Borzage was entranced by acting at a young age and had a brief flirtation with a traveling theater company. He started in the film business as an extra in numerous Western shorts starring Wallace Reid and supervised by Allan Dwan. In 1913 he went to work at Thomas Ince’s Santa Monica film factory. It was Ince who not only made the soulfully handsome Borzage into a minor star but who also served as his mentor as a filmmaker. The Wrath of the Gods, a 1914 film about a forbidden love between Borzage and Tsuru Aoki broken up by Sessue Hayakawa, was such a huge success that the trio of actors teamed up three more times. Interestingly for someone brought up in Salt Lake City, Borzage also starred in a piece of anti-Mormon propaganda called A Mormon Maid, made by future MGM house director Robert Z. Leonard. The Pitch o’ Chance, Borzage’s first film as a director-star, was made for American Film. In these early two-reelers you can see the interest in extending human interaction, giving it its proper weight and time; the exchanges between Borzage himself and Anna Little in the 1916 The Pilgrim are remarkably understated and unhurried. ([Hervé] Dumont claims that this is the influence of Ince, as is the concentration on mood and the aversion to anecdotal story material.) —Kent Jones
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