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Man’s Castle (1933)

Frank Borzage had a unique talent for creating a fantasy world around his romantic leads while also tethering them to real life. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell face separation during World War I in 7th Heaven (1927); James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan fight to escape the Nazis in The Mortal Storm (1940); and Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young try to survive the Great Depression in one of his most beautiful films, Man’s Castle. Here, love is the only means of survival—love nurtured in private moments the audience is privileged to witness, before the outside world breaks in.

Man’s Castle, which Borzage also produced, opens with a tuxedo-clad Tracy inviting a destitute Young to dine with him in a posh restaurant. Only after the meal do we learn that he’s as broke as she. The suit is part of an advertising gig, and he can’t afford to pay for their meal. He then invites her to move into his shantytown home, where they build a magical world of their own until her pregnancy requires him to make more money than he gets from simple day jobs.

A pre-Code film from Columbia Pictures, Man’s Castle contains racy language, brief nudity, and a murder that goes unpunished. That wasn’t enough to make it a hit in 1933, before either of its stars had made it big and when audiences weren’t all that interested in dramatic representations of what the Depression was doing to their lives. It was reissued in 1938 to take advantage of Tracy’s rise to stardom at MGM, but to appease the then-powerful Production Code, nine minutes were cut, with some of the cuts obtrusive. The film was restored to its original length for more recent screenings that have helped secure its place as one of Borzage’s most romantic pictures.

d. Frank Borzage, 78 minutes, DCP

This World Premiere 4K restoration was created from the original negative, duplicate negative, and nitrate print restoring censored material. The restored audio was sourced from both the original mono track negative and a nitrate print.

World premiere restoration courtesy of Sony Pictures