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In Naples, where prostitutes can pay their rent, Angela is sentenced to a year in the workhouse when she tries to steal(while streetwalking) to pay for medicine for her dying mother. She escapes and is hidden by a circus, where she's a natural talent and meets Gino, a painter. When she breaks her ankle in a fall, her career ends. What can she and Gino do? He wants to go to Naples, but the law may still be looking for her, and Gino doesn't know about her past. Starving artist and a beauty with a secret: is there room in this world for them? Written by
By a fluke, this film received Oscar nominations at both the First and Second Academy Awards. It received a Best Actress nomination for Janet Gaynor in 1929, and nominations for Best Art Direction and Cinematography in 1930. It is the only American film to be nominated for Academy Awards in two different years. (A few foreign-language films have received nominations in different years.) See more »
Janet Gaynor stars as the "street angel," a euphemism for prostitute, in this lushly romantic silent film. Of course Gaynor is really not a woman of the streets, but is convicted up this crime and stealing money from a lunch counter, which she does out of desperation to save her sick mother. She escapes the police however and hides out with a traveling circus. She becomes part of the troupe and meets a vagabond artist (Charles Farrell) and falls in love.
His love for her inspires him to create a great painting of her. This art gets him a muralist job with the city. On the verge of marriage, the police find her and take her to prison. Farrell doesn't know what's happened to her and his life is destroyed until a chance meeting on the foggy shores of Naples.
Janet Gaynor is superb as the street angel, quite able to show passion despite her youth and she looks great. Charles Farrell is OK as the artist. Henry Armetta is one of the circus performers, and Natalie Kingston is the mean prostitute.
Director Frank Borzage creates a great city set amidst fog and shadows. This setting is used to great effect in the several chase scenes. The set design and cinematography earned Oscar nominations, and this is one of three films (with Sunrise and Seventh Heaven) for which Gaynor won the very first Oscar as best lead actress (beating out Gloria Swanson and Louise Dresser).
Gaynor achieved stardom at the end of the silent era but easily made the transition to sound and had a solid career through the late 30s. She is best remembered as the star of the original A Star Is Born in 1937.
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