"Street Angel" is an American 100-minute movie from 1928 and this one was directed Frank Borzage during a time that can maybe be called his most successful from today's perspective. And that means quite something because he was a truly prolific filmmaker and an equally prolific actor, even if he stopped performing in front of the camera already at that point and focused completely on movie-making. Now his work here is based on a play, which probably explains why so many writers are listed, one of them being a female what surely wasn't the standard for films made over 90 years ago. Anyway, this one here was made in a time that was somewhat between silent and sound films. The result is that you hear a lot of soundtrack for this one and with that i don#t mean a soundtrack that was added years or even decades later, but one that actually belongs to the movie like a soundtrack today. However, you do not hear any of the characters speak (yet). Intertitles are still included and while it wasn't too difficult to understand the action and what they were saying, it still would have been nice to have some more intertitles really. But that is a common problem for these old films.Anyway, now lets take a look at this one in particular. The central character is played by Janet Gaynor, one of the biggest stars back then and this is one of the three films she won an Oscar for. One Oscar that is. Today you get one nomination per movie, but back then this was not necessarily the case. It is the second of this trio that I watched and I think I liked 7th Heaven a little better, but this should not indicate that this oen here wasn't a good watch. Yet to watch Sunrise at some point, probably the most known out of these three. Anyway, next to Gaynor once again is Charles Farrell here playing the male protagonist, but as he enters the film just a little later, he is not as much lead in here as Gaynor I would say. It is not 100% clear how these two were with each other in real life, but I read about marriage, which still does not have to mean back in the day that they were a couple at all, let alone had a sexual relationship. Their bond was separated quickly anyway and they found other partners, but these films and their nice chemistry they luckily left us. This black-and-white film we got here is one of these. It is the story of a young woman who tries to steal in the street to make ends meet, but is caught by the police, but after being sentenced to prison, she is able to run away from the officers and start a new life, where she falls in love with somebody, but eventually the shadows of her past come back to haunt her. That would be a quick summary. I would say really that the movie is mostly seen in a positive way still today because of how charming and mesmerizing Gaynor really is. She is as cute as a button honestly and it's impossible to look away when she is on the screen. She has an unusually high screen presence for back then and also great recognition value. If you are one of those who think that make-up and pretty much identical costumes turned female actresses into clones of each other back then, think again. Gaynor proves it is not the case. Be it her love, her heartbreak, her struggles with the law or whatever else, it is impossible not to feel for her. And even if some of her actions are a bit questionable and if she is a criminal early on, she is clearly written as a character that the makers here want us to feel for. There is always a bit of a justification. The fact that she only thinks of her man when she has a heavy time in prison ahead of her shows us how caring she is. Well "heavy", when we see her there, she does not seem to be struggling so hard being all in good spirit, even if the explanation is a bit strange. And that the policemen, while depicted as dutiful, are still somewhat antagonists. They are not scared of making fun of them early on with the little monkey scene as we see the main character hiding in that massive drum. Now I know why they elaborated so heavily on that broken drum earlier.Nonetheless, I must say I struggled with this film quite a bit when it comes to the story. I would say that is why it has not aged as well as I hoped it would. I mean I can fogive them the slightly creepy scenes by today's standards that she just lies down near a homeless man to disguise herself early on or the way Farrell's character looked at her in the most lustful manner early on was more than just a bit creepy. But it resulted in a somewhat funny moment at the circus with her chubby friend there calling him "lover", so I take it. In general, there is some nice comedy here at times, I already mentioned the drum/money scene early on, but also a bit later this comment or how Gaynor is in a playful way attacked by that goat. Later on the comedy vanishes mostly for drama, which I found a bit of a pity. I think even the falsifier scene with the painting was not really meant in a funny way as we perceived it today. I am not sure. But if I am already talking about the painting, then lets stay there a bit. I think the ending as meant and seen far more meaningful with the religious reference and also romantically than we perceived it today. It is maybe a bit of a pity, but the coincidence element ruins it a bit when we all of a sudden see the epitome of a(n) (street) angel above these two. Nonetheless, they certainly did not get everything right there. Now I understand he has gone from total emptiness to rage, but honestly that he suffocates her, is about to kill her perhaps even, does not feel authentic at all and way too exaggerated. Yeah i wanted to talk about some flaws in this paragraph anyway, this one bothered me the most maybe. There is more. In general, they don#t really have it with coincidence. The other woman who is interested in the man being sent to jail ending up in the same cell, leaving jell the very same day like our heroine is also definitely a bit much. What else? Oh yes, the general idea how she cannot talk to him about her jail term. I understand that morals and guilt were completely different factors today then they were back then, but if the two were so perfect together she could have told him, he would have waited and still worked on the big painting project. But I don't know maybe that's just me. At least this scene with the officer waiting outside gave us one of the nicest shots when we see the three of them at the same time in one or two camera shots. Also the soundtrack choice for the officer was more than just interesting. Speaking of the soundtrack again, there was a lot of whistling going on. I found it funny. I mean we hear whistling sounds when the characters actually did it. We also hear the guy who takes them to Naples again sing on the boat. This was a pretty interesting inclusion of music I found. But yeah with this trip to Naples I was struggling too. She knew they could recognize her there and honestly there must have been other locations to go to in order to treat her broken ankle right? And even if Naples was the only choice, then why didn't they go back to the circus crew afterwards? She was not an invalid or so. Or at least to another twon where she is safe.Okay, so I just mentioned that the film is set in Italy, not in the United States which maybe also elevated the romance aspect a bit. I remember 7th heaven being set in Europe (France?) too I think. But it's not important. Still you can see in this one here the Italian influence occasionally as we have here and there in the subtitles an italian word, or at least an Italian-sounding word, which stayed in my language-focused mind. I am sure not too many people in the audience cared about that. But it was nice to see such an old film being seen by so many people. I really did not expect this amount of viewers there and it shows that the film is far from dated and maybe this can inspire this theater and others too to show old films in the future again on some occasions. I certainly don't regret watching this one last night. Now I talked a lot about the music already, but I would like to mentioned another snippet, namely that early on they used a really old catchy number for the soundtrack, the same song that Scorsese used in one of his many DiCaprio films later on, I think it was Gangs of New York, so it shows that also the music choices they made here were really convincing. And it does not get annoying one bit that they had music running constantly from beginning to end here and I am sure for a film today it could get way more annoying, so well done overall with the choices they made which pieces they included. Okay I think that would be all I have to say about this movie. I don#t know if I had liked it as much with somebody else than Gaynor in the lead role because of some of the struggles I had with the story (also felt the story was not that much really for over 1.5 minutes, here and there it slightly dragged). but I don#t have to worry about that because she is in it, really from start to end because on many occasions this is a 2-person piece (not as much as 7th heaven though) and Gaynor is simply cute as a button and I still have her face right in my head and she is certainly gonna stay there for a while. All in all, a thumbs-up from me for "Street Angel", go watch it unless you really dislike old black-and-white movies. The imdb rating is perhaps nonetheless a bit too high.
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