Frank Borzage – Strange Cargo (1940)


Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson
“Strange” is right: this mystical MGM melodrama has to be the oddest of the studio’s Clark Gable-Joan Crawford vehicles. When eight prisoners escape from a New Guinea penal colony, they are picked up by a sloop commandeered by another escapee named Verne (Gable) and his trollop girl friend Julie (Joan Crawford). Among the fugitives is Cambreau (Ian Hunter), a soft-spoken, messianic character who has a profound effect on his comrades. One by one, the escapees abandon their evil purposes and find God-and a peaceful death–through the auspices of the Christlike Cambreau. The last to succumb to Cambreau’s ministrations is Verne, who agrees to return to return to the prison colony serve out his sentence if Julie will wait for him (which she does). A superb Franz Waxman score provides a touch of show-biz grandeur to this haunting fable.
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Frank Borzage – 7th Heaven (1927)


In the William Fox screen version of Austin Strong’s play, “Seventh Heaven,” which was presented last night at the Sam H. Harris Theatre, you can once again meet those lovable characters—Chico, Diane, Papa Boule and Pere Chevillon—in that little patch of Paris within sight of the Eiffel Tower. This picture grips your interest from the very beginning and even though the ending is melodramatic you are glad that the sympathetic but self-satisfied Chico is brought back to his heart-broken Diane.

This is an exceptionally well-acted place of work and Janet Gaynor’s performance as Diane is true and natural throughout. This young woman was discovered by Winfield R. Sheehan, general production manager for the Fox Film Corporation. Never once does she falter in her difficult task of reflecting the emotions of the character she portrays. There is no effort to make her unduly beautiful with a halo over her head. She is winsome from the moment one beholds her countenance. She can cry and smile simultaneously and she impresses one by her depiction of faith when every day at 11 o’clock she “meets” her Chico, who is in the trenches. Sometimes Miss Gaynor reminds one of Lillian Gish and in other moods she resembles Lois Moran. Yet in her acting there is nothing imitative, but always an earnest and successful effort to impersonate the French girl who is rescued from hardship and cruelty by that “very remarkable fellow,” Chico. Continue reading

Frank Borzage & George B. Seitz – Big City (1937)



Celebrate the short career (10 Hollywood films and two Oscars®*) and long life (100 years young in 2010 and an honored participant in the TCM Classic Film Festival) of one of the screen’s nonpareil stars with this threesome of the fourth, fifth and sixth films Luise Rainer made in Tinseltown. The Viennese beauty portrays a Czarist Russian spy alongside William Powell in the ornate The Emperor’s Candlesticks. Cabbie Spencer Tracy and his immigrant wife Rainer struggle to make a life for themselves in the Big City while coping with a bitter labor dispute between organized and freelance cab drivers. And Rainer is a reckless Southern belle who marries the man her sister loves but flees to the arms of a wastrel playboy in The Toy Wife. From Warner Brothers! Continue reading