Reviewed Sep 08, 2012
Rick Burin’s review:
A sewer worker (Charles Farrell) rescues a tortured waif (Janet Gaynor) from the point of oblivion and they fall in love, but war is just around the corner. This touching, compulsively-watchable romantic melodrama, from the master of the genre, has an astonishing opening 70, but suffers a little from its change of tack, which begins with a frankly rubbish five-minute montage about taxi drivers going to war and climaxes in notably maligned fashion. I do think the somewhat far-fetched ending succeeds, though, thanks to Gaynor's peerless sense of conviction. While Farrell is merely good as the self-styled "very remarkable fellow", her staggering performance (part of a three-film Oscar-winning bundle) must be one of the greatest in all of silent cinema. I can only think of one other actress who conveyed such a fragility and emotional sensitivity, and that was Dorothy McGuire. Yes, 7th Heaven could have been even better given a script tweak or two, but it's still a metaphysical romance of extraordinary potency. And as with so many of Borzage's earlier films - he was somewhat sucked into hack jobs in the '40s - the screen just shimmers.