Frank Borzage and Man’s Castle

Apr 18–24, 2024


Man’s Castle. 1933. USA. Directed by Frank Borzage
  • MoMA, Floor T2/T1 The Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center

“In Borzage’s cinema, mastery of the intimate gesture, peculiar to the most beautiful silent films, lived on. The images emit a language of tenderness, whose secret had seemed lost forever…. The cosmic and the intimate are one. Each of us has a piece of earth in death, and a piece of heaven in life” (Peter von Bagh).

Frank Borzage’s 1933 Man’s Castle has long been considered one of the most profound and transporting of Borzage’s spiritual love stories—a cohort that includes 7th Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928), History Is Made at Night (1935) and The Mortal Storm (1940). But for decades Man’s Castle has been available only in a heavily censored cut created in 1938, when this extremely pre-Code film was reissued to cash in on the back-to-back Oscar wins of its star, Spencer Tracy. A major subplot was dropped, weakening the film’s central conflict between the easygoing eroticism represented by showgirl Glenda Farrell and the more difficult and soulful connection proposed by Loretta Young, here astonishingly beautiful as an innocent young woman cast adrift in the Great Depression. Many individual shots were deleted to appease the strict moral guidelines of the Production Code Administration; perhaps most absurdly, a wedding scene in the seventh reel was moved up to the first, to give some moral cover to Tracy and Young as they share a shack in a Central Park shantytown.

Now, thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Rita Belda, Man’s Castle has been restored to a state quite close to its premiere version, and one can only say that a great film has emerged as something even greater, richer in its emotions and more profound in its philosophy. (Belda will be present on April 20 to conduct a workshop on the restoration.)

This US theatrical premiere of the newly restored Man’s Castle will be accompanied by a selection of other recent Borzage restorations, including Bad Girl, History Is Made at Night, Moonrise, and No Greater Glory.

Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film. Thanks to Rita Belda and Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures Corporation.

Film at MoMA is made possible by CHANEL.

Additional support is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by Debra and Leon D. Black, with major contributions from the Triad Foundation, Inc., The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), The Young Patrons Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and by Karen and Gary Winnick.


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