|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Index||21 reviews in total|
24 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
The art of visual storytelling, 26 June 2006
Author: imogensara_smith from New York City
Silent film may be the only unique art form ever to have flourished and
then become extinct. The great ironyindeed, tragedyof its demise is
that it reached its peak only in the last few years before the talkie
revolution. Silent films from 1927 through 1930 dazzle with their fluid
and sophisticated mastery of visual storytelling; the last thing they
need is dialogue. F.W. Murnau's City Girl is a perfect example of this
artistry, and what happened to it. The follow-up to Murnau's legendary
masterpiece Sunrise, City Girl was made during the waning days of
silents, and in a concession to the changeover to sound it was re-cut
before its release and given a recorded score featuring singing
farmhands. Not surprisingly, the hybrid film sank like a stone.
Miraculously, an original silent print survived and was rediscovered in
the vaults at 20th Century-Fox. I first saw it at the National Film
Theatre in London during a Murnau retrospective. I'd never heard of it,
but when I went to see Nosferatu the speaker introducing it added, "Be
sure to come back next week and see City Girlit's better than
Sunrise!" This claim would be very hard to defend, but while lacking
the transcendence of Sunrise, City Girl is in some ways a more complex
and interesting work.
It also defends the honor of city girls from the laughably caricatured vamp who causes all the trouble in Sunrise. Like the earlier film, City Girl deals with the clash between urban and rural values, but here the countryside is no more pure or wholesome than the city. Unlike the vague, timeless setting of Sunrise, City Girl's milieu is the contemporary American Midwest. Kate (Mary Duncan) is a waitress in a busy Chicago lunchroom who lives in a dreary tenement and dreams of escaping the city. She meets Lem (Charles Farrell), a naïve and sweet-natured farm boy who has been sent to the city to sell his family's wheat crop. They fall in love, marry, and set out for the wheat-fields. But Kate's dreams are shattered by Lem's harsh, tyrannical father (David Torrence), and she finds herself waiting on rowdy, leering farmhands who are even worse than the lunchroom customers. Kate loses faith in Lem when he is unable to stand up to his father, and the marriage appears to be over almost before it began, until a series of melodramatic events force the various characters to examine their true motives and feelings.
Every aspect of this story is expressed through visual details. We are introduced to Lem on the train to Chicago, eating hand-packed sandwiches, oblivious to the flirtations of a vamp across the aisle whose interest is aroused by his bankroll (we know right off this isn't going to be Sunrise II.) We see Kate sassily quashing passes from customers ("What do you do in the evenings?" "YOU'LL never know!") and we see her in her dingy little room, watering a pathetic dusty flower on the fire-escape and listening to a wind-up mechanical bird while the El rushes past the window. The sweaty, chaotic bustle of the lunchroom is captured with tremendous verve. Once the scene moves to the country, the symbolism of wheat becomes the heart of the film (which Murnau wanted to call "Our Daily Bread.") In a ravishing scene, the newlyweds run through a glistening, swirling field of grain; when they arrive at the house, Lem's little sister greets Kate with a bouquet of wheat stalks. When the dour father enters, he rebukes her for wasting their cash crop; to him grain only means money. He also notices that Kate has put her cloche hat down on the family bible, and he is convinced that she's a floozy who sees Lem as a gravy train.
The Torrence brothers, David and Ernest, specialized in hissable nastiness, but here David's worried, American Gothic face conveys the hard life that has turned this man into a monster. It's hard to believe he could be genetically linked to a sweet-faced, curly-haired cutie like Charles Farrell, but he does make Lem's anguished weakness believable. Mary Duncan is perfect as a feisty yet vulnerable working girl, a type that would become much more common in early talkies. Duncan left the screen in 1933 when she married a polo player named "Laddie" Sanford. She lived to be 98, but her retirement was Hollywood's loss. I would like to see this intelligent, natural, black-eyed actress in something else.
City Girl is marred by an ending that feels rushed and unconvincing, but it raises interesting, at times troubling themes concerning marriage, traditional gender roles and family relationships. The most poignant aspect of this exquisitely directed film is not that it was one of the last silent movies made in Hollywood, but that its director would die in a car crash just three years later, at the age of forty-two. That was cinema's loss.
13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Magical Murnau!, 21 June 1999
Author: David Atfield (email@example.com) from Canberra, Australia
Was Murnau the greatest director ever? His life was cut short by a car
accident in 1931, when he was 42 years old. What magical films he would
have made had he lived.
"City Girl" is a fairly conventional story of a young man from the country who falls in love with a waitress on his first trip to the city. He marries her and brings her home to a hostile father. But Murnau takes this material and turns it into an expressionist exploration of sexuality, powering it with a theme of "it's not where we live but how we live". Within a world of hostile shadows and menacing crowds real people live and breathe in brilliant naturalistic performances. Farrell and Duncan are amazingly good. And even the smallest part is played with vivid life.
But the real star is Murnau's startling direction. Tracking shots years ahead of their time - watch the scene where the couple run through a field of wheat - extraordinary point of view shots, and remarkable shots of and in fast moving wagons. The frightening city seen in "Sunrise" is here again - with trains and crowds obscuring vision and soot on the pot plants. And then there is the beauty of the countryside and the harvesting of wheat.
Murnau made what I believe to be the best silent film ever with "Sunrise" in 1927. With "City Girl" he comes close to matching it. A must. I saw the original silent version which runs at 90 minutes. Apparently a shorter talkie version also exists.
12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Solid Murnau drama, 4 April 2004
Author: fwmurnau from United States
Fairly familiar story, but told with real intimacy, restrained acting, and
Murnau's always sensitive and virtuoso direction.
Murnau has been compared to Welles, since both directors have cultured, poetic sensibilities, work brilliantly with actors, and constantly experiment, testing and expanding the expressive possibilities of the film medium, but here is the difference:
Welles was an extrovert, a showman, parading his brilliance. Murnau, no less brilliant, is more subtle. His SUNRISE is to the silent era what CITIZEN KANE is to the sound era, but even in that film his innovations are "the art that conceals art".
A casual viewer will see nothing in CITY GIRL but a nice story, well-executed. But the film is full of technical bravura for cinema fans: notice the perfection of the process shots in the opening train sequence. You didn't see this done as well in many major Hollywood films made even in the 1950s. Notice the farmhouse scenes where both the interiors and the brightly sunlit exteriors, visible through windows and doors, are PERFECTLY exposed. Even today, in the 21st century, we see films in which this isn't handled as well as Murnau & Co. do it here in 1928.
I saw the 90 minute silent version, which is the one to seek out -- not the shortened, half-talkie version.
Murnau's combination of technical brilliance, bold experimentation, superb direction of actors, and deep emotional sensitivity is practically unique in film history. He did EVERYTHING well. And if you have a chance to see his much earlier DER BRENNENDE ACKER (THE BURNING EARTH) see how much of this he was already achieving even with the primitive techniques and equipment of 1922. What a tragedy such a genius had to die in a car accident at the youthful age of 42.
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Stunning and Unforgettable!, 15 August 2009
Author: jery-tillotson-1 from United States
I was so astonished by this movie that as soon as "The End" came up, I started watching it all over again. For one thing, the restoration of this forgotten classic was so stunning it was like watching a black and white movie made an hour ago. Each scene simply glowed with amazing grays and whites and charcoals. Mary Duncan as the 'City Gir' was absolutely enchanting. She was a sweet, young girl who was also feisty and was so believable and likable that she became someone you'd love to know. The movie's great loss is that she made only one other movie, 'Morning Glory" before leaving the screen to marry millionaire polo player. She only died recently at the age of 92 She was matched by silent screen great Charles Farrell who had t difficult role of Lem, who was also simple, sweet but manly, too. Although released in l930, this film confirms how incredibly smooth and profound silent movies had become. Director Murnau brilliantly cast and directed this amazing drama--proving to one and all what a profound loss silent movies became when they were overtaken by those noisy talkies. You should definitely check out this masterpiece and be amazed
16 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Realistic Yet Spiritual Masterpiece, 1 October 2003
Author: overseer-3 from Florida
Murnau had the knack of taking what looks like a simple relationship between
a man and a woman (here a farm boy falling in love with a city girl who is a
waitress) and depicting it in such a dramatic, physical, and spiritual
fashion that you are spellbound throughout the whole picture. I must confess
his early horror films do nothing for me; it is the romantic pictures like
Sunrise and City Girl that show his real talents. These films transcend time
Murnau is not afraid to depict characters who have a spiritual aspect to them....a quality totally lacking in today's pathetic, heathen filmmakers. For instance, Murnau in City Girl actually shows the main character (Charles Farrell) praying over his food in a public diner! When was the last time you saw that in a major motion picture? Refreshing!
Mary Duncan does well as Kate, the city girl. She had such soulful eyes and such a striking manner. She is totally believable as the woman struggling to survive a tough situation on a family farm run by a madman. Too bad this is the only silent film work of hers that has survived. Charles Farrell shows much depth in his silent film portrayals, much more so than in his early talkies, and City Girl is another fine example of his work.
If you are a fan of silents or of Murnau's work, don't neglect seeing this gem.
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
The sun rises again, 14 December 2008
Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN
Murnau's third American film after Sunrise and the lost Four Devils, and his penultimate before Tabu. City Girl, of the surviving three, is the least seen. The reason for this must be its close resemblance to Sunrise, which is a masterpiece of the first order. Yes, City Girl does remind one of Sunrise in its mood and focus. A young rube from Minnesota (Charles Farrell) travels to Chicago to sell his father's wheat crop. Business-wise, the trip doesn't go well, but his romantic world blossoms when he meets up with a lonely waitress (Mary Duncan). The two marry, and the rest of the film deals with Duncan's fight for acceptance on the farm, where she faces a fierce opponent in her father-in-law (David Torrence). The film is romantic, emotionally moving and utterly beautiful. Yes, it is a lot like Sunrise, but, heck, who wouldn't want a second Sunrise? It's hardly a carbon copy, anyway, so it's like another wonderful gift. City Girl is a masterpiece, as well. I'm not the biggest fan of Murnau's German films, but his three surviving American films are probably the best proof of the sentiment that the silent cinema was at a miraculous level right when it was snuffed by sound. Murnau tragically died in an auto accident in 1931. I find it hard to imagine his work in the talkies, but I have an inkling that the cinema would be rather different if he had survived.
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Another Gem From Master Film Maker Murnau, 26 November 2005
Author: sunlily from Dallas, TX.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
City Girl is another gem from the German master film maker F.W.Murnau,
who directed the masterpiece, Sunrise.
City Girl is similar to Sunrise in it's comparison of urban versus rural life and a conflicted relationship between a man and a woman. The couple, Kate and Lem meet in the crowded, gritty city of Chicago where Kate is living an uninspired existence as a waitress and an immediate attraction takes place. Lem is lonely too we gather and under the autocratic thumb of his father. He seems to be independent for the first time in his life, ( he's there to sell the wheat crop.) and makes the decision to marry Kate without asking his fathers approval. After they return to the farm, the conflicts between Lem and Kate and his father and the lead farmhand take place.
This movie doesn't have the dream states, camera moves or super-impositions of the earlier film, but there are several good scenes, notably when the camera follows Lem and Kate as they run through the wheat fields, and the scenes of the wheat harvest which have such a real to life feel to them you almost feel that you're there as the work is going on! As human drama, a study of complicated interpersonal relationships, and the conflict between man and nature, I highly recommend this film! Murnau's masterful use of lighting is also present in this film, with the last scenes occurring at night with shadows so dark only lanterns can penetrate them, casting moody shadows and intensifying the action.
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Silence Is Golden for F.W. Murnau and Charles Farrell, 26 April 2009
Author: wes-connors from Earth
Minnesota country boy Charles Farrell (as Lem) goes to Chicago, to sell
the family's wheat harvest. In the hectic city, he meets pretty coffee
shop waitress Mary Duncan (as Kate), who longs for the simple life. The
attractive pair fall blissfully in love. After marrying Ms. Duncan, Mr.
Farrell takes her home to live with his country family. But, father
David Torrence (as Tustine) distrusts the "City Girl", and is angry
with his son for selling his wheat at an inferior price. A stern
patriarch, Mr. Torrence drives a wedge between the happy couple. To
make matters worse, Duncan becomes prey for some arriving reapers
This is another stunner from director F.W. Murnau ("Sunrise"), who would so tragically die in a car accident (after only one more film). "City Girl" was produced by Mr. Murnau as a "silent" ("Our Daily Bread"); but, Fox Films recalled the movie, and turned it into a "talkie". At the time, Farrell's name was rising to the upper reaches of "Box Office" star lists, but, truth be told, only Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo still had the power to draw audiences to a silent movie (and, even that was fading). With re-shoots, a partially talking "City Girl" was seen briefly, and forgotten.
The unearthed full length silent version was, thankfully, preserved. It is a near-perfect film. Farrell, who many felt deserves some "Best Actor" recognition fro his role in "7th Heaven", outdoes himself. Murnau, photographer Ernest Palmer, set director Harry Oliver are also award-worthy. Although she looks too startlingly glamorous in the country portions, Duncan is hot in the city. No wonder leering Richard Alexander (as Mac) couldn't keep his hands off her. The entire cast performs splendidly, right down to David Rollins giving Duncan lift at work.
Sequences to re-play (if not the whole movie): Farrell walking the crowded city streets, Duncan in her apartment (where she blows the city dust off her suffocating plant), the couple's ecstatic run through his father's wheat fields, the arrival of grinning Guinn Williams and the reapers, and their harvesting scenes. Murnau's direction of the horse-driven wagons is especially spectacular. The lighting is brilliant throughout.
********* City Girl (2/16/30) F.W. Murnau ~ Charles Farrell, Mary Duncan, David Torrence, Richard Alexander
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The direction's better than the story..., 9 June 2011
Author: JoeytheBrit from www.moviemoviesite.com
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
F. W. Murnau's 'forgotten' film probably isn't as good as Sunrise and
in fact looks like a pale imitation of it at times but it's still
better than much of Hollywood's output at the end of the 1920s. Big
Charles Farrell plays Lem, an innocent country bumpkin whose lack of
assertiveness threatens his still-to-be consummated marriage to city
girl Mary Duncan. Lem's curmudgeonly father takes an instant dislike to
his son's new bride, whom Lem impulsively wed while on a trip to sell
Pop's harvest, believing she is a gold digger which is a bit odd
given that Lem failed to sell his harvest at the minimum price
necessary to make ends meet. Despite the whirlwind nature of their
romance, Kate really does love Lem even though he stands by and does
nothing when his father knocks her about a bit
While the characters and their motives are strictly ordinary, it's Murnau's skill as a director that lifts City Girl above the ordinary. The juxtaposition between the stifling confines of the dirty city and the wide open spaces of Lem's homestead is subtly created, as is the change of emphasis from the depressing impact of technology on city dwellers to the equally distressing influence of personal relationships in the countryside. Murnau also creates enormous sympathy for the plight of Kate in spite of the relatively clichéd situation she finds herself in. She's no Lillian Gish type, dependent on a broad-shouldered hero to save her from her plight, but a spirited independent heroine in her own right who pretty much forces Farrell's insipid Lem to face up to and eventually overcome his glaring shortcomings.
4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The intruder, 20 November 2008
This is the next to last work by Murnau and ,like most of his movies,it
should not be missed.Using the same actors as Frank Borzage in "The
River" ,he tells us a story which could still happen today.The sexually
repressed boy,under an over possessive dad's -looking sometimes like a
patriarch from the Bible- thumb ,whose wife is treated like dirt (by
her in-law)or as a sexual object (by the farm workers) ,is a character
we can meet every day even in 2008.In "The river" Mary Duncan warmed up
Charles Farrell's body with her own body.In "city girl" she did again
-the scene of the breakfast (the bread) which segues into that one in the eating-house.
-the arrival in the country house,the warm welcome of the mother and the harshness of the master.
-all the scenes with the boy and the workers where he realizes he is not a man like them.Perhaps the great director was opening up in these scenes which predate other works (Minnelli's "Tea and Sympathy" ,and in France Miller's "La Meilleure Façon de Marcher"):Murnau was gay and felt ashamed of it.
People who are allergic to silent movies ,you can enjoy Murnau's films:they do not need the sound,they have everything.
|Page 1 of 3:||  |
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|