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Oscar Movies Review #2: 7th Heaven


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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   battlebeast

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Posted July 11 2014 - 03:14 PM

7th Heaven (1927)

Director: Frank Borzage

Cast: Charels Farrell, Janet Gaynor

Oscars won: 3

Oscar Nominations: 5

 

The Third of three nominees for the category the Academy now considers “Best Picture”, 7th Heaven was directed by the great Frank Borzage who would win one of the first two Oscars for direction for this film. (They had two categories, one for drama and one for comedy.)

 

Janet Gaynor, who was, for the longest time, the youngest winner of the lead actress Oscar, won for her year’s body of work, including this film, Sunrise and Street Angel.

 

While I haven’t seen Street Angel, I have seen the other two, and Janet Gaynor is indeed a terrific actress. She plays well off Charles Farrell, the leading man. Gaynor plays Diane, a young girl who lives with her older, abusive sister. Their parents are not alive, and thus the two girls had to survive on their own. Any way they could. The two girls find out that their aunt and uncle have returned from the south seas, and are now rich. The aunt and uncle agree to take in the two girls. The uncle asks the girls if they have behaved themselves, and led a “clean” life. While the older sister lies, assuring her uncle and aunt that they have behaved, Diane cannot lie.

 

Disgusted, the uncle shuns his nieces, and leaves, telling them they are not welcome in his home. Diane’s sister flys into a rage, and starts to beat her with a whip. Diane runs out into the street, her sister in hot pursuit. In the street Diane’s sister tries to choke her to death. Charles Farrell plays Chico, a “remarkable” man who works in the sewers of Paris. He stops the brutal attack on Diane, saving her from her horrid sister. The police intervene, and Chico states that Diane is his wife.

 

Chico takes Diane to his home, the loft of an apartment building. Diane is in “heaven,” but Chico has other ideas. As the days go by, Chico and Diane fall in love. However, World War One breaks out and Chico is forced to the front lines, with Diane praying every day for his safe return.

 

7th Heaven was nominated for five Oscars, winning three. It was the first Academy Awards ceremony and they weren’t exactly sure what they were doing. It won for dramatic direction, lead actress, and what we would call adapted screenplay. It was also nominated for best picture and art direction. Janet Gaynor gives a fine performance, and carries the picture mostly by herself. Charles Farrell gives a decent performance, but nothing that stands out. In fact, he overacts much of his part.

 

While the story and acting are decent, I found the film difficult to watch. There is more acting and not enough intertitles to explain what is going on. The film is historically important, yes, and probably considered one of the better silent films. Frank Borzage’s direction is average, but he certainly didn’t go through what William Wellman went through to get Wings made. I would have given the Oscar to Wellman.

 

The edition of 7th Heaven I viewed was from the “Murneau, Borzage and Fox” box set. The picture, we are told, is from the “best possible materials,” and it shows. The film is in horrible need of restoration. It is not on Blu Ray, and unless the film is restored fully, it will never be available on Blu Ray.

 

The sound is decent, but a level of hiss is present throughout the entire soundtrack, and there are pops and other sound blemishes. To be fair, this isn’t totally a silent film; with less then five minutes left in the film, a woman starts to sing. As well, there are a couple of sound effects sprinkled throughout the picture, which do add to the film. A soundtrack and picture restoration is paramount.

 

The film 7th Heaven is historically important, and it if watching Best Picture Nominees is a must. But this isn’t a film to rush out and view. Save for Janet Gaynor’s performance, there isn’t much here. Chico may be remarkable, but the film certainly isn’t.

 

 

Film: 2.5/5

Picture: 1.5/5

Audio 2/5

 

NOT RECOMMENDED

 

 


I recently watched all 485 Best pictures (plus about 10 others films) in 365 days! www.oscarmovs.com

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   bruceames

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Posted July 11 2014 - 03:35 PM

Thanks for the review, and while I agree the PQ isn't very good and Janet Gaynor gives a fine performance, I disagree about your assessment of the movie itself.   It is actually one of my favorite silent movies and I have seen it several times.   It is also available on region free Blu-ray from French Carlotta (the version I have).  It's probably Borzage's greatest work.

 

It was originally released as a silent movie but was rereleased a few years later with the movietone soundtrack that still survives and accompanies the DVD/Blu-ray version.   That soundtrack adds greatly to the value of the movie, IMO.   Wonderful, wonderful film.   Also the most romantic I have ever seen so it's a great watch with the significant other.


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#3 of 8 OFFLINE   bujaki

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Posted July 11 2014 - 04:06 PM

I recently delved into the Murnau/Borzage box set and re-watched all the movies, except for Sunrise, since I own the BD of it.

Frank Borzage is an amazing director. I had the good fortune to see 7th Heaven in a beautiful 35mm print. I also saw Street Angel when it was rediscovered (it had been a lost film for many decades), also in a beautiful 35mm print. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell went up in my estimation after having watched these films after so many decades.

As far as Sunrise is concerned, I also saw an excellent 35mm print. I don't know what has happened in the intervening years, but the prints I saw were far better than the current DVDs or BDs. All of these films were show in the correct aspect ratio.

However, when I saw Wings in 35mm at the Paramount theater, it was shown widescreen (nice print, though). I loved the film.

Nonetheless, Sunrise is the best movie of that year, and Murnau should have won the AA for best director.

I disagree with Warren's assessment of 7th Heaven. It is an important movie and definitely recommended for those interested in the late silent era, when the grammar of movies was so exciting.


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#4 of 8 OFFLINE   battlebeast

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Posted July 11 2014 - 09:01 PM

It's fair to disagree... I encourage the discussion!

I don't think it's the most romantic movie I've ever seen... Although, I can't think of one better at the moment.

I am going to watch "Sunrise" very soon. I'll know then what is best of the year.
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#5 of 8 OFFLINE   bruceames

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Posted July 12 2014 - 06:13 AM

True that what's romantic is very subjective, but it certainly worked for me!   My wife doesn't even care for silent movies that much and she liked it so much that she wanted to watch it again the next day.   She has never requested to rewatch a movie like that since I've known her 16 years.

 

As for Charles Farrell, I don't think he overacts at all, considering his confident character and somewhat of a showoff (also of course one must keep in mind that in silent movie some exaggeration is necessary to compensate for lack of dialogue).   The real magic is in the chemistry of the leading stars and in the direction and cinematography.   You can tell they love working together and have real affection for each other (not just in this movie, but all their movies, although they may have had a romantic interest in this one as well).    That long tracking shot of Gaynor running in the street to escape her sister is amazing for a movie of that time.   And the movietone score....just wonderful.  Too bad the quality isn't the great but at least it matches the quality of the print.  I'd much rather have that than a recently recorded score that'll will never be as good, and at the same time, sound too good for the print.



#6 of 8 OFFLINE   battlebeast

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Posted July 12 2014 - 08:45 AM

I did indeed like the long tracking shot, and I completely agree on using the original score. That's a must for me.

In the case of "Wings," they did use the original score, but newly recorded as they had no copy of the original.
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#7 of 8 OFFLINE   bujaki

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Posted July 12 2014 - 09:29 AM

I can't recall the score used in the '70s re-release of Wings. I do remember that when Buddy Rogers gets tipsy on Champagne, the music was "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles." And I think (maybe) that during the final scene between Rogers and Arlen, the score played "My Buddy." I know, though, that I was in tears. What a great scene!



#8 of 8 OFFLINE   battlebeast

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Posted July 12 2014 - 10:24 AM

It is a terrific scene. The first male-male kiss in movie history. . It's not romantic love. It's the love of two best friends. Very powerful.


I know that the score on the VHS, as well as on the DVD (the second score option) was done by Gaylord Carter on a Wirlitzer Pipe organ.
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