• Moonrise is Frank Borzage’s best work of the 1940s and it marks his third consecutive decade of making ill-fated romance melodramas.
  • Dane Clark plays Danny Hawkins and Gail Russell plays Gilly. Borzage supports them with a capable supporting group that includes Ethel Barrymore, Rex Ingram (as Mose) and Lloyd Bridges (who does not stick around long). The story set up with an accidental (ish) murder is straight out of noir. This is set in the country though (small town Virginia), and Borzage’s genre is most definitely melodrama.

In a phenomenal opening shot Borzage’s camera tracks feet in the rain, moves up to a silhouette of the gallows and a man hanging all in a crane shot. This brilliant shot is used again and again as part of Danny’s damaged mental makeup- his father was hanged and this sits like a black cloud over him.

  • Borzage’s camera dives behind trees in the woods scene.
  • Danny is not an easy character- he is unhappy- and Dane Clark is not an easy actor to get behind either (think of Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun and how Clift is able to garner sympathy). Danny has a massive chip on his shoulder- and this is not a critique-it is just description- it may actually make for a more interesting character and film.
  • He may be a tier or two below Ophuls, but Borzage’s lyrical camerawork is commendable.

At the 58-minute mark it is an absolute pleasure to watch Borzage’s camera dance in and out with the Ferris wheel. Borzage’s director of photography is John L. Russell- who would later work with Hitchcock on Psycho (1960).

  • The camera rushes in on Dane for a powerful closeup as the dogs discover Bridges’ character’s body.
  • 87-minutes in there is a composition with Dane in profile on the foreground left- a lantern sits at the top of the screen in the foreground right- and Ethel Barrymore (Dane’s character’s grandma) is background right in profile. Both characters are looking out the window.
  • Highly Recommend- top ten of the year. This is where it seems all of Borzage’s work lands it seems.