Thanks, I know I just can't do them the justice that Borzage intended, they are so meaningful on so many levels. Here are reviews I left on the silent forum about his silent movies
The shooting of Sunrise was meant to finish on the 20th January 1927 and Seventh Heaven started filming on January 24th 1927 but Sunrise finally ended on March 12th necessitating working on Seventh Heaven at night. Some of the sets from Sunrise were used for Seventh Heaven.
Seventh Heaven is set in Monmartre at the start of the first world war. Chico (Charles Farrell) works in the sewers of Paris, his dream is to work as a street cleaner, he is in his own words 'A very remarkable fellow'. Diane (Janet Gaynor)is orphaned lives with her older sister, Nana (Gladys Brockwell) in a very shabby room, Nana beats Diane regularly, the sisters ocassionally steal or resort to prostitution to put food on the table and absinthe in Nana's belly. As the flim opens Diane has been beaten and goes to a bar to meet the fence and to get absinthe to take home to Nana. Whilst Diane is gone Nana receives a visit from the priest who tells Nana that their uncle is returning from the South Seas and will take care of them upon his return. The scenes in the apartment are reminiscient of Murnau with dark shadows falling. The next day Uncle appears with his wife, his wife moved to tears by Diane, who is too scared to look at her, Uncle is a clean living person and asks the girls if they have been clean and decent. Nana tells him of course they have and twists Diane's arm behind her back to get Diane to say the words but she can't, she gives the game away. Uncle turns disgusted, throws some notes on the floor and leaves with his wife. Nana takes her whip and whips and chases Diane out into the street, a tracking shot follows them out, Nana beating and beating her in such a rage, Diane collapses by Chico's sewer and only by Chico climbing out of the sewer did Diane manage to escape with her life. Chico takes Nana and dangles her over the sewer, seeing Chico is serious, Nana runs away.
Diane is passed out by the sewer, unaware she has been rescued. Chico sits down to have a bite to eat with his friends next to the sewer. He glances at Diane, saying she would be better off dead, then thinks differently and rubs an onion under her nose, this brings her round. She gazes at him in wonder, propped up by a wheel. Chico tells her she is afraid of the world but he's not, he's a remarkable fellow. He returns to his friends and complains about the 'Bon Dieu' letting Diane suffer, he's spent 10 francs on God in his life, 5 for a job as a streetcleaner and 5 for a nice blonde wife, he has received neither. The priest passing overhears his conversation and amused, gives him two religious medals and a job as a streetcleaner. Whilst this is going on Diane reaches for Chico's knife that he has left lying on the ground as she raises it to kill herself, Chico stops her and berates her because she was using his knife. She tells him she cannot live without hope and he tries to life her spirits, the police pass by rounding up women including Nana, Nana tells the police that Diane is not better than her and the police move to arrest Diane but Chico stops the police by saying that Diane is his wife. The police pass by but promise to check his story, Chico can't believe that he has put his new job on the line. Diane suggests she movies to his place until the police have finished their enquiries. Chico agrees and as he stands up Diane is crouched at his knees, she kisses his hand and raises her face, she appears transfigured. Chico and Diane are taken to Chico's lodgings in a friends taxi.
The next scene is very famous, the couple must climb to the seventh storey, Borzage had two staircases built of three and four levels and the camera dollys up capturing the couple climbing up the stairs towards heaven. Chico's attic rooms are filmed with softer lights, symbolising the romantic nature of the apartment. Diane is openmouthed in wonder, claiming it is heaven. Not bad for a sewer worker he may work under ground but he lives near the heavens. Diane stands watching Chico by the window, like a child, trusting and nervous but not sure of what is happening to her. Chico goes over a plank seven storeys up to go to a neighbouring apartment, he tries to get Diane to follow him 'Don't look down' he says to her but she is scared. The plank was actually three storeys up, Janet Gaynor says that it was only a plank and a long way down. Whilst Chico is gone Diane undresses and gets under the covers, there is something very moving about Diane undressing in Chico's apartment. Chico returns with a nightdress for her, necessitating her to get out of bed and put the nightdress whilst he is out of the room. The scenes are so touching, Diane does not know how to act properly in Chico's apartment but knowing this is kindness like she has never known. When Chico returns she watches him getting undressed and washed, he comes over to the bed and she pretends to be asleep and he takes a pillow and cover and sleeps on the balcony.
The next morning, Diane busies herself making breakfast and coffee for Chico, it his first day on his new job and his coworker comes to take him to work. He asks Chico why he isn't kissing his wife before he goes to work. Chico decides he should and gives Diane a peck, telling her she can't stay after the police come, he continually says this to her at various points when they are having breakfast. After he has gone Diane touches the place where he has kissed her.
Some while later we see Diane giving Chico a haircut, the police arrive to check out their story, satisfied the police leave and Diane slowly collects her things and starts to leave, Chico doesn't immediately realise what she is doing but as she goes out of the door he says 'If you want to stay you can, you're not in my way' She runs and picks up her scissors. This scenes demonstrates the growing closeness between them.
Then we see Diane sat on a chair draping Chico's jacket arms around her, Chico enters with a potted plant and a wedding dress. She is overcome with joy but hesitates, does she not want to marry him? She wants to hear him say the words. Instead he says 'Chico, Diane, Heaven'. They are not to be married in a church, Chico has given up on God. Interrupted by the neighbour Diane carries the soup she has been making to his pregnant wife, taking the dress and soup over the gangway. War has been declared but for now Diane is ignorant of it. She changes into the dress and returns to Chico. He has just been told that he is one of the first ot leave within the hour.
Diane returns looking a vision in her dress, this time the roles between them, it's Chico who is afraid and Diane who gives him the courage to look up, he buries his head in her arms, giving comfort to Chico as he had given it to her, he tells her he loves her, she is elated. He has made her into a very remarkable fellow too. Chico carries Diane around the room, kissing her and not wanting to let her go. Then he sees the medals and they perform their own wedding ceremony exchanges the medals that the priest gave Chico earlier. Chico leaves promising to visit Diane every day at 11am. As soon as he leaves Nana enters, snatching her medal away. Diane has courage and turns on Nana whipping her instead (the only part of the film that makes me uncomfortable). Diane shouts to Chico as he marches away below of how brave she is.
Chico goes to the front and Diane works and every morning at 11am they clutch their medals and talk to one another 'Chico, Diane, Heaven' In the very last days of the war, Chico suffers from a shell going off as he rescues a man. He gives his medal to the priest as he dies. Chico's name appears on the list of war dead and General Brissac (who has been very keen on Diane) tells her. She doesn't believe him, she has spoken to Chico every day, when the priest comes with Chico's medal, she breaks down, then he didn't come everyday. Outside the armistice has been signed, there is carousing in the streets, Diane is heartbroken and has to start again. Then we see Chico blind, fighting his way through the crowds to Diane. Into his house, up the stairs shouting all the while 'DIANE' she hears, then sees and doesn't believe, she's like she's seen a vision, then she does. He's with her again, he's blind but he's back, she reaches out to him then falls to his knees, he kneels opposite her, telling her the Mon Dieu was with him afterall. Diane will be his eyes but Chico won't be blind for long, he is a very remarkable fellow.
The casting of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell here together for the first time is inspired, she is so small and fragile and he is tall and broad, it reflects the protection he gives her from his physical size.
Is it God that moves them to commune every morning at 11? Or is it a love that is so strong and powerful? I think the second is what Borzage would have us believe. Seventh Heaven to me is one of the most romantic and moving picture to come out of Hollywood. It's also silent cinema at it's very best, sadly an art that fell by the wayside on the onset of sound.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin