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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Street Angel (1928)

After she is arrested for theft and prostitution in Naples, a young girl (Janet Gaynor) escapes and joins a carnival. There, she meets a young artist (Charles Farrell) and they fall in love. Not knowing about her past, he insists they go to Naples where he can further his career. Bliss is theirs but how soon before her past catches up with her? Directed by Frank Borzage, this is one of three performances (the other two are SUNRISE and SEVENTH HEAVEN) that garnered Gaynor the first Oscar for best actress. I've enjoyed some of the previous Borzage/Gaynor collaborations I've seen but this one is sentimental to the point of treacle. I had problems with SEVENTH HEAVEN too but at least that had several scenes which redeemed the maudlin scenario. The pacing is way too slow. There's a scene where Gaynor is granted an hour with her lover before being carted off to prison. The scene takes all of ten minutes but damn if Borzage doesn't make it feel like an hour. I'm not sure that's a compliment! The Oscar nominated cinematography by Ernest Palmer is quite good (an image of Farrell against a wall looking for Gaynor while shadows of pedestrians cross him is quite wonderful) though the sappy score by Erno Rapee is inexcusable. With Natalie Kingston and Henry Armetta.

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