Review: Street Angel (1928)

Directed by Frank Borzage

Janet Gaynor stars in an overwrought melodrama with the type of plot that’s standard in an opera but tiresome in a movie. The dramatic climax, set along the foggy waterfront is beautifully photographed.

Street Angel suffers from the type of plot where the central dilemma could be eradicated with one simple line of dialog. Angela (Gaynor) inspires impoverished artist Gino (frequent co-star Charles Farrell) to paint angelic beauty. Together they’re poor and blissfully happy, but a shadow hangs over them. Unknown to Gino, Angela is a fugitive, having tried unsuccessfully to solicit and steal enough to pay for her dying mother’s medicine. On her way to prison, she escapes, joins a traveling circus, and falls in love with Gino.

On the eve of their wedding, Angela’s past catches up with her and she goes off to the workhouse to serve out her sentence, leaving Gino to believe she’s left him rather than telling him the truth. Yeah, right. Apparently learning that his fiance was a really bad streetwalker would be too much for him to handle–that old love on a pedestal thing. Abandonment is so much more productive to the creative genius.

So, if you can suspend your belief and get beyond the overly dramatic and drawn out plot, the camera work and shot composition of this late-era silent film is quite something to behold. [*** out of 5]

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