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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (1925-1932)

Cast: George O'Brien, George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, more...
Director: F.W. Murnau, F.W. Murnau, Frank Borzage, more...
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Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Classics, Drama, Science Fiction , Romance, Classic Romance, Classic Drama, Silent, Classic Sci Fi/Fantasy, Classic Drama, Musicals
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Synopses
Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 1 of 12): (Sunrise) (1927)
Considered by many to be the finest silent film ever made by a Hollywood studio, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise represents the art of the wordless cinema at its zenith. Based on the Hermann Sudermann novel A Trip to Tilsit, this "Song of Two Humans" takes place in a colorful farming community, where people from the city regularly take their weekend holidays. Local farmer George O'Brien, happily married to Janet Gaynor, falls under the seductive spell of Margaret Livingston, a temptress from The City. He callously ignores his wife and child and strips his farm of its wealth on behalf of Livingston, but even this fails to satisfy her. One foggy evening, O'Brien meets Livingston at their usual swampland trysting place. She bewitches him with stories about the city -- its jazz, its bright lights, its erotic excitement. Thrilled at the prospect of running off with Livingston, O'Brien stops short: "What about my wife?" Drawing ever closer to her victim, Livingston murmurs "Couldn't she just...drown?" (the subtitle bearing these words then "melts" into nothingness). In his delirium, the husband agrees. The plan is to row Gaynor to the middle of the lake, then capsize the boat. Gaynor will drown, while O'Brien will save himself with some bulrushes that he'd previously hidden in the boat; thus, the murder will look like an accident. The next day, the brooding O'Brien begins slowly rowing his unsuspecting wife across the lake. Halfway to shore, he makes his intentions clear, but is unable to go through with it. As his wife cringes in terror, O'Brien rows to the other side of lake. Once ashore, she runs away from him in terror, as he stumbles after her, trying to apologize.

Gaynor boards a streetcar bound for the city, with O'Brien climbing aboard a few seconds afterward. Upon reaching the city (a renowned set design), O'Brien continues trying to make amends to his wife. They sit disconsolately at a table in a restaurant, unable to eat the plate of cake that is set before them. Slowly, Gaynor begins overcoming her fear. The couple wander into a church, where a wedding is taking place. Breaking down in sobs, O'Brien begins repeating the wedding vows, thereby convincing Gaynor that she has nothing to fear. Together again, the couple embraces in the middle of a busy street, oblivious to the honking horns and irate motorists. Anxious to prove to each other that all is well, the husband and wife spend a delightful afternoon having their pictures taken and "dolling up" in a posh barber shop. They cap their unofficial second honeymoon at a joyous festival in an outsized amusement park. More in love with each other than ever before, O'Brien and Gaynor head back across the lake in the dark of night. Suddenly, a storm arises. Pulling out the bulrushes with which he'd planned to save himself, O'Brien straps them onto Janet, telling her to swim to shore. The storm passes. Washing up on shore, the unconscious O'Brien is brought home. But Gaynor is nowhere to be found, and it is assumed that she has died in the storm. Half-insane, O'Brien strikes out at Livingston, the instigator of the murder plan. Just as he is about to throttle the treacherous temptress, he is summoned home; his wife is alive! As Livingston stumbles out of the village, O'Brien and Gaynor cling tightly to one another, watching the sun rise above their now-happy home. Together with Seventh Heaven, Sunrise earned Janet Gaynor the first-ever Best Actress Academy Award, while Charles Rosher and Karl Struss walked home with the industry's first Best Photography Oscar. The film itself was also in the Oscar race, but lost out to the more financially successful Wings. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 2 of 12): (City Girl) (1930)
Director F.W. Murnau began City Girl as a silent film, hoping to match the artistic triumph of his earlier Sunrise. Murnau was frustrated by two elements: Fox's decision to hastily convert the film into a talkie, and his inability to secure the services of Sunrise star Janet Gaynor. The director was forced by the studio to substitute the pretty but untalented Mary Duncan, reportedly because she was the girlfriend of one of the Fox executives. The resulting film is a plodding drama about farmer's son Charles Farrell coming to the Big City, where he falls in love with Duncan, bringing her home to meet the folks. Farrell's dad David Torrence predicts that Duncan will be unfaithful, a prophecy which apparently comes true on a dark and stormy night. Based on Elliot Lester's play The Mud Turtle, City Girl has a fascinating image or two to its credit, but the film is a distressingly ordinary effort for the otherwise imaginative F.W. Murnau. The 1938 20th Century-Fox film City Girl is not a remake.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 3 of 12): (Lazybones) (1925)
Charles "Buck" Jones, normally a heroic Western star, takes a surprising turn by playing a shiftless rural character in this romance. ZaSu Pitts also makes an impression in her tragic role (she was better known as a comedienne than as a dramatic actress, but she was great at both). Jones' character is known only as Lazybones because of his easy-going nature. He is in love with Agnes Fanning (Jane Novak), but their romance is derailed when her sister, Ruth (Pitts), comes home with a baby. Ruth claims that she was wed to a sailor who had drowned, but can't produce a marriage certificate. This brings down a world of shame on the hapless young girl, so she attempts suicide. Lazybones rescues her and adopts the baby girl. He refuses to give the infant up, so he loses Agnes. Ruth dies, and as the years pass, the little girl Kit grows into a lovely young lady (as played by Madge Bellamy). Lazybones goes off to fight in WWI, and when he returns, he plans to marry his ward. But then he discovers that Kit loves a young man who is much closer to her own age. Although Lazybones loses out, there is a hint that he and Agnes may reunite.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 4 of 12): (Seventh Heaven) (1927)
In 1927, Janet Gaynor won the first Academy Award for Best Actress with her performance in this film, among the most celebrated romances of the late silent era. Chico (Charles Farrell) is a poor sewer worker who has only two dreams in life: to be promoted to sweeping streets and to find a woman who will be his wife. While he prays for guidance and blessings, he continues to work in the filth beneath the Parisian streets. However, one day he meets Diane (Gaynor), a beautiful woman who has been handed many hardships in life and is being chased by the police for a petty crime. Chico helps her hide from the cops, and soon the two have fallen in love. Despite their poverty, they give each other a reason to go on, and they happily marry. But their bliss is shattered when Chico is called to fight in World War I; Diane lives for the day he returns, and when she's told that Chico was killed in battle, her world collapses and she renounces her faith in God. However, while Chico was severely injured on the battlefield and is now blind, he did not die, and now he must find his way back to the woman he loves. In addition to Gaynor's Oscar, Seventh Heaven earned statuettes for director Frank Borzage and screenwriter Benjamin F. Glazer.

Side 2 of this disc contains the reconstruction of the film The River (1929) with Charles Farrell, Mary Duncan, Ivan Inow, Margaret Mann and Alfred Sabato.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 5 of 12): (Street Angel) (1928)
Fox's follow-up to Seventh Heaven, The Street Angel reunited stars Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor with director Frank Borzage. The action begins in Naples, as poverty-stricken Maria (Gaynor) steals medicine for her ailing mother. Now a fugitive from justice, Maria escapes by joining a travelling carnival, where she meets and falls in love with portrait painter Angelo (Charles Farrell). Impressed by her ethereal beauty, Angelo asks the girl to pose for his portrait of the Madonna. But when she's suddenly arrested, the disillusioned Angelo sinks into depravation. Released from prison, Maria sees her portrait in a church and is inspired to seek out Angelo. Explaining the circumstances of her arrest, Maria saves Angelo from his sordid surroundings, inspiring him to return to painting -- and, not surprisingly, to propose marriage. Heavily influenced by the "Germanic" style then in vogue, Street Angel lacked the simplicity and sincerity of Sunrise but managed to post a profit all the same.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 6 of 12): (Lucky Star) (1929)
In this drama, a lonely woman leads an isolated life on a ramshackle with her widowed mother who firmly believes her daughter should marry a recently returned WW I veteran. Although the mother's intentions are good, the daughter already loves another veteran. Prior to the war, both men had been linesmen, but her true love was crippled in battle and cannot resume his trade. The mother therefore does not consider him to be a good match. She then betroths her daughter to the other. Just before they are to marry, her true love miraculously recovers, defeats his rival, and ends up marrying her.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 10 of 12) ( Bad Girl) (1931)
Based on a novel by Vina Delmar, Bad Girl stars Sally Eilers as heroine Dot Haley. The title notwithstanding, Dot isn't bad at all. She enters into a decent marriage with a decent guy, radio store clerk Eddie (James Dunn), and sticks with her man through thick and thin (mostly thin). But Eddie misunderstands Dot's seeming indifference to the new apartment which he has rented and furnished as a first-anniversary surprise. Eddie doesn't know what Dot and the audience do: there's a baby on the way, and that's all that Dot can think about. Once this misunderstanding is cleared up, Eddie takes on all sorts of extra jobs to pay for a pricey obstetrician, even moonlighting as a prizefighter. So impressed is the baby doctor by Eddie's devotion that he refuses to charge a cent when delivering Dot's baby (the bill, by the way, is a daunting $40). Curiously, some synopses of Bad Girl suggest that the hero and heroine never get married, which is hardly the case.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 11 of 12) (After Tomorrow/ Young America) (1932)
After Tomorrow
Peter Piper (Charles Farrell) and Sidney Taylor (Marian Nixon) are deeply in love, and saving to get married, but their mothers have other ideas. Mrs. Piper (Josephine Hull) is jealous of Sidney, refusing to allow the couple to move in with her after they marry. Elsie (Minna Gombell), Sidney's mother, is disgusted with her husband Willie (William Collier, Sr.) and has an affair with their border Mr. Jarvis (William Pawley); she wants Sidney to marry a rich man. When he fears his embezzlement will be found out, Jarvis persuades Elsie to leave the country with him. After they're gone, Willie finds the note Elsie left for Sidney in which she reveals she never loved him; as a result Willie has a heart attack. Peter and Sidney are forced to use their savings for his hospitalization, and then Sidney fears Peter is attracted to another woman.

Young America
Though Spencer Tracy is top-billed in Young America, the film is by no means a star vehicle. Tommy Conlon and Raymond Borzage (the son of director Frank Borzage) play budding juvenile delinquents Arthur and Nutty. After their latest misdemeanor, the boys are paroled by Judge Blake (Ralph Bellamy) in the custody of Arthur's nasty aunt Mrs. Taylor (Sarah Padden), who treats them atrociously. When Arthur's grandma (Beryl Mercer) falls ill, the boys are unable to awaken pharmacist Jack Doray (Spencer Tracy) and are forced to break into Doray's drugstore to steal the necessary medicine. Touched by the boys' plight, Doray's wife Edith (Doris Kenyon) assumes custody of Arthur, who demonstrates his unbounded gratitude by rescuing the druggist from a gang of homicidal burglars.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 12 of 12) (Murnau, Borzage and Fox) (1932)
Documentary about Murnau, Borzage and Fox narrated by John Cork.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 7 of 12) (They Had to See Paris) (1929)
Will Rogers' first all-talking feature casts the beloved humorist as Pike Peters, owner of an auto repair shop in Claremore, OK (Rogers' real-life home town). Living in genteel but contented poverty, Pike and his family suddenly find themselves millionaires when an oil well in which he is part-owner comes in a gusher. Though Pike remains the same humble, down-to-earth fellow that he was before his good fortune, his social-climbing wife (Irene Rich) instantly begins taking on airs, insisting that the family spend a year in Paris. Reluctantly, Pike agrees, and before long he, his wife, his daughter, Opal (Marguerite Churchill), and son, Ross (Owen Davis Jr.) are seeing the sights in the City of Lights. Determined to crash Parisian high society and land a wealthy nobleman husband for daughter Opal, Mrs. Peters callously insists that her "embarrassing" husband keep his distance at all social gatherings. Not surprisingly, the Peters family unit begins to unravel, with Opal succumbing to the charms of silky gigolo Marquis de Brissac (Ivan Lebedeff), and Ross living a life of debauchery in the Latin Quarter with French floozy Fleury (Marcelle Corday). Though Pike manages to make a friend of exiled Russian grand duke Mikhail (Theodore Lodi), he simply cannot coordinate himself with his wife's incessant title-chasing, nor can he convince her that her new "friends" are only interested in her money. Cast out of the hotel suite he shares with his wife, the crestfallen Pike heads to a sidewalk café, where he renews his platonic friendship with vivacious cabaret entertainer Claudine (Fifi D'Orsay, whose saucy performance caused a bit of trouble with the local movie censors of the era). With her help, Pike cooks up a scheme to bring his family back together by pretending that he's "gone Parisian" and has taken Claudine as his mistress. Adapted from a 1926 novel by Homer Croy (and a subsequent stage version by May Savell Croy), They Had to See Paris remains one of Will Rogers' most entertaining talkies, with the star ad-libbing to his heart's content.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 8 of 12) (Liliom) (1930)
This first film version of Ferenc Molnar's poignant fantasy Liliom was supposed to have reunited the director Frank Borzage and stars Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor of Fox's 1927 box-office smash Seventh Heaven. But Gaynor was enmeshed in one of her periodic contract disputes with the studio, so she was replaced by Rose Hobart. Set in the suburbs of Budapest, the film centers on the rocky romantic relationship between studdish carnival barker Liliom (Farrell) and his working-girl sweetheart Julie (Hobart). Fired by jealous carnival owner Mme. Muscat (Estelle Taylor), the swaggering Liliom is financially unprepared for Julie's pregnancy. Needing plenty of money fast, he agrees to participate in a robbery masterminded by "The Buzzard" (Lee Tracy), a two-bit thief. The hold-up goes horribly awry, whereupon Liliom, rather than face arrest, commits suicide. His soul is whisked by a modernistic celestial train to the outer gates of Heaven where he stands trial before the Court of Judgment. After ten years in Purgatory, he is given the opportunity to visit Earth for one day to make amends for past wrongs. He meets for the first time his daughter, Marie (Mildred Van Dorn), and tries to give her a stolen star as a gift. When she backs off from him in terror, Liliom slaps the girl, just as he had her mother. A failure in death as in life, Liliom wearily returns to Purgatory, while Julie, somehow sensing what has happened, comforts her confused daughter. At present considered a "lost" film, Liliom was faithfully remade three years later in France, with Charles Boyer as the title character and Fritz Lang in the director's chair; this version is still extant. The property was reworked again as the 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Carousel, itself duly filmed by 20th Century Fox in 1956.

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 9 of 12) (Song O' My Heart) (1929)
Forty-five-year-old Irish tenor John McCormack made his screen debut in Song o' My Heart. Fans of McCormack would have been satisfied if their idol had simply sung his way through the film's 85 minutes, but Fox Studios insisted on a plotline. The star plays Sean O'Callaghan, a world-renowned singer who gives up his career when his sweetheart Mary O'Brien (Alice Joyce) is forced to marry another. Years later, Mary is deserted by her husband and eventually dies of grief. Still carrying a torch for his lost love, Sean assumes the task of looking after Mary's two children. The kids are played by 11-year-old Tommy Clifford and 19-year-old Maureen O'Sullivan, the latter also making her first film appearance. Lensed partly on location in Ireland, the film provides plenty of opportunity for good old-fashioned blarney, as well as moments of honest sentiment, as when McCormick sings his signature tune "Little Boy Blue" (one of eleven musical highlights). It's hardly a coincidence that Song o' My Heart was released just before St. Patrick's Day, 1930.


GreenCine Member Ratings

Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 1 of 12): (Sunrise) (1927)
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9.33 (15 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 2 of 12): (City Girl) (1930)
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8.14 (7 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 3 of 12): (Lazybones) (1925)
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8.00 (3 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 4 of 12): (Seventh Heaven) (1927)
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8.60 (10 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 5 of 12): (Street Angel) (1928)
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8.71 (7 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set (Disc 6 of 12): (Lucky Star) (1929)
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8.00 (3 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 10 of 12) ( Bad Girl) (1931)
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7.75 (4 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 11 of 12) (After Tomorrow/ Young America) (1932)
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6.67 (3 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 12 of 12) (Murnau, Borzage and Fox) (1932)
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7.33 (3 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 7 of 12) (They Had to See Paris) (1929)
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2.00 (1 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 8 of 12) (Liliom) (1930)
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6.50 (4 votes)
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Murnau, Borzage and Fox Box Set: (Disc 9 of 12) (Song O' My Heart) (1929)
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GreenCine Member Reviews

Art In Motion by Lance January 21, 2012 - 3:45 AM PST
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3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
Unfortunately the GreenCine description for Sunrise gives away every plot detail including the ending. I'll keep it simple. It's the story of a man and his wife living on a farm. A city woman comes around to steal him away. She is evil and a little bit crazy! The man has fallen under her spell. O whatever shall become of them? Beautiful visual storytelling. The way they used special effects is quite interesting. The soundtrack uses the original Movietone score. The characters are all very emotive and expressive to the perfect degree. Who needs words, anyways?! George O'Brien is particularly entertaining when he's creepy and menacing. This movie is amusing, touching, scary, and suspenseful. Excellent!

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