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Frank Borzage

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Title: Frank Borzage  
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Subject: Screen Directors Playhouse, Academy Award for Best Directing, History Is Made at Night (1937 film), Wee Lady Betty, List of American films of 1937
Collection: 1894 Births, 1962 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, American Film Directors, American Film Directors of Italian Descent, American Male Film Actors, American Male Silent Film Actors, American People of Italian Descent, Best Director Academy Award Winners, Burials at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), Cancer Deaths in California, Film Directors from California, Male Actors of Italian Descent, People from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, People from Salt Lake City, Utah, People from the Greater Los Angeles Area, Silent Film Directors
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Frank Borzage

Frank Borzage
Photoplay Magazine, 1920
Born (1894-04-23)April 23, 1894
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Died June 19, 1962(1962-06-19) (aged 68)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Occupation actor
Spouse(s) Rena Rogers (married 1916, divorced 1941)
Edna Stillwell Skelton (married 1945, divorced 1949)

Frank Borzage (;[1] April 23, 1894[2] – June 19, 1962) was an American film director and actor, most remembered for directing 7th Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928) and The Mortal Storm (1940).


  • Biography 1
  • Career 2
  • Filmography 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


Frank Borzage's father, Luigi Borzaga, was born in Ronzone, (then Austria-Hungary, now Italy) in 1859. As a stonemason, he sometimes worked in Switzerland; he met his future wife, Maria Ruegg (b. 1860, Ricken, Switzerland, – d. 1947, Los Angeles), where she worked in a silk factory. Borzaga emigrated to Hazleton, Pennsylvania in the early 1880s where he worked as a coal miner. He brought his fiancee to the United States and they married in Hazleton in 1883.

Their first child, Henry, was born in 1885. The Borzaga family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where Frank Borzage was born in 1893 (according to, and the family remained based until 1919. The couple had fourteen children, eight of whom survived childhood: Henry (1885–1971), Mary Emma (1886–1906), Bill (1892–1973), Frank, Daniel (1896–1975, a performer and member of the John Ford Stock Company), Lew (1898–1974), Dolly (1901–2002) and Sue (1905–1998). Luigi Borzaga died in Los Angeles in a car accident in 1934; his wife Maria (Frank's mother) died of cancer in 1947.

In 1912, Frank Borzage found employment as an actor in Hollywood, and remained in the profession until 1917. His directorial debut came in 1915 with his film, The Pitch o' Chance.

On June 7, 1916, Borzage married vaudeville and film actress Lorena "Rena" Rogers in Los Angeles and remained married until 1941. In 1945, he married Edna Stillwell Skelton, the ex-wife of comedian Red Skelton; they were divorced in 1949.[3][4] Borzage died of cancer in 1962, aged 68, and was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. For his contributions to film, Borzage was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Borzage was a successful director throughout the 1920s but reached his peak in the late silent and early sound era. Absorbing visual influences from the German director F.W. Murnau, who was also resident at Fox at this time, he developed his own style of lushly visual romanticism in a hugely successful series of films starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, including Seventh Heaven (1927), for which he won the first Academy Award for Directing,[5] Street Angel (1928) and Lucky Star (1929). He won a second Oscar for 1931's Bad Girl.

Borzage's trademark was intense identification with the feelings of young lovers in the face of adversity, with love in his films triumphing over such trials as World War I (Seventh Heaven and A Farewell to Arms), disability (Lucky Star), the Depression (Man's Castle), a thinly disguised version of the Titanic disaster in History Is Made at Night, and the rise of Nazism, a theme which Borzage had virtually to himself among Hollywood filmmakers from Little Man, What Now? (1933) to Three Comrades (1938) and The Mortal Storm (1940).

His work took a turn to religiosity in such films as Green Light (1937), Strange Cargo (1940) and The Big Fisherman (1959). Of his later work only the film noir Moonrise (1948) has enjoyed much critical acclaim.

After 1948, his output was sporadic. He was the original director of L'Atlantide (Journey Beneath The Desert, 1961), but was too sick to continue, and Edgar G. Ulmer took over.[6] Borzage was uncredited for the sequences he did direct.

In 1955 and 1957, Borzage was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by

  • Frank Borzage at the Internet Movie Database
  • Frank Borzage at AllMovie
  • Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database
  • They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
  • (1932)A Farewell to Arms – This Borzage-directed adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's novel has fallen into the public domain and is available online through the Internet Archive.
  • Flesh and Desire: The Films of Frank Borzage
  • Frank Borzage and the Classic Hollywood Style
  • Frank Borzage at Find a Grave
  • Frank Borzage at Virtual History

External links

  • Dumont, Hervé. Frank Borzage: the Life and Times of a Hollywood Romantic. McFarland, 2006.
  • Lamster, Frederick. "Souls Made Great Through Love and Adversity": the Film Work of Frank Borzage. Scarecrow, 1981.

Further reading

  1. ^ Borzage told The Literary Digest his name was pronounced "in three syllables, and g in get, bor-zay'gee." (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)
  2. ^ To gain a professional advantage, Borzage subtracted a year from his date of birth while still a teenager; many sources, including IMDb, thus give 1893 as his birthdate; Dumont, p. 32.
  3. ^ "Skelton's Ex-Wife Married to Director". The Pittsburgh Press. 26 November 1945. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "Home of Skelton's Ex-Wife is Robbed of $10,000 Loot". St. Joseph News-Press. 4 February 1950. Retrieved 25 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Donald W. McCaffrey (1 January 1999). "FILMS AND FILMMAKERS". In Christopher P. Jacobs. Guide to the Silent Years of American Cinema. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 45–46.  
  6. ^ Herzogenrath, Bernd (2009). The Films of Edgar G. Ulmer. Scarecrow Press. p. 282.  
  7. ^




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