F.W. Murnau’s ‘City Girl’

F.W. Murnau’s City Girl, released in 1930, deserves to be on the list of the great silent classics. One of the most fascinating eras in film history for me is the time when Hollywood was still adjusting to sound and still allowing filmmakers to make silent movies. These films, like SunriseThe Crowd and part-talkie Lonesome, showed how far the medium had come over three decades. City Girl acts as a companion to Sunrise, by also taking place in a rural environment. But that’s actually where the similarities end, since the man in this story, Lem (Charles Farrell) is much smarter than George O’Brien’s man character in Sunrise. Lem shuns a vamp at the beginning of the movie and falls for a city girl – Kate (Mary Duncan) – that is a perfect match for him. Once they get home though, Lem has to realize that he has to be a man and stand up to his father, or lose Kate. 

Charles Farrell & Mary Duncan (image from FilmInt)

City Girl really shows how far camerawork had come. There’s a scene where Lem and Kate run up to his farmhouse, with the camera flying and following behind them. That would seem impossible for early talkies, with their stoic cameras. Murnau was obsessed with setting up perfect shots and there are certainly more than one in City Girl

City Girl was released on Blu-ray by Eureka!’s Masters of Cinema line in the U.K. through a deal with 20th Century Fox. There’s no reason for Fox to bring this over to the U.S., since the disc is region free and already looks gorgeous. I haven’t had a chance to listen to David Kalat’s commentary, but I can’t wait. 


William Fox presents City Girl

Starring Charles Farrell, Mary Duncan

Written by Marion Orth, Berthold Viertel

Directed by F.W. Murnau

89 minutes, 1.19:1

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