Frank Borzage’s Lazybones, made in 1925, a year after Greed. Pitts plays Ruth Fanning, the daughter of a social-climbing woman (Edythe Chapman) who’s arranged a marriage for Ruth…not knowing that Ruth, supposedly away at school, has had a child by a now-dead husband. On her return to her hometown, Ruth abandons the baby by the river where the titular lazybones, Steve Tuttle (Buck Jones), is fishing. He discovers the child, hears Ruth’s story, and adopts the baby himself, in spite of the fact that it means the end of his own affair with Ruth’s sister Agnes (Jane Novak). Years later, Ruth, dying—of heartbreak, of course—visits Steve and asks to see her daughter Kit. Look at that hand, above, grasping at the young woman’s back, very nearly about to tear the buttons from her blouse. Here is the eloquence of silent movie acting and the primacy of the image at their peaks.
Lazybones is an exemplary Borzage picture—its solidity of construction matched by an almost breathtaking delicacy of feeling. Borzage was an actor himself, and every performance here is a small miracle. Not just Jones, a Western star who was cast against type. There’s a scene late in the film, after Steve has returned from the war a hero, and Mrs. Fanning and surviving daughter Agnes are reflecting on their now-empty lives (everybody else in town is off to a dance celebrating Steve’s return). Mrs. Fanning reveals to Agnes that Ruth shared her secret with her, and that she forbid Ruth to claim the child. Now she sees Ruth’s ghost as the wagon bearing Steve and Kit passes. The way she turns as she returns to her divan expresses a crushing world –Glenn Kenny
Frank Borzage (April 23, 1894 – June 19, 1962) was an Academy Award-winning American film director and actor famed for his mystical romanticism.
Borzage’s father, Luigi, was born in Roncone, Austria-Hungary in 1859. As a stone mason, he sometimes worked in Switzerland; he met his future wife, Maria Ruegg (1860, Ricken – 1947), in Zürich, where she worked in a silk factory. Luigi Borzaga immigrated to Hazleton, Pennsylvania in the early 1880s; he worked as a coal miner there and soon brought his Swiss fiancée with him.
The couple married in Hazleton in 1883, and had their first child, Henry, in Wyoming in 1885. They settled in the Mormon stronghold of Salt Lake City, Utah, where they gave birth to Frank, and remained until 1919. Altogether, the couple had fourteen children, eight of whom survived childhood: Henry (1885-1971), Mary, Bill (1892-1973), Frank, Daniel (1896-1975, a performer and member of the John Ford Stock Company), Lew (1898-1974), Dolly (1901) and Susan… read more