The Shining Hour

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 1, 2015

Hedda Gabler, with a happy ending! They earn it too; beneath the posheries and romantic near-nonsense, this is ultimately another Frank Borzage film. Of course it is, you might say. The credits say that he directed it. That’s true, but what I mean is that basic auteur theory thing, which is that sometimes fine directors receive assignments, and they always don’t manage to imprint themselves or their personalities upon them. On other occasions though, no matter how preposterous the task or unsympathetic the project, these fine talents somehow make them personal, and more beautiful than maybe they ought to be.

I digressed!

A Borzage film, which means that his reprobates are redeemable, and that his decent characters, through their real faith in the transformative power of love, are worthy of that redemptive work. It’s a Borzage film, but credit must be given to the screenwriters/play adaptors. (Including Ogden Nash!) The whole thing starts with a bang. (“Did you sleep well?”) The dialogue here is really good, especially in the way that it adds up to everyone-has-their-reasons. The Shining Hour actually plays more like a pre-code film, in the best sense. That’s to say that it’s an adult work, very intelligent, very frank, and very generous to its flawed, appealing, multi-faceted characters. So this woman has been around the block. There may well be disadvantages to that, and actual, permanent loss. But who do you think you are? That goes for you too, censorious Hollywood!

We watch a lot of Borzage films around here, and after a real run of them it becomes clear that the Cahiers auteurists missed one of the greatest of Hollywood directors, despite the fact that he is clearly as amazing as any of them.