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 »
Life together... what happiness! And the babies, Angela... A girl... a little rabbit like you...
See more »
By the late 20s, director Frank Borzage was really starting to find his rhythm. He was always prolific and his films were largely successful, but his unique brand of romanticism was starting to take inspiration from German Expression and, in particular, the work of F.W. Murnau. The late 20s saw him direct 7th Heaven, Street Angel and Lucky Star - all huge successes, and all starring the glamorous pair of actors Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. These movies helped establish Borzage as a champion of the lower classes, where he would find "human souls made great by love and adversity." Street Angel was of his finest and most unjustly forgotten pictures, and while it boasts a Naples setting described as "laughter-loving, careless, sordid," Borzage is keen to highlight how a decent and honest person can be left humiliated and shunned by society for a moment of sheer desperation born out of poverty.
The film introduces our heroine Angela (Ganyor) as she is receiving some devastating news from the local doctor: her desperately sick mother will die without urgent medical treatment, only Angela is so poor that she can't afford the medicine required to make her mother better. With seemingly no other option, Angela takes to the streets to solicit men, and when that doesn't work, she looks to thievery. She is caught red-handed, and is charged not only for attempted theft, but also for prostitution, becoming the 'street angel' of the title. The court sentences her to a year of hard labour, but knowing her mother is alone and dying, Angel manages to escape custody. On her return home, she finds her mother already dead, draping her lifeless arms around her in a desperate plea for affection. With the police now hunting her, Angela joins up with a travelling circus, who welcome the beautiful lady with open arms, despite her recent run-ins with the law.
Time with the circus folk toughens Angela up. She vows to go on fighting, and turns her back on the idea of love. If you've ever seen a romantic movie then you'll know where the story is going, and soon enough a young artist named Gino (Farrell) has his head turned by the charming tightrope walker. They fall in love, but an accident means the couple must return to Naples, a city which threatens to expose Angela's past and send her back to jail. The story is predictable enough, but Borzage finds real poetry in this tale of two lovers brought together by fate. Murnau's Sunrise had been released just a year before, and Borzage had clearly taken notice. From a purely visual standpoint, Street Angel is one of the most innovative movies of its time. The camera feels constantly in motion as it navigates Angel's treacherous path with a looming sense of unease, and settles down to savour the small beautiful moments of Angela and Gino's romance. It all leads to a breathtaking final scene that takes place in a world of deceptive shadows and fog, a moment which may bring our lead characters together again for the final time. It's the work of cinematographers Paul Ivano and Ernest Palmer, and it's one of the most splendid sights in silent cinema.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this