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Frank Borzage was an actor and director from the United States. He is regarded as one of the early twentieth century’s most successful filmmakers. He began his career with silent films and eventually transitioned to talkies with tremendous success. During his 40-year career, he directed over 100 films and was regarded as the outstanding filmmaker of the 1920s and 1930s. He was the first director to win the Academy Award for ‘Best Director,’ and he won it again later. He was born into a poor household and saw the deaths of six of his siblings due to influenza throughout his youth. Frank’s family was incredibly close despite his poverty, which was portrayed in his films as the significance of having a loving and solid family despite one’s poverty. While still a child, he had an interest in acting and theater and worked in a silver mine to fund an acting training.

Childhood and Adolescence

On April 23, 1894, Frank Borzage was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. Luigi Borzage, an Italian stonemason, and Maria Ruegg, a Swiss housewife, were his parents. Only eight of their fourteen children survived. Henry, Mary Emma, Bill, Frank, Daniel, Lew, Dolly, and Sue were the remaining eight members of the family.

He dropped out of school at the age of 14 and went to work in a silver mine. Later, he worked as a prop guy for traveling theater companies and began acting in small roles with them. He began working with Thomas Ince, a pioneer film producer and director, at the age of 18 because he was fascinated by movies.

Career of Frank Borzage

In 1914, Frank Borzage landed his first leading part in the melodrama “The Wrath of the Gods.” He continued to play main roles for Ince and also began directing films. He began with short one-reel pictures such as 1915’s ‘The Pitch O’ Chance’ and 1916’s ‘The Silken Spider.’ Many of his early films, such as ‘Nugget Jim’s Parrdner’ in 1916 and ‘The Ghost Flower’ in 1917, starred William Desmond, Bessie Love, Gloria Swanson, and Pauline Starke, and were either westerns or thrillers.

He became famous after directing the emotional play ‘Humoresque’ in his own manner in 1920. In 1925, he worked for ‘Paramount Pictures,’ ‘First National Pictures,’ ‘MGM,’ and lastly ‘Fox Film Corporation.’ He made silent films starring Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, such as ‘The Higher Law’ in 1923, ‘Lazybones’ and ‘Wages for Wives’ in 1925, ‘Early to Wed’ in 1926, and ‘Seventh Heaven’ in 1927, for which he earned the best director’s award.’

He made ‘Lucky Star,’ featuring Gaynor and Farrell, in 1929, and ‘The River,’ with Farrell and Mary Duncan, in 1930.
‘They Had to See Paris,’ starring Will Rogers, was his first hit talkie, followed by ‘Song o’ My Heart,’ starring John McCormack, and finally ‘Lilom,’ in 1930. With ‘Bad Girl,’ starring Sally Eilers and James Dunn, he was rewarded with his second Academy Award for ‘Best Director.’ ‘Young as You Feel,’ released in 1931, was followed by ‘After Tomorrow,’ starring Spencer Tracy, and ‘Young America,’ released in 1932.

Borzage directed the classics ‘Farewell to Arms’ starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes in 1932, ‘Secrets’ starring Mary Pickford and Leslie Howard in 1933, and ‘Man’s Castle’ with Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young in 1934, all based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel. Borzage directed two films in 1934: ‘No Greater Glory,’ starring George Breakston, and ‘Little Man, What Now?,’ starring Douglass Montgomery and Margaret Sullavan.

In 1934, he joined Warner Bros. and directed the film ‘Flirtation Walk,’ starring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler.
In 1935, he directed George Brent and Kay Francis in ‘Living on Velvet’ and ‘Stranded,’ as well as Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler in ‘Shipmates Forever.’

In 1936, he directed the musical ‘Hearts Divided,’ starring Dick Powell and Marion Davies, and the romantic comedy ‘Desire,’ starring Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper. ‘History is Made at Night,’ starring Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur, and Colin Clive, was his next romance picture, released in 1937. In 1937, he settled down at MGM and directed the film ‘Big City,’ starring Spencer Tracy and Luise Rainer.

In 1938, he directed Joan Crawford in three films: “Mannequin,” “Shining Hour,” and “Strange Cargo.” In 1940, he directed Joan Crawford in three films: “Mannequin,” “Shining Hour,” and “Strange Cargo.” In 1938, he directed ‘Three Comrades,’ which starred Robert Taylor, Robert Young, Franchot Tone, and Margaret Sullavan, and in 1940, he directed ‘The Mortal Storm,’ which starred James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

With ‘Flight Command’ and ‘Smiling Through’ in 1941, the quality of his direction slipped a little. During this time, his best picture was ‘Stage Door Canteen,’ which included a large cast. ‘Till We Meet Again,’ starring Ray Milland and Barbara Britton, was released in 1944. In 1945, he moved from MGM to RKO, where he created the light satire ‘The Spanish Main.’

He changed studios again, this time to ‘Republic Pictures,’ and created the best film of his career, ‘Moonrise,’ in 1949.
He directed three parts of the ‘Screen Director’s Playhouse’ series in the mid-1950s. After 1949, he directed the World War II drama ‘China Doll,’ starring Victor Mature and Ward Bond, in 1958. His final picture, ‘The Big Fisherman,’ was released in 1959 and starred Howard Keel and Susan Kohner. In the film ‘Journey Beneath The Desert,’ he directed some uncredited portions in 1962.

Achievements & Awards

For ‘7th Heaven (1927),’ Frank Borzage won the ‘Kinema Junpo Award’ for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ in 1928 and the ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Director’ in 1929. He received the Oscar for ‘Best Director’ for the picture ‘Bad Girl (1931)’ for the second time in 1932. In 1935, he received the ‘Fascist Party Cup’ for ‘Best Foreign Film’ and was nominated for the ‘Mussolini Cup’ at the ‘Venice Film Festival’ for ‘No Greater Glory (1934)’. He earned the ‘George Eastman Award’ from the ‘George Eastman House’ in 1955 and 1957. In 1960, he received a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’  The ‘Directors Guild of America’ recognized him with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 1961.

Personal History and Legacy

In 1916, he married Lorena ‘Rena’ Rogers, whom he divorced in 1941. He married Edna Skelton, comedian Red Skelton’s ex-wife, in 1945 and divorced her in 1949. In 1953, he married Juanita Scott, an accountant, and remained married to her until his death. On June 19, 1962, Frank Borzage died of cancer in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.

Estimated Net Worth

Frank is one of the wealthiest directors and one of the most well-known. Frank Borzage’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.

Trivia

Frank Borzage was hospitalized for alcoholism several times, but after marrying Juanita, he quit drinking.