Director: Frank Borzage Cast: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Ben Bard, Albert Gran, David Butler, Marie Mosquini, Gladys Brockwell, Émil Chautard, George E. Stone
Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Janet Gaynor – also for her performances in Street Angel and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans); Best Director, Dramatic Picture (Frank Borzage); Best Adapted Screenplay
Also Nominated For: Best Picture; Best Art Direction
I First Saw In: 2015
Synopsis: A street cleaner saves a young woman’s life, and the pair slowly fall in love until war intervenes.
Did You Know? Janet Gaynor was the first Best Actress winner. She was also the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar for almost 60 years, until Marlee Matlin won for her performance in Children of a Lesser God (1986).
Quotables: CHICO: That’s why I’m an atheist – God owes me ten francs.
And now a Word from the Guise:
The scene toward the beginning where Chico explains his atheism to his comrade (either Gobin or Boul) while the priest eavesdrops really irritated me, for two reasons: 1) the priest comes over and says, “I don’t think you’re as bad as you think you are”, because all atheists are inherently evil, right? and 2) I really don’t think it’s in the power of a priest to promote a sewer rat to street-washer, which is what spurred Chico’s atheism in the first place; he prayed to God to take him out of the sewer and make him a street-washer. Naturally, God didn’t hear his prayers, so now he’s an atheist. But of course, the priest overhears, and gives Chico an appointment to street-washer… because… the priest must also work as the manager of the street-washers?
Had I not watched this as part of the marathon, I probably would have stopped it after that scene, but I forced my way through. And I’m sorry I did…
Chico, a down-on-his-luck yet optimistic sewer rat, rescues Diane, a down-on-her-luck prostitute, from her abusive sister Nana, also a down-on-her-luck prostitute. Chico can’t seem to help himself from protecting Diane, and he gets himself into a little bit of a pickle because of it. But soon everything is coming up Chico, as he finds a loyal and subservient companion in Diane, despite not wanting her around. But she cooks, cleans, cuts his hair, etc.; so what the hell? I guess he better propose, right? He doesn’t love her, but she loves him – and what’s love got to do with it anyway, when you’ve got someone at your total beck and call? He’s so considerate too, not wanting her to worry herself with such big thoughts, or really any thought at all. “Leave that to me!” From prostitution to overt religious subtext to traditional gender roles and “mansplaining”, this film certainly has it all!
Oscar Madness Ranking – ??? out of 233