“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”. We have probably have either used this phrase at least once or at the very least have heard it’s utterance. It usually is overplayed at times, because from my back deck (where I plan to spend a lot of time this summer, sipping cold ones … if it ever gets f**king warm in the northeast …but, I digress), my neighbors back yard is definitely a lot greener!
This 1927 Silent film masterpiece is the classic story of a simple man (George O’Brien), who portrays a farmer, looking for the ‘greener grass’. The ‘farmer’ becomes infatuated with a girl from the city (Margaret LIvingston), who represents all the glam and glitz which, in his opinion, doesn’t exist in the country. She convinces him that he should kill his wife (as characterized by one of the silent film legends, Janet Gaynor) and then move to the city with her after selling his farm. Mentally torn by this dilemma, lust versus love; the farmer considers doing the deed and suggests to his wife that the two of them should take a trip across the lake to visit the city together. Unaware of his ulterior intention the wife is elated and excitedly considers this as a re-spark to their marriage. As they begin their journey, she becomes aware of her husbands morose demeanor and when he rises in the boat and approaches her, panic and fear sets in.
However, as much as the motivation of being with the city woman presents itself, he finds it impossible to injure the woman whom he loves with his whole heart. Upon reaching the other side, the wife runs from her husband out of fear for her life. Following after her, he continually professes his sorrow as well as his love and devotion to her. After a failed attempt at lunch the two find themselves drawn into a church where a wedding is being held. As the bride and groom exchange their vows; simultaneously in a back pew the unspoken vows of love are resounded quietly by the farmer and his wife.
Their marriage seemingly revitalized, the two then enjoy their afternoon together. Later after an evening complete with dancing and dinner, they begin the boat ride home. Will their restored affection for each other continue on a calm sea of love or will their be more troubled waters ahead.
This film originated from William Fox reaching across the pond and grabbing the premier German Expressionist Director in F.W. Murnau. That coupled with the groundbreaking cinematographers Karl Struss and Charles Rosher; Fox Studios accomplished what was deemed by the 1927 ‘New York Times’ as “A Film Masterpiece”. During the ignaugaral ceremony of the Academy Awards, the film garnered the first ever award for “Unique and Artistic Picture”, which was later combined with the “Outstanding Film” award and became the “Best Picure” catergory.
When I had first began my blog, it was to review AFI’ s top 100 films. At #82 was a film I never had heard of…”Sunrise”. I thought to myself ‘great a silent film; that’s not a Chaplin or a Keaton … I wonder how this will turn out’. So began my love affair with both ‘SUNRISE’ and Murnau in general. I’ve seen almost all of Murnau’s films and although ‘Nosferatu’ and ‘The Last Laugh’ are considered his most renowned, this film is clearly amongst his best. The moving and touching scenes of love and forgiveness between a husband and wife re-finding their love for one another outweigh the lust that is first presented by the introduction of another woman and the allure of the ‘big city’. However, scenes such as the playfulness and laughter shown in the photographer’s studio, or the side scene of the man and woman watching the ‘Peasant’s Dance’, show how masterful Murnau was. Inter-dispersing these scenes in the film, the Director never lets his audience get too caught up in the somber and emotional overtone of the film.
This film garnered the 1st Academy Award for Cinematography by Karl Struss and Charles Rosher. Whose use of innovative ways of double exposure and diverse camera angles set the film industry forward in a new direction. Also included in the Awards category was Janet Gaynor’s Lead Actress Oscar, which was presented to her for her work on this film and also ‘7th Heaven’ and Street Angel’. SUNRISE immediately becomes a film that every cinema enthusiast must watch over and over. Also, a little known fact about this film is that although overshadowed by ‘The Jazz Singer’ which is touted as the first ‘talkie’, SUNRISE was the first full length film that had a sound track utilizing the Fox Movietone System, which included both sound effects and a musical score.
I absolutely enjoy this film every time I watch it and look forward to always finding another nuance with each viewing. Well the rain finally subsided on the Island so it looks like it’s time to tackle some of my ‘honey do’ items. Two of which are mowing the lawn and spreading more granulated lime … I’ll get that green look yet. That’s all for now…