Year: 1930
Director: Frank Borzage
Cast: Charles Farrell, Rose Hobart, Estelle Taylor, HB Warner, Lee Tracy, Walter Abel, Mildred Van Dorn, Guinn Williams, Lillian Elliot, Anne Shirley

Most people are probably most familiar with the story of Liliom through Rogers and Hammerstein’s beautiful musical Carousel (which I think is the team’s masterpiece). And Fritz Lang’s 1934 adaptation of the play is also probably more famous than Frank Borzage’s. But the story, characters, and themes are so very much Borzage’s bread and butter than his telling of the story is, without a doubt, the definitive one.

Julie (Hobart) is a somewhat shy girl who loves arrogant ladies man Liliom (Farrell) from afar. They finally meet one night at the carnival where Liliom works as a barker at the carousel. When he flirts with Julie, his boss, Madame Muskat (Taylor), who has a thing for Liliom herself, fires him. Liliom and Julie marry, but Liliom spends his days laying about without a job. Julie loves him, and he loves her, despite the fact that he doesn’t treat her very well. When he finds out she’s pregnant, he decides to join up with a friend in a robbery. But, as usual, things go very wrong.

This is so very much the kind of story Frank Borzage loved. He was a hopeless romantic, and the transcendant power of love was a theme that was prevalent in most of his films, and it’s extremely present, and powerful, in Liliom. Not only does the love between Julie and Liliom transcend their inability to communicate as a couple, it transcends death. And it makes Liliom a better person, even though that might happen a little too late. For some, it might be hard to get past Liliom’s rough treatment of Julie. But relationships are often messy, especially when the characters are so extremely complicated, and Borzage is able to look past the surface difficulties and see the beauty of the relationship.

Borzage always had an excellent style, but Liliom is quite unique, in many ways. The story takes place in Budapest, and Borzage clearly tried to make the setting and overall tone of the film have a European feeling. Most of the story takes place in the house that Julie and Liliom share with Julie’s aunt. It’s an odd, almost stage-like setting, with large rooms, that are almost entirely empty save for one piece of furniture, huge windows, stairs, and tall, empty walls. It gives the entire movie a kind of other-worldly feeling to it, almost as if Borzage is saying that Liliom’s life and afterlife aren’t that far apart. The carnival is used to great effect, and it visible in most scenes. You can see it through the window of the house, almost as if it haunts Julie and Liliom. Most impressive are the scenes of the afterlife. Not only does it look really beautiful, but just the concept of the train to the afterlife through the clouds is very creative.

This was the first sound film I ever saw Charles Farrell in, and let’s just say that is voice is… unfortunate. It’s very high and not at all what you’d expect to come out of his mouth. But it’s kind of proof that a voice like that wasn’t quite the career ender many think it to have been. Farrell made films well into the 1930s and remained quite successful throughout. Despite his voice, though, Farrell gives a really wonderful performance. He’d had practice playing tough guys who actually had big hearts in other Borzage films, and this is kind of the culmination of all that. He plays the arrogant rascal so well, but he gives Liliom so much heart. His development of the character, right through to the end, if beautiful.

Rose Hobart’s performance might be a little stagey, but the important thing here is making Julie’s undying love for Liliom, despite his treatment of her, believable, and she does a beautiful job of that. She makes Julie a sweet, shy girl who becomes Liliom’s moral compass.

Borzage’s Liliom is really just a stunning film. It’s one of his most visually unique films, but it’s all about the emotion. It truly reduced me to tears in its final act. A beautiful piece of emotional filmmaking.

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.