FRANK BORZAGE

Discussion of the actors, directors and film-makers who 'made it all happen'

Moderators: Sue Sue Applegate, movieman1957, moira finnie, Lzcutter

User avatar
movieman1957
Administrator
Posts: 5505
Joined: April 15th, 2007, 3:50 pm
Location: MD

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by movieman1957 »

I'm late to the party for Lucky Star. It's a sweet film with wonderful performances by Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor. Our friend Alison gives a nice description of the film back on page one so I need not recap it.

Moira mentioned this was shown a while back on TCM when they were highlighting disabilities on film. I was struck by Farrell's performance as a disabled man and thought he did well showing it. I was also struck how he seemed less bothered by the loss of use of his legs than he was by his loneliness. His "job" now will be fixing things. He fixes machines, he really takes on the job of "fixing" Gaynor which in turn allows him to fix himself.

By fixing Gaynor he is turning her into a lady, which is more than her mother has decided to do. With all he is doing for her Gaynor comes to like the transformation. Some might be insulted by it but it makes her feel better about herself and more grown up.

I said it was a sweet film but it's also a romantic film. It was enjoyable to where I guess I should pay more attention to when I'm watching a Borzage film.
Chris

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."
User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by JackFavell »

It really is all you say Chris. You did a great job of describing the film's strengths. Lucky Star somehow never comes across as manipulative, saccharin or maudlin, like it might have if it were directed by someone with a heavier hand. It's gentle without being weak. Borzage is the king of sweet films that are actually powerful at the same time.
User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8176
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by moira finnie »

I'm so glad you had a chance to enjoy , Chris. I know it is not realistic, but it shows the emotions of the characters and their evolution so well that wanting things to be "like in the real world" just doesn't seem all that important.

BTW, this weekend's visitor, Martha Cantarini, knew Frank Borzage well. You guys might enjoy learning more about the director off-screen from her.
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks
User avatar
CineMaven
Posts: 3818
Joined: September 24th, 2007, 9:54 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Contact:

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by CineMaven »

With Star of the Month JOAN CRAWFORD in tow, we've got some FRANK BORZAGE coming up early early Friday morning:

4:15 AM - MANNEQUIN ( 1937 ) - A small-time crook's wife falls for a shipping magnate. Dir: Frank Borzage. Cast: Joan Crawford, Spencer Tracy, Alan Curtis. BW-95 mins.

6:00 AM - THE SHINING HOUR ( 1938 ) - A nightclub dancer marries into society and has to contend with her jealous sister-in-law. Dir: Frank Borzage. Cast: Joan Crawford, Margaret Sullavan, Melvyn Douglas. BW-77 mins.

9:15 AM - STRANGE CARGO ( 1940 ) - A prostitute and some prisoners attempt to escape from a penal colony in French Guiana. Dir: Frank Borzage. Cast: Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Ian Hunter. BW-113 mins.

I'm most looking forward to seeing "THE SHINING HOUR."
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com
User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by JackFavell »

I STILL haven't seen Mannequin yet.

Don't miss crazy Fay Bainter as a nutjob in The Shining Hour, filled with deliciously good cast members who are somewhat wasted, but it's still worth watching. Also has my new found love, Robert Young, as an indecisive young man. Surprise!
feaito

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by feaito »

Mes amies
, where is master Robert? "Strange Cargo” (1940) is one of my very favorite Borzage MGM films; every once in a while I have to revisit this offbeat, allegorical oeuvre which in my opinion contains Crawford’s and Gable’s best pairing under the master’s deft direction. Full of underlying meaning and not the typical Hollywood stuff of the time. Most engrossing.

As for "The Shining Hour" (1938), an unfairly underrated melodrama (IMO) I have seen it twice and when I first saw in 2002 I wrote this small opinion which has not changed a bit:
Every time I watch a Crawford film from the 1930s that I hadn't watched before, the oft-quoted opinion of film critics of that era about Joan's lack of acting ability/talent, surprises me even more...because each time, again and again, her acting & technique seems (to me) so fresh and contemporary, so much more natural than the acting style of most of the other ladies from the `30s.

In this entertaining film she acts and holds her own opposite a different type of talent, lovely actress Margaret Sullavan, who, as always, excels as Crawford's sister-in-law. I repeat, Crawford's playing, as a dancer married into an aristocratic rural family, looks very natural and sincere.

Kudos too, for wonderful character actress Fay Bainter, as the unpleasant spinsterish sister of Robert Young and Melvyn Douglas, who was the first screen actor to be nominated for an Academy Award in one year, in both categories: best actress for "White Banners" and best supporting actress for "Jezebel" (she won this one), and like "The Shining Hour" (MGM), both films were released in 1938 (by Warner Bros.), so it was definitely a good year for Ms. Bainter.

Robert Young and Melvyn Douglas are second fiddle to this trio of excellent actresses, but nonetheless very effective as the Linden brothers, married respectively to Sullavan and Crawford, torn between love and family. Hattie Mc Daniel (future "GWTW" Mammy) is very funny as usual, as Crawford's maid.
I would add that the contrasting acting styles of Sullavan and Crawford are most engrossing to watch. Borzage (like Cukor) definitely kept Crawford in line and extracted good performances from her.

"Mannequin" (1937) I saw in 2011 or 2012 and I remember finding it most interesting, especially the pairing of Crawford and Tracy, who have good raport onscreen; but it is my least favorite of the three.
User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by JackFavell »

Hi, Fer!

I completely agree with you about Crawford always getting the bum rap for her acting. She rarely mis-steps in her acting, gets it done without too much fuss. I really love the relationship between Crawford and Sullavan *(this is who I was referring to when I talked about a little bit of wasted talent) because Sullavan is so ethereal and gentle in comparison to Joan's self sufficient role. I also like very much the play between Joan and Melvyn and Robert Young... it's believable and well done. So this film is all about contrasts - the contrast between Joan and Margaret, who is vying for callow Robert Young, and the contrast between Douglas and Young, who develops a boyish crush on Crawford. I like how Crawford brings some common sense to an essentially dysfunctional family. Somewhere in the back of my mind this set of relationships reminds me of the Helen Hayes movie Another Language, and maybe also The Silver Cord now that I think about it, but I haven't seen The Shining Hour in such a long time, I may be way off here.

Thanks so much for pointing out Fay Bainter's work in the year of 1938, she certainly had a good year! She's one of my very favorite actresses... as you know and she deserves heaps of praise for her gentle but outstanding body of work. I only wish her roles had been many and longer. Has anyone here seen the elusive White Banners?
User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8176
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by moira finnie »

JackFavell wrote:Has anyone here seen the elusive White Banners?
Yes. It is one of my favorite Edmund Goulding movies, with beautiful performances by Bainter and Claude Rains and Jackie Cooper. I believe that there may be a rights issue underlying its absence from TCM's schedule in the last few years. I particularly like the small scale of the sets for the house and the way that the filmmakers captured the hush of a winter morning. Hope it will be resolved eventually. Below is a taste of Fay's fervid performance and the expression of the belief that we needn't be prisoners of our circumstances. Her performance justly garnered one of two Oscar nominations that year, one as Leading Actress for White Banners. She won for Best Supporting Actress for the much higher profile film, Jezebel--but Hannah in this movie may be the meatier role. In the context of the film, Bainter doesn't come across as sentimental, but as a person egging herself on as well as others:

Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks
User avatar
Robert Regan
Posts: 290
Joined: June 12th, 2012, 3:59 pm

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by Robert Regan »

Hello, Friends. I hesitated about joining in this thread, because I don't want to get a reputation for negativity. But here I am in Borzage land, so let me get the "bad news" out right at the start. Joan Crawford is one of the very few Hollywood stars whom I don't like. I admire her and take exception to any claims against her acting, but I just don't enjoy seeing her. That said, let me add that I think she is at her very best in Strange Cargo and as close to being attractive to me as she ever was.

Strange Cargo is a very odd but very powerful movie that shows its entire cast, including Gable, doing their best work. This, if course, is not surprising in a Borzage, as he loved actors and actors loved him. The picture played a large part in the pre-video criticism of his films. Along with Till We Meet Again, it convinced some writers to place an undue emphasis on Religion in his work, as opposed to Spirituality.

Mannequin is, for me, the second most bearable Crawford movie. Like Bad Girl and Man's Castle, it is one of Borzage's movies that puts the lie to the claim that he had not interest in the social or political background of his stories. Two of these are notable for the presence of young Spencer Tracy the actor who most closely resembled Borzage physically. Tenement stairs play an important part in Mannequin as they also did in Bad Girl.

Shining Hour is one of my least favorite Borzages. Crawford is just too Crawford, Sullavan is not Sullavan enough, and the men just aren't very interesting. That leaves Fay Bainter to carry the ball, which she does superbly, as some of you have mentioned. Borzage was very good with character players as well as with stars. One of my favorites of his lesser known films is The Vanishing Virginian which rescues Spring Byington and Frank Morgan from the stereotypes they were usually saddled with. And speaking of stereotypes, its African=American characters (we are talking about Virginia here), are treated with more consideration than in other movies of that time. Okay, Friends. That's me sounding off about Joan and Frank. Good to be here again.
feaito

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by feaito »

Hi guys...good to see you here interacting.

Excellent reasoning WEN; this film does have connections with AL & TSC....The conflictive characters played by Fay Bainter in TSH, Louise Closser-Hale in AL and Laura Hope Crews in TSC; amongst other similarities.

I saw White Banners years and years ago...I think I caught it one of the first times I watched TCM in the USA and I found it terrific.

Bob, you are entitled to your opinion...and I can understand your opinion Re. Crawford..I agree that without excessive make-up she looks very attractive and almost natural in SC. I also agree that male actors are absolute second bananas in TSH. But I do love the interaction between Crawford and Sullavan and their contrasting styles and personas.
User avatar
JackFavell
Posts: 11946
Joined: April 20th, 2009, 9:56 am

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by JackFavell »

Moira, I was watching that clip and thinking "Wow, this is some heavy duty preaching here about turning the other cheek." when all of a sudden, Fay got to me and I was crying (I know, I cry at the drop of a hat). I think what I like about her so much is that she sneaks up on you. For the life of me, I can't catch what she does that grips me, or moves me to tears, she's just so dang subtle.

We understand, Bob... not everyone is supposed to like everything! I am not saying that Crawford is the best actress, but I think her reputation is tarnished a bit, and I'd like to see her restored to a position that suits her talents. She's not a bad actress, and for me, finally looking at her clear eyed, without other prejudices dealing with outside matters, she's surprisingly good at what she does. That's all.

Shining Hour is far from perfect as a film, but there are things to glean from it and I find it interesting. The contrast between the real and down to earth Crawford and Douglas, and the pie in the sky Robert Young and Margaret Sullavan is worth watching. And my girl Bainter of course is the fly in the ointment, but look at how Borzage forgives her character, changes her over. I wish Bainter and Borzage had gotten together for a movie that took advantage of her soulfulness, she's a perfect Borzage heroine, just as Sullavan is. Shining Hour is flawed, but once again Borzage makes us believe the relationships, and brings about an impossible ending that actually works, don't know how he can do that so often - have these complete turn-arounds that actually seem realistic in his hands.

I agree about Strange Cargo, but it isn't a movie I go into lightly, not one of my favorites because it's so heavy socially and also so heavy physically. But Crawford and Gable are at their peak, that's for sure, and I'll give a plug to Ian Hunter as well in this film, it's my second favorite for him right after The Long Voyage Home.
User avatar
moira finnie
Administrator
Posts: 8176
Joined: April 9th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Location: Earth
Contact:

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by moira finnie »

Interesting discussion, gang.

I have to agree about some of the Crawford films in the '30s when she often became what Joseph Mankiewicz termed (excuse my coarseness): "piss elegant." She was splendid up until the time when she got that taut, hunted look and started to be more of a clothes horse in some of the later '30s epics such as The Bride Wore Red and others. I really like her in her early talkies and even in her crazier roles in '50s. Yet, as an actress in the '40s, her presence, movement, expressiveness and emotional truth are still powerful and true. Not a flawless actress, but a good one. At times.

Robert, just for the sake of clarity, how would you define the difference between Borzage's spirituality and his alleged religiosity?
Avatar: Frank McHugh (1898-1981)

The Skeins
TCM Movie Morlocks
User avatar
Robert Regan
Posts: 290
Joined: June 12th, 2012, 3:59 pm

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by Robert Regan »

Moira. that's a tough one. You really caught me with my clarity down. What I was thinking about there were the early studies of Borzage by Lamster and Belton. Not to knock them, because they both did a great job, especially considering how many films they were unable to see at that time. But, from the limited number available to them, I think they both inferred a specifically Catholic sensibility to his work. I don't see or feel a particularly Christian thread running throughout his work as I do other Catholic Americans such as Ford, Capra, or Scorsese. Yet the spiritual quality of most of his films is self-evident and powerful. I'm sure this doesn't clarify anything about Borzage, but it may make the nature of my "critical faculties" clearer. Thank you for asking, Moira.
User avatar
CineMaven
Posts: 3818
Joined: September 24th, 2007, 9:54 am
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Contact:

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by CineMaven »

BORZAGE ALERT!! BORZAGE ALERT!!

Image
Click photo for Dave Kehr's NY Times review of 9 / 1 / 2010
____________

10:30 AM - LIVING ON VELVET ( 1935 ) - A guilt-ridden pilot finds a new outlook on life when he falls for a society girl. Dir: Frank Borzage. Cast:  Kay Francis, Warren William, George Brent. BW-76 mins.
____________

I'm not sure where this fits in the lexicon of Borzage's work, but I'll find out Tuesday morning. I did see this once a long loooooong time ago and remember the "meet cute" scene with Francis and Brent at a swanky dinner party. But I'll go in there this time with a very new appreciation of Frank Borzage.
"You build my gallows high, baby."

http://www.megramsey.com
User avatar
Robert Regan
Posts: 290
Joined: June 12th, 2012, 3:59 pm

Re: FRANK BORZAGE

Post by Robert Regan »

I wouldn't call that "meet cute", Theresa. That's more like meet powerful! Francis, Brent, and William are all at their best in this one.
Post Reply