Frank Borzage

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Frank Borzage
Frank Borzage 001.JPG
Photoplay Magazine, 1920
Born (1894-04-23)April 23, 1894
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Died June 19, 1962(1962-06-19) (aged 68)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation Film director, actor
Spouse(s) Rena Rogers (married 1916, divorced 1941)
Edna Stillwell Skelton (married 1945, divorced 1949)

Frank Borzage (/bɔːrˈzɡi/;[1] April 23, 1894[2] – June 19, 1962) was an American film director and actor, most remembered for directing 7th Heaven (1927),[3] Man's Castle (1933),[4] and The Mortal Storm (1940).

Biography

Frank Borzage's father, Luigi Borzaga, was born in Ronzone (then Austrian Empire, now Italy) in 1859. As a stonemason, he sometimes worked in Switzerland; he met his future wife, Maria Ruegg (1860, Ricken (de), Switzerland – 1947, Los Angeles), where she worked in a silk factory. Borzaga emigrated to Hazleton, Pennsylvania in the early 1880s where he worked as a coal miner. He brought his fiancee to the United States and they married in Hazleton in 1883.

Their first child, Henry, was born in 1885. The Borzaga family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Frank Borzage was born in 1894, and the family remained there until 1919. The couple had fourteen children, eight of whom survived childhood: Henry (1885–1971), Mary Emma (1886–1906), Bill (1892–1973), Frank, Daniel (1896–1975, a performer and member of the John Ford Stock Company), Lew (1898–1974), Dolly (1901–2002) and Sue (1905–1998). Luigi Borzaga died in Los Angeles in a car accident in 1934; his wife Maria (Frank's mother) died of cancer in 1947.

In 1912, Frank Borzage found employment as an actor in Hollywood; he continued to work as an actor until 1917. His directorial debut came in 1915 with the film, The Pitch o' Chance.

On June 7, 1916, Borzage married vaudeville and film actress Lorena "Rena" Rogers in Los Angeles and remained married until 1941. In 1945, he married Edna Stillwell Skelton, the ex-wife of comedian Red Skelton; they were divorced in 1949.[5][6] Borzage died of cancer in 1962, aged 68, and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. For his contributions to film, Borzage was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Career

Borzage was a successful director throughout the 1920s but reached his peak in the late silent and early sound era. Absorbing visual influences from the German director F.W. Murnau, who was also resident at Fox at this time, he developed his own style of lushly visual romanticism in a hugely successful series of films starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, including Seventh Heaven (1927), for which he won the first Academy Award for Directing,[7] Street Angel (1928) and Lucky Star (1929). He won a second Oscar for 1931's Bad Girl.

He directed 14 films between 1917 and 1919 alone, his greatest success in the silent era was with Humoresque, a box office winner starring Vera Gordon.[8][9]

Borzage's trademark was intense identification with the feelings of young lovers in the face of adversity, with love in his films triumphing over such trials as World War I (Seventh Heaven and A Farewell to Arms), disability (Lucky Star), the Depression (Man's Castle), a thinly disguised version of the Titanic disaster in History Is Made at Night, and the rise of Nazism, a theme which Borzage had virtually to himself among Hollywood filmmakers from Little Man, What Now? (1933) to Three Comrades (1938) and The Mortal Storm (1940).

His work took a turn to religiosity in such films as Green Light (1937), Strange Cargo (1940) and The Big Fisherman (1959). Of his later work only the film noir Moonrise (1948) has enjoyed much critical acclaim.

After 1948, his output was sporadic. He was the original director of Journey Beneath the Desert (1961), but was too sick to continue, and Edgar G. Ulmer took over.[10] Borzage was uncredited for the sequences he did direct.

In 1955 and 1957, Borzage was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.[11]

Filmography

References

  1. ^ Borzage told The Literary Digest his name was pronounced "in three syllables, and g in get, bor-zay'gee." (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)
  2. ^ To gain a professional advantage, Borzage subtracted a year from his date of birth while still a teenager; many sources, including IMDb, thus give 1893 as his birthdate; Dumont, p. 32.
  3. ^ "7th Heaven: The Films of Frank Borzage | UCLA Film & Television Archive". www.cinema.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  4. ^ "Bottoms Up (1934); Man's Castle (1933) | UCLA Film & Television Archive". www.cinema.ucla.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  5. ^ "Skelton's Ex-Wife Married to Director". The Pittsburgh Press. 26 November 1945. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "Home of Skelton's Ex-Wife is Robbed of $10,000 Loot". St. Joseph News-Press. 4 February 1950. Retrieved 25 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Donald W. McCaffrey (1 January 1999). "FILMS AND FILMMAKERS". In Christopher P. Jacobs. Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 45–46. ISBN 9780313303456. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  8. ^ "Vera Gordon | Jewish Women's Archive". jwa.org. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  9. ^ "Frank Borzage - Hollywood Star Walk - Los Angeles Times". projects.latimes.com. Retrieved 2017-04-24. 
  10. ^ Herzogenrath, Bernd (2009). The Films of Edgar G. Ulmer. Scarecrow Press. p. 282. ISBN 0810867001. 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 

Further reading

  • Dumont, Hervé. Frank Borzage: the Life and Times of a Hollywood Romantic. McFarland, 2006.
  • Lamster, Frederick. "Souls Made Great Through Love and Adversity": the Film Work of Frank Borzage. Scarecrow, 1981.

External links

  • Frank Borzage on IMDb
  • Frank Borzage at AllMovie
  • Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database
  • They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
  • A Farewell to Arms (1932) – This Borzage-directed adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's novel has fallen into the public domain and is available online through the Internet Archive.
  • Frank Borzage and the Classic Hollywood Style
  • Frank Borzage at Find a Grave
  • Frank Borzage at Virtual History
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