starring George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor
December 1927

The sort of picture that fools high-brows into hollering "Art!" Swell trick photography and fancy effects, but, boiled down, no story interest and only stilted, mannered acting.

F.W. Murnau can show Hollywood camera effects, but he could learn a lot about story-telling from local talent. The only American touch is a fine comedy sequence in a barber shop. The film has its moments. There is a love scene that smokes - literally. And there is a pathetic moment when the "hero" tries to drown his wife.

Janet Gaynor does good work but looks all wrong in a blonde wig which wouldn't fool anybody. George O'Brien acts like the Golem's little boy. Worth seeing for its technical excellence.

SUNRISE (1928)
starring George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor
January 1928

"Sunrise" is a striking picture, a real achievement which will not soon be equaled. There hasn't been any picture quite like it, not even "The Last Laugh" or "Faust," both of which were directed by F.W. Murnau, the German who was brought to this country by William Fox for "Sunrise."

Every one who takes the screen seriously should see this new manifestation of its great scope and study the sharply individual technique of the director. Those who don't care to do either, but prefer the standardized product of Hollywood, will not find much cause for enthusiasm. "Sunrise" is a tour de force of directorial skill, not a riot of the emotions. It is a photograph of the minds of the characters rather than their hearts. Would you prefer to think than to weep? Then see "Sunrise," for it bears every sign of being he most important picture of the year.

The story is not world-beater of originality, but Murnau's method of telling it - oh, my! The characters are The Man, The Wife, the Woman from the City, and the countryside and a metropolis. The Man, a farmer, falls under the spell of The Woman, who tempts him to drown his wife and go with her to the city. At the moment when he is about to capsize the rowboat, his wife's trust and devotion disarm him and he stumble away, agonized by conscience. In fear, The Wife flees to the city, where he follows her and wins back her confidence. They enter into the gayeties of the night in celebration of their new understanding and the end of the vampire's spell. On their way home they are overtaken by a storm and The Wife is swept from the boat by the waves. Once more The Husband staggers into the house, this time racked by grief. He hears the siren call of the vampire. It stirs him to fury and he nearly chokes her to death. Then the tide brings in The Wife, clinging to a sheaf of bulrushes, alive.

A bare synopsis of he story can give no idea of its symbolic narration on the screen.

Murnau's technique is clearly shown in the first scene, when the vampire, lying in The Man's arms under a misty moon, enthralls him with he stories of the city. The city is visualized as it might exist in the imagination of the simple farmer, a fantastic hodge-podge of glitter and activity. This extraordinary capacity for photographing the workings of a mind is repeatedly employed in the picture.

George O'Brien plays The Man simply and sincerely, though he hunches and shambles a great deal in the early sequences - but not too much to mar the most important role of his career and his best acting yet seen. Janet Gaynor, The Wife, is exquisitely perfect, though her appearance is handicapped by a weird wig, supposed to make her a blonde, I suppose, but only succeeding in giving her artificial grayness. Margaret Livingston is, as you might suppose, The Woman. She is evil incarnate and gives the best performance of her career. Bodil Rosing, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ralph Sipperly, Jane Winton, Arhtur Housman, and Eddie Boland play minor roles flawlessly.

For more information, see "Sunrise" as our "Feature of the Month"

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