7th Heaven (1927) dir. Frank Borzage
Charles Farrell is a Parisian sewer rat who has given up on God, and Janet Gaynor is a prostitute who is regularly abused by her sister.
Through a strange series of events, they agree to pretend to be married.
Starting off the film’s close indentification of romantic and religious esctasy, our hero brings his faux bride up seven flights into heaven. Naturally, they fall in love.
Based on a popular Broadway play, this adaptation of 7th Heaven is one of the highest grossing silent films ever made.
Of course, this is Paris 1914. Frank Borzage’s romance turns to a war film, as our hero goes off to fight. Hollywood never shied away from portraying the horrors of the first world war.
At 11 every morning the two lovers agree to visit each other – by looking to the sky and clasping matching sets of religious medals.
Their faith sustains them through their time apart, and makes resisting temptation very easy.
At the very first Academy Awards, Janet Gaynor won the Best Actress award for her performance here and in Murnau’s Sunrise. Borzage won Best Director and Benjamin Glazer won for Best Writing, Adaptation.
7th Heaven isn’t a particularly heavy romance, but it isn’t trite or overly saccharined either. It could serve as a very good introduction to silent film for modern viewers.
7th Heaven is #941 on the 2011 edition of the TSPDT 1,000 list I’m blogging through. I’ve now seen 406.