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Film: 7th Heaven
7th Heaven is a 1927 film directed by Frank Borzage, starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.

Diane (Gaynor) is a prostitute in 1914 Paris. She is The Woobie incarnate, victimized and beaten by her horrible older sister Nana, who is addicted to absinthe (unclear in the movie, specified in the play). One night Nana really loses it, chasing Diane out into the street, lashing her with a whip, and attempting to strangle her after Diane collapses. Diane is saved by Chico (Farrell), a worker in the Paris sewers, who sees the unfolding scene while on his lunch break and chases Nana off.

No sooner has Chico saved Diane's life when he has to save her life again, as Diane grabs a knife and nearly kills herself. And right after that happens, a policeman on a sweep targeting streetwalkers is about to take poor Diane to jail. To save her a night behind bars, Chico impusively says that she's his wife. The policeman says that a detective will be checking on that later, and Chico thinks he's screwed until Diane suggests that she live with him and pretend to be his wife until the cops come by to follow up. Diane moves in to his apartment, and not surprisingly, they fall in love...but World War I drives the lovers apart again.

This lyrical, heartfelt romance still stands up as an example of the artistic peaks silent films were hitting in the days before the talkie revolution killed them forever. At the first Academy Award ceremony it lost the Best Production (later renamed Best Picture) award to Wings but won Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and "Best Direction, Dramatic Picture" (starting with the next ceremony, the directing awards for dramatic and comedy pictures were merged into a single Best Director award). It also won an Oscar for Best Actress—sort of. At that ceremony the acting awards were given for one's whole body of work in a year, so in addition to this picture, Gaynor won for Street Angel and the all-time classic Sunrise.

Gaynor and Farrell had such chemistry together that Fox Studios wound up pairing them in twelve films. 7th Heaven was remade ten years later, with the title spelled out as Seventh Heaven, and with an up-and-coming James Stewart playing Chico. This film is preserved in the National Film Registry. Not to be confused with the TV show.


Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Abusive sister. Nana is horrifying. If she were a man she'd have a mustache to twirl.
  • The Alcoholic: Nana is an absolute wreck.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Chico can't bring himself to say it until he is being called away to war in August 1914. It's the most sweetly romantic scene in the movie.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Chico comes back alive—but blinded. He tearfully embraces Diane, and says that from now on, she will see for him.
  • Call Back: The eternally cheerful, optimistic Chico tells his friend Rat that "After all, I am a remarkable fellow!". At the end, Chico insists that he will recover from his blindness, saying the exact same thing.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Chico's version of a marriage proposal is to bring a wedding dress home to the apartment. Diane wants to marry him, but is disappointed that he won't say he loves her, asking if he can't say it just once.
    Chico: I can't, it's very stupid.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Chico's friend, the cheerful, rotund Boul, drives a Paris taxi, and drives Chico and Diane home after their first meeting. Later Boul's broken-down old jalopy of a cab, which he loves enough to name "Eloise", becomes one of the "taxis of the Marne". Boul drops off his soldier but Eloise gets blown up by an artillery shell.
    Boul: Poor Eloise! She gave her life for France!
    • When Diane says that she and Chico wish greetings to each other every day at 11 o'clock, one can figure out how the movie is going to end.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: The camera is largely stationary, but there are two impressive shots. The camera tracks Diane and Nana through the street as Nana chases Diane with a whip. And after Chico brings Diane home, the camera follows them up seven flights of stairs to his apartment.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Chico says that he's an atheist because he donated at the church and prayed to get promoted, and donated at the church and prayed for a girlfriend, and neither happened, so "God owes me ten dollars." He later gets religion after finding love with Diane.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Diane picks Chico's knife up off the street and is plunging it into her guts when Chico grabs her wrist Just in Time.
  • Marriage Before Romance: A fake marriage before romance, actually. Diane moves in to Chico's apartment, and by the time the detective shows up to check on Chico's statement, they have settled into an easy domesticity.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: Immediately after Chico walks out of the apartment to go off to war, Nana walks in and busts out the whip again. This time Diane tears the whip out of her hand and gives Nana a taste of her own medicine, sending Nana fleeing from the apartment. Then Diane goes to the window, where Chico's regiment is marching through the streets, and says "Chico! I was brave!"
  • One Head Taller: Gaynor was five feet zero inches tall, while Farrell was a large man.
  • The Peeping Tom: Chico's coworker, the appropriately named Rat, likes to look up the skirts of women that walk over the storm drain mounted above their heads.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Chico says some coarse and sexist things—remarking that Diane would be better off dead after he saves her from Nana, lamenting his luck in getting Diane instead of the nice blonde girl he prayed for, telling Diane (after she moves in) that women always try to entrap men. This never stops him from doing the right thing when it counts.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Diane's reaction when, after being informed that Chico has been killed, the kindly priest says that one can't fight the will of God.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Chico's reaction when he shows up at the end.
  • Say My Name: Chico's "DIANE!!" as he climbs the stairs to their apartment at the end gets a large-font title card.
  • Streetwalker: Diane has been whoring herself out to feed Nana's absinthe habit. Apparently Nana has been prostituting herself as well, as she is caught up in the police sweep that nearly gets Diane.
  • A Taste of the Lash: How Nana abuses poor Diane.
  • Title Drop: Because he Cannot Spit It Out, after saying Diane's name Chico says "Heaven!". And an attentive viewer will note that their apartment is on the seventh floor.
The RacketAcademy AwardAll Quiet on the Western Front
Our Dancing DaughtersFilms of the 1920sThe Student Prince In Old Heidelberg
The Four Horsemen Of The ApocalypseNational Film RegistryFury (1936)

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