EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|CITY GIRL (aka: OUR DAILY BREAD) (director/writer: F. W. Murnau; screenwriter: Berthold Viertel/Marion Orth/H.H. Caldwell/based on the play "The Mud Turtle" by Elliott Lester; cinematographer: Ernest Palmer; editor: Katherine Hilliker/H.H. Caldwell; cast: Charles Farrell (Lem Tustine), Mary Duncan (Kate), David Torrence (Lem's Father), Edith Yorke (Lem's Mother), Anne Shirley (Marie Tustine ), Tom McGuire (Matey), Richard Alexander (Mac), Guinn Williams (Reaper), Roscoe Ates (Reaper); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; Televista; 1930-silent)|
distinguished mostly by the great director's special
creative touches in filming."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
I saw the uncut silent version, a version once
thought lost but a print of the silent 1930 re-release
version was rediscovered in 1970. It's the last
Hollywood film directed by the influential German
silent filmmaker F. W. Murnau ("Tabu"/"Nosferatu"/"Tartuffe"), who
was a key figure in the German expressionist movement
during the 1920s. Murnau was disappointed that his American made
masterpiece Sunrise was a commercial flop and that the
Fox studio butchered this film with unneeded cuts and
against his wishes added some sound.
on the play "The Mud Turtle" by Elliott Lester. The
melodrama obsesses over wheat, the clash between city
and rural life, and the struggle of newlyweds in
overcoming interference from a stern overbearing
father in-law of the bride. It's distinguished mostly
by the great director's special creative touches in
filming: the lighting (the pre-storm sequence of the midnight wheat
fields lit with roving lanterns) and farm
landscape are superbly accomplished.
The unsophisticated Lem Tustine (Charles Farrell)
leaves by train his gruff father's (David Torrence)
wheat farm in Blair, Minnesota, and on dad's
instructions goes to Chicago to sell the wheat at the
price dad told him. In the big city, Lem meets the
attractive diner waitress Kate (Mary Duncan ),
who hates her job, can't stand her dumpy apartment and
is tired of the city. The bashful Lem marries Kate and
surprises his parents by returning to the farm
married. Dad thinks no decent girl would marry that
fast and suspects she roped his son in. He also fumes
that his son got a low price for the wheat, believing
he was distracted chasing after the girl.
Though mama's boy Lem's weak mom (Edith Yorke) and
little sister Marie (Anne Shirley) accept Kate, the rigid
vindictive dad makes Kate's life hell and does
everything he can to destroy his son's marriage. In
the climax, a summer hailstorm threatens to ruin the
wheat harvest, and one of the surly farm workers, Mac
Alexander), makes a play for Kate and
sabotages the other workers to not save the crop. Kate
fumes how her hubby could ever believe she would
run-off with Mac and heads back to Chicago alone, and
Lem then grows a pair of balls and shows how much Kate
means to him by going after her and fighting the
disrespectful farmhand who stands in his way. Manhood,
at last, comes to Lem, who tells his now repentant dad
he's leaving the farm with Kate if she's not accepted.
In the end, even though there's a mandatory
Hollywood happy ending, Murnau debunks the simplistic
myth of the country as an idealistic paradise of
family values and honest hard working people, while
the city is thought of as an evil place of temptations
and fast living. The filmmaker shows that either the
city or the country is as good or as bad a place as
you make it, and neither one is all good or all evil.
It was the only film, I believe, Mary Duncan starred
in, who was not Murnau's choice (his Sunrise star Janet Gaynor had that
honor) but forced on him by Fox (she was
the girlfriend of one of their executives). I thought
she did okay, I had no problem with her acting.
REVIEWED ON 6/12/2010 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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