Frank Borzage’s Lucky Star (1929) was thought to be a lost film, until a copy turned up in an archive in the Netherlands. It has now been made available on DVD; the restoration of the print is of a very high quality.
The film is based on a magazine story, and will sound sentimental in the telling. Young man meets wild young girl, and gives her a spanking for stealing. Young man goes to war, comes home crippled, and makes a new relationship with the girl. Girl’s unpleasant mother wants her to marry a man with better prospects (though we, the audience know him to be a bad lot). You can probably guess the ending.
The film is lifted above the mediocre by the direction and the acting. Borzage (pronounced Bor-Zah-gee, apparently) not only had a stunning visual sense (made clear here by the first-rate restoration) but clearly knew how to get the best out of his actors. Janet Gaynor as the wild girl as the wild girl has the essential silent actor’s talent of making her entire body expressive. She is quite extraordinary.
Lucky Star is on the second volume of a new Borzage collection. The first volume contains Seventh Heaven (1927), also starring Janet Gaynor.
Once again basis of the story is a rather simple romance, and once again Borzage and Gaynor turn it into something special. The tale begins in Paris, when a street cleaner saves a young woman from persecutors. The plot demands that they pretend to be married, and eventually they fall in love. This love story is interrupted by the outbreak of war, however, and the action broadens out to include a terrific sequence about the taxis of the Marne. I already have a copy of this film, but if the quality of the new DVD is as good as that of Lucky Star, I may well be tempted to buy this as well, particularly as it includes Borzage’s Street Angel (again with Gaynor) which I have never seen.