Street Angel (1928) – Frank Borzage

The next film on the What Else to Watch list following the recommendation of Murnau’s Sunrise in DK Book’s engaging and informative The Movie Book is Street Angel from 1928.

Set in Naples, Janet Gaynor plays Angela, a young woman turned prostitute to pay her rent. Trouble rears its head though when she is arrested for stealing – she was taking medicine to help her dying mother.

She runs, and finds sanctuary with a circus where she finds success as a performer. Things are definitely on the improve when she meets Gino (Charles Farrell), a painter.

But just as things seem to be coming up Angela, she falls during her act and breaks her leg.

Gino suggests they move to Naples and live together there, but the law is still looking for her. Will the truth come out? Will the secret tear them apart?

It walks the line between pathos and joy fairly well, and the circus performers add a lot of life and excitement to the film. Gino and Angela dance around each other as he pursues her and she is less than certain that she doesn’t want to be caught. It’s a nice light piece, letting her and the audience forget everything before it.

That is, until tragedy strikes. Her leg breaks, he makes some poor business decisions about his painting. And yet, they are happy together, and things seem to improve for them, even as the local police try to place where they recognise Angela from.

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The police finally recognise her and arrest her, but she begs to tell Gino first.

Having gone on the journey with the characters, the last bit of time the police allow her with Gino before she is taken away is poignant. Gino has no idea, he talks and dreams of their future, while you can see the pained expressions cross Angela’s face. It’s deftly done.

It doesn’t shy away from its pathos, but you can also see the ending coming from miles away. Secrets come out, but love is stronger than anything else in this film, and the two, despite their suffering, are destined to be together, and we are given our happy ending.

The film features some gorgeous locations, and serves as a nice counterpoint to the things that are affecting our characters, and while it is a silent film, none of the performances are actually too over the top, or too melodramatic.

It is, however, an insanely romantic film that has all the beats and moments we’ve come to expect in this type of film over the years.

But this was one of the ones that did it first, and it does it well.

Check it out, and grab a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book to find other great films to watch!

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