best film: Sunrise is capital “M” Masterpiece and amongst the greatest films of all-time. F.W. Murnau’s film is a stylistic tour de force. Janet Gaynor is Murnau’s face of innocence and purity. Brilliant performances from a female actor in the top twenty (20) to twenty-five (25) films of all-time are rare of course- so this category is a strength for Gaynor.
best performance: Gaynor plays “The Wife” (opposite George O’Brien’s “The Man”) in Sunrise and this is Gaynor’s best work. Her work with Frank Borzage needs to be appraised here too – these are fabulous melodramas with meaty, dramatic roles for Gaynor. She is nominated for A Star is Born in 1937 and every cinephile knows that film’s story and how juicy that female lead role is (though that version is not as good as George Cukor’s 1954 version in which Judy Garland surpasses Gaynor).
stylistic innovations/traits: Janet Gaynor’s face in the boat in Sunrise is one of cinema’s great moments and indelible images. The Murnau masterpiece is a towering achievement, but the twin collaborations with Borzage help keep Gaynor from being a one-hit wonder if you will. Gaynor was born in Philadelphia. She has just those four archiveable films (but they make for a very respectable Mount Rushmore of a resume) and was really finished with cinema in 1938 at the young age of 32.
directors worked with: Frank Borzage (2) and then Sunrise with F.W. Murnau (1)
top five performances:
- 7th Heaven
- Street Angel
- A Star is Born
|1927- 7th Heaven|
|1928- Street Angel|
|1937- A Star is Born|