City Girl

USA | 1930 | 88 min | PG

A Chicago waitress falls in love with a Minnesota farmer, and decides to face a life in the country.


The film that inspired Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven and a companion piece to the legendary Sunrise (programmed earlier this season), City Girl is master director F.W. Murnau’s final Hollywood film and one of his most underrated. Tackling the same discord between the urban and the rural as the earlier film, City Girl transforms the basic good vs. evil narrative into something sublime, heart wrenching, a stylistically innovative. Filmed in 1928 in Pendleton, Oregon, but not released until 1930 with studio-mandated talking sequences tacked on, we present the film in its original, far-superior silent cut rediscovered and restored by MoMA and on 35mm.

The son of a wheat farmer, Lem (Charles Farrell) travels to Chicago to sell the season’s crop. As wheat prices plummet he quickly sells off his family’s assets for far below what his stern father had instructed him. Enchanted by the bright lights of the big city, he falls for and marries hardboiled diner waitress Kate (Mary Duncan), whose disillusionment with the city’s workaday disappointments fuels her pastoral fantasy of life on a farm. After bringing Kate back to his family, resentment, rejection and the threat of sexual violence looms as Lem’s father (David Torrence)—pegging Kate as a big city harlot—attempts to force her out.

Unlike the stylized sets of Sunrise, Murnau instills City Girl with bucolic realism, capturing Oregon’s stunning landscape with cinematographer Ernest Palmer’s signature gleam. – ALICIA FLETCHER


Director: F.W. Murnau
Cast: Charles Farrell, Mary Duncan, David Torrence


Established as Silent Sundays by founding programmer Eric Veillette in 2009, Silent Revue is Toronto’s only year-round film series dedicated to silent cinema. Monthly screenings (more…)


Presentation format: 35mm courtesy Fox Library Service

Live accompaniment by Marilyn Lerner

Sponsored by Hollywood Suite. Produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.


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