Year: 1929
Director: David Butler
Cast: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Marjorie White, El Brendel, Mary Forbes, Sharon Lynn, Frank Richardson

Molly (Gaynor) lives in a poor section of town with her friend Bea (White). Jack (Farrell) is a wealthy man who can’t seem to keep his fiancee’s attention. While out driving, he gets into an accident in Molly’s neighborhood and Molly nurses his wounds. The two strike up a friendship, and Jack invites Molly and her friends to come to the Hamptons, so Molly can pose as an heiress and help him make his fiancee jealous.

Sunnyside Up is generally considered the best of the non-Borzage Farrell/Gaynor movies, but I can’t concur. While I haven’t seen all of them, I don’t think it’s nearly as good as Delicious or Change of Heart. It’s a musical, and while Gaynor and Farrell do their best, they’re not exactly musically talented or suited for the genre. Their costars are much more entertaining when it comes to the musical numbers.

The movie is two hours long and so strangely paced. It takes nearly an hour for the actual story to start. We’re given an hour of overly long buildup and pointless musical numbers. So when we do get to the actual story, when things start to really happy, everything seems extremely rushed.

The movie probably would have been a lot more enjoyable were it just told as a straight romantic comedy rather than a musical comedy. It’s not that the songs seem out of place. They just seem completely pointless and rather charmless. They add nothing to the story. If anything, they merely slow it down.

Still, it’s Farrell and Gaynor, and you can’t go truly wrong there. They are one of the most endearing couples of all time. They have amazing chemistry and create perhaps the greatest innocent, idealistic romantic team of all time. They’re just vibrant and great to watch together, despite the films many, many faults.

By Katie Richardson

Year: 1929
Director: Frank Borzage
Cast: Charles Farrell, Mary Duncan, Ivan Linow, Margaret Mann, Alfred Sabato, Bert Woodruff

Rosalee (Duncan) is the mistress of the wealthy Marsden (Sabato), who is sent to prison for murder. She meets Allen John (Farrell) while he’s swimming in the river by which she lives. Allen John wants to take care of the lonely woman, and while Rosalee at first finds his innocence and naive nature amusing, the pair begin to fall in love.

This reconstruction is one of the biggest reasons I was so excited about the Borzage DVD set. I’d seen it once a few years ago, and I couldn’t wait to see it again, becuase I remembered it being extremely romantic and sexy. No complete print exists. Several reels are missing from the film. What remains is most of the middle part of the film. The beginning and ending (and a scene or two in between) are shown through the use of stills. But what survives are the love scenes, which are among the best of all of silent film. Borzage was an incredible romantic director, and these scenes have a sort of ache to them that’s beautiful.

It’s definitely Borzage’s most sexual film. Unlike the innocents in his films with Janet Gaynor, Mary Duncan’s Rosalee is almost a vamp and a femme fatale. Certainly a woman of looser morals since she is allowing herself to be kept by a rich murderer.  That contrast with Allen John’s innocence is perfect. It’s almost like, through simply meeting Rosalee, he’s receiving his first sexual education.

It’s kind of hard to really get in depth about this movie since so much of it is missing. The reconstruction through use of still is very good, and we know exactly what the story is. But, like I said, what remains are the love scenes. And those scenes are beautifully atmospheric. There’s definitely more of a sexuality than most of Borzage’s films, but it’s also extremely spiritual.

Farrell is, as always with Borzage, very good and dependable. But it’s Mary Duncan as the troubled woman that makes the film shine. She’s sexy yet vulnerable, cruel but sweet. It’s her indecision about the relationship that drives the film.

The River may not be complete, but it sure feels like it is.

By Katie Richardson

Year: 1929
Director: Frank Borzage
Cast: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Guinn Williams, Paul Fix, Hedwiga Reicher

In 1929, the silent film was coming to an end. Really, it managed to go out in a blaze of glory with films like The Single Standard and The Kiss. Lucky Star was one of those final, glorious silent films. It’s also one of the quintessential Borzage films in terms of themes and style. It was his third film with Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. But this point these two had become the ultimate Borzage pair: the troubled, hardened waif and the arrogant man who manage to soften each other’s hearts.

Mary (Gaynor) is a dirty rough farm girl who takes daily beatings from her mother and likes to steal and lie. Tim (Farrell) defends her one day when he thinks Wrenn (Williams) is cheating her out of money. When he finds out she was lying, her “gives her a lickin'”. Before Mary can get her revenge, war breaks out and Tim enlists. He’s injured on the front and comes home paralyzed. Knowing he’s back, Mary goes to his house to finally get her revenge, but the two end up talking and becoming friends, with Tim cleaning Mary up and teaching her to be decent.

While both Seventh Heaven and Street Angel were more Janet Gaynor’s films, Lucky Star definitely belongs to Charles Farrell. His performance is really quite heartbreaking. Early on, his spirits are surprisingly high for a man who’s been paralyzed. He wants to fix broken things since he doesn’t think he can fix himself. Mary becomes one of those broken things, and he soon sees the diamond in the rough and falls in love with her. It’s not until he discovers his love, and realizes the fact that he can’t be with her because of his condition, that it begins to weigh on him. In the end, though, that love only inspires him to try to learn how to walk again, however hopeless it might seem. Farrell was an extremely charming actor, and he pulled off those arrogant guy roles very well. He gives Tim so much heart that watching that heart break feels very real. This is truly a story of the triumph of the human spirit, and in the hands of a lesser actor, I don’t think that would come through as beautiful, or an such an inspiring way.

While the film certainly belongs to Farrell, Gaynor gives a very strong performance, as usual. In her earliest scenes, Mary is adorable in her immorality. This is kind of an essential thing, because it makes her development into the sweet,happy girl that Tim falls in love with believable. But her performance is also quite wrenching. She’s such a lonely girl, and there are moments with Tim that are so beautiful, where she just seems like she can’t believe someone loves her. These are two damaged misfits, and they end up fitting together and fixing each other absolutely perfectly.

Lucky Star doesn’t have quite the visual flair that Seventh Heaven and Street Angel have. Overall, it takes place in much more intimate settings. The two main sets are Tim and Mary’s simple houses. There are some beautifully filmed outdoors scenes, but Lucky Star is just a much more simple film, visually, than most Borzage efforts.

But its themes of transcendant love that overcomes all obstacles and makes people better than they were before come through crystal clear. Borzage was an undying romantic, and it shows through in Lucky Star, maybe better than it does in any of his other silent films.

By Katie Richardson

Wow, two big birthdays in a row!

Robert Montgomery is just my absolute favorite ever. An amazing actor, a fantastic director, and very handsome man.

Montgomery had a wonderful talent in front of the camera. He could play almost any kind of character in any kind of movie. Romantic melodrama, screwball comedy, even psychological thriller. Montgomery could do it all and he could do it brilliantly.

Sadly, he’s not as remembered today as he should be. He deserves to be remembered among the greats of the 1930s and the 1940s. Nearly all of his films could be considered obscure classics. I’ve seen 54 of his films, but I don’t want to go overkill here. Instead of just listing my favorites, I’m going to do a nice little service for everyone and talk about the rare films that you can get at http://www.freemoviesondvd.com

The Big House (1930) – Montgomery costars with Wallace Beery and Chester Morris in this prison drama. Those of you who are mostly familiar with Montgomery as the suave playboy are in for a treat here, with Montgomery going against the type he would late establish for himself by playing something of a nervous weasel.

The Gallant Hours (1960) – Montgomery directs this war drama starring James Cagney. It’s a really interesting war film, done without battle scenes.

Fugitive Lovers (1934) – Montgomery stars with my favorite of his leading ladies, Madge Evans, in this really sweet road film about an escaped convict and a showgirl who fall in love when they meet on a bus.

Hide-Out (1934) – Montgomery and Maureen O’Sullivan make a really sweet pairing in this unique, but genuine love story about an injured gangster who finds sanctuary with a family on a farm. He falls in love with the sweet daughter. This movie has one of the absolute most romantic scenes of the 1930s.

June Bride (1948) – Not a great film, but it’s pretty fun and Montgomery and Davis have decent chemistry together.

When Ladies Meet (1934) – Definitely not one of my favorite Montgomery films. Kind of dull and the characters are all pretty unlikeable. But you get to see Bob with two of his best leading ladies, Myrna Loy and Ann Harding.

Haunted Honeymoon (1940) – I really enjoy this movie. Robert Montgomery and the completely lovely Constance Cummings play reluctant crime solvers who get sucked into a murder mystery on their honeymoon. A colorful cast of characters and a good romance between its leads makes this movie really fun.

The Saxon Charm (1948) – I still haven’t gotten my hands on this one yet (soon, oh very soon), but it’s available and I think it looks pretty good.

Ride the Pink Horse (1947) – A really brutal noir that doesn’t shy away from violence. Montgomery gives a really good performance, as well as directs.

Inspiration (1931) – This movie doesn’t get enough love. A lot of people say that Montgomery and Garbo just didn’t go well together, I think their restrained, under the surface chemistry was perfect for this movie about repressed love and sexuality.

The Single Standard (1929) – Yeah, I’m cheating on this one. Montgomery is just an extra in this film, but it’s one of my very favorite Garbo movies and everyone should see it.

The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (1937) – Another Montgomery movie that I just downright adore. Joan Crawford was one of his best costars. This is a really fun and unique story about jewel thief Crawford falling for Montgomery, the nephew of her mark.

Letty Lynton (1932) – A fantastic pre-code melodrama with Joan Crawford giving one of her best performances

Faithless (1932) – A beautiful Depression era romance. Bob and Tallulah Bankhead are perfect together. Montgomery gives a really wonderful performance, but this movie belongs to Bankhead.

Fast and Loose (1939) – I’m such a sucker for screwball detective movies, especially when they star Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell.

Night Must Fall (1937) – This is probably Montgomery’s best performance. He completely breaks type to play a creepy, tortured, insane murderer.

There you go. freemoviesondvd.com is a wonderful resource. You pay less than $10 for each DVD (and that includes shipping) and these films (and so many others they have) are more than worth it.