrasted to good advantage here.

 

"Desire" with Cooper and Dietrich is one of my favorite sophisticated comedies and although it has the "touch" of its producer, Ernst Lubitsch, it nevertheless has much of Borzage's approach.

 

Other "lesser" films of his I've enjoyed are "Flight Command", "Seven Sweethearts" and the third remake of "Smilin' Through" which has a special place in my heart.

 

I have other films of his taped that I still have to see, like "Three Comrades" and "The Mortal Storm"....and there are many I'd like to grab my hands on: "Secrets", "Moonrise", "Bad Girl", "Man's Castle", "Little Man, What Now?", "I've Always Loved You", etc.

 

There's so much to discover in this artist!

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I've never been disappointed by a Borzage film. Sometimes watching the films, you are not struck by their importance or quality until long after, when the images and emotional situations come back to you. I saw Strange Cargo when I was 15. I thought it was a good film, but I did not realize how good right then. Memory makes it better. As another said, there was something quietly moving about it which grows over time. The same can be said for the two other Borzage films I have seen, Three Comrades and The Shining Hour.

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