"For a decade she was one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, but in the seventy years since she retired from the limelight, Janet Gaynor’s legacy has been overshadowed by the work of her collaborators, her contemporaries, and especially her two best directors: F.W. Murnau and Frank Borzage, both of them visual stylists of the highest caliber. The very characteristics that endeared her to audiences—her delicate charm, and an innocence seemingly out of place with the Jazz Age that created her—may also provide clues as to why she has gone overlooked and underappreciated in the annals of film history. Her wholesome image doesn’t fit the loose girdles and looser morals of Pre-Code Hollywood that modern audiences are eating up these days. However, two current screenings—a three-day matinee run of Borzage’s Street Angel (1928) at the Museum of Modern Art (3/31-4/2) as part of their Auteurist History of Film series, and a weeklong residency of Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) in a new 35mm print at Film Forum (4/2-4/8)—remind us of Gaynor’s reticent grace, in twoand how integral her performance was to both of these masterpieces of the silent screen..."
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.