“Never look down; always look up!”
A French prostitute (Janet Gaynor) browbeaten by her abusive sister (Gladys Brockwell) finds comfort and transformation in the arms of a streetcleaner (Charles Farrell) — but when World War I descends, Farrell enlists and the newly married couple must sustain their love from afar.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Frank Borzage Films
- Janet Gaynor Films
- Play Adaptations
- Prostitutes and Gigolos
- Silent Films
- World War I
In Alternate Oscars, Peary argues that Janet Gaynor’s popularity both “with the public and within the industry” helped land her the first ever Best Actress Academy Award, for “three good [but not great] performances” in 1927-28 — including her role here as a downtrodden young waif whose life is redeemed by a charitable former “sewer rat”. Despite solid direction by Frank Borzage, nice use of Expressionistic sets, and Gaynor’s sympathetic lead performance, the film unfortunately hasn’t aged all that well — primarily due to its overly simplistic storyline (based on a popular Broadway play), which doesn’t really have anywhere interesting to go once Gaynor is rescued from her sorry plight — speaking of which, Brockwell is a caricature of Evil rather than a three-dimensional character — and the young couple realize they’re in love. The imminence of World War I makes for a convenient narrative hitch — but Gaynor and Farrell’s promise to “come to each other” at 11:00 each day is simply sappy, and the utterly unrealistic ending will have your eyes rolling. Ultimately, this one is only must-see for diehard enthusiasts of silent films, and/or Oscar completists.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Janet Gaynor as Diane
- Lovely Expressionist sets
No, though it will be of interest to fans of Borzage, silent films, and/or Oscar winners. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.