7th Heaven

Frank Borzage

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There are very few film directors who have become famous in their own right, such that film fans will actively pursue a film they directed. Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Tarantino are names most of us recognize today. Back in the 1920’s, the name Borzage might have conjured a similar reaction for people looking for a love-triumphs-over-all romance. Borzage was the grandson of Austrian Empire emigrants (from a region that is now a part of Italy) whose family migrated to Salt Lake City, where he was born in 1894.

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Eighteen years later, he found work as an actor in the young film industry, in Hollywood, performing in silent films until he got the directing bug. He had a knack for it and directed around one hundred films (of varying lengths) during a career that spanned six decades, having led the way on a full fourteen films between 1917 and 1919 alone. He won the first ever Best Director Academy Award for the film 7thHeavenand continued creating until shortly before his death by cancer in 1962.  Accomplished, but largely forgotten today, it may be time for a Frank Borzage retrospective to bring him back into the public eye!

Janet Gaynor

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In yesterday's blog, we called out a classic 1928 film, a kind of crossover from the silent to the talkie era.  Street Angel was a huge hit for the Fox Studios, banking around $1.7 million (which meant a LOT more ninety years ago than it does now), and got itself a few Academy Awards to boot.  One was for its leading lady - Janet Gaynor - who has the distinction not only of being the first woman to ever win the Best Actress Award, but for having received it for three movies simultaneously - Street Angel, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, and 7th Heaven, the latter two having been released in 1927.  Yes, the rules have changed since then. Now you can only officially win for one performance (although we believe that some actors occasionally win not for the movie they deserve to win for, but for another one.  Kate Winslet is one person we consider there, but that's off the record, and does not represent the views of everyone on the ATT blog staff). 

Janet Gaynor, born in Germantown Philadelphia in 1906, started acting in silent films at the young age of 18. She quickly rose to the top, and by the time she was 22 was one of the biggest names on the big screen.  That said, Gaynor retired from the industry (on her own terms) when she was 33.  She dabbled in the arts for the rest of her life, occasionally appearing on Broadway and the like, until she was involved in an accident between a drunk driver and her taxicab. She died of complications from the accident when she was 77.