7th Heaven (1927 film)

7th Heaven
Directed by Frank Borzage
Produced by William Fox
Written by Harry H. Caldwell (titles)
Katharine Hilliker (titles)
Bernard Vorhaus (uncredited)
Screenplay by Benjamin Glazer
Based on Seventh Heaven
by Austin Strong
Starring Janet Gaynor
Charles Farrell
Ben Bard
Cinematography Ernest Palmer
Joseph A. Valentine
Edited by Barney Wolf
Distributed by Fox Film Corporation
Release dates
  • May 6, 1927 (1927-05-06) (Los Angeles)
  • May 25, 1927 (1927-05-25) (New York City)
  • September 10, 1927 (1927-09-10) (New York City (re-release))
Running time
110 min
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles
Budget $1.3 million[1]
Box office $2.5 million

7th Heaven (also known as Seventh Heaven) is a 1927 American silent romantic drama directed by Frank Borzage, and starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. The film is based upon the 1922 play Seventh Heaven, by Austin Strong and was adapted for the screen by Benjamin Glazer.[2] 7th Heaven was initially released as a standard silent film. On September 10, 1927, Fox Film Corporation re-released the film with a synchronized Movietone soundtrack with a musical score and sound effects.

Upon its release, 7th Heaven was a critical and commercial success and helped to establish Fox Film Corporation as a major studio. It was one of the first of three films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called "Outstanding Picture") at the 1st Academy Awards held on May 16, 1929. Janet Gaynor won the first Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film (she also won for her performances in 1927's Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and 1928's Street Angel).[3] Director Frank Borzage also won the first Academy Award for Best Directing while screenwriter Benjamin Glazer won the first Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

In 1995, 7th Heaven was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4]


Production notes

Janet Gaynor in 1927

The Broadway play upon which the film is based starred George Gaul and Helen Menken and ran at the Booth Theatre for 704 performances.[5] When the play was adapted for the screen, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell were cast in the lead roles. The pairing proved to be so popular, the two went on to star in 11 more films together and were dubbed "America's Favorite Lovebirds".[6][7]

7th Heaven features the song "Diane" by Ernö Rapée and Lew Pollack, who wrote the song specifically for the film. The song is included on the re-released version of the film.[8]


7th Heaven initially premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles replacing another Fox melodrama What Price Glory?, which had been playing since November 1926.[1] A second opening was held at the Sam H. Harris Theatre in New York City on May 25.[9] Both openings earned a total of $14,500.[10] A series of Movietone shorts featuring Ben Bernie and his Orchestra, Gertrude Lawrence, Raquel Meller, and Charles "Chic" Sale preceded the film.[11]

Upon its release, 7th Heaven was a critical and commercial success.[12] A New York Times critic stated that the film "grips your interest from the very beginning and even though the end is melodramatic you are glad that the sympathetic but self-satisfied Chico is brought back to his heart-broken Diane." The critic also praised Borzage's direction, stating that the director "has given it all that he could put through the medium of the camera."[9] The film went on to play for 19 weeks in New York City and for 22 weeks in Los Angeles.[11]

Due to the film's success and the success of other Fox films featuring sound elements (Don Juan, Sunrise, and What Price Glory?), the studio re-released 7th Heaven with a synchronized Movietone soundtrack, including a musical score arranged by Ernö Rapée and sound effects. The re-release version premiered at New York City's Roxy Theatre on September 10, 1927.[8]

By 1932, 7th Heaven had become the 13th-highest-grossing American silent, earning more than $2.5 million at the box office.[13]

Awards and honors

Year Award Category Recipient Result
1927 Academy Awards Best Actress Janet Gaynor Won
1927 Academy Awards Best Art Direction Harry Oliver Nominated
1927 Academy Awards Best Directing Frank Borzage Won
1927 Academy Awards Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) Benjamin Glazer Won
1927 Academy Awards Outstanding Picture
1928 Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Film Frank Borzage Won
1927 Photoplay Awards Medal of Honor William Fox Won

Remakes and adaptations

A comparatively unknown 1937 remake of the film was produced as a sound feature, starring Simone Simon, James Stewart, Jean Hersholt, and Gregory Ratoff, with Henry King directing. Unlike the 1927 version, the sound remake was not as financially successful.[14]

On October 17, 1938, a radio adaptation of 7th Heaven aired on the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Don Ameche as Chico and Jean Arthur as Diane. A television adaptation was aired on October 26, 1953, on the anthology series Broadway Television Theatre. The episode stars Hurd Hatfield and Geraldine Brooks and was directed by Robert St. Aubrey.[15] On May 26, 1955, a stage musical version of the film opened at the ANTA Theatre starring Gloria DeHaven and Ricardo Montalbán. It closed on July 2, 1955, after 44 performances.[16]

Home media

On December 9, 2008, 7th Heaven was included in the Murnau, Borzage and Fox DVD box set released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[17]

In popular culture

Chinese writer-director Yuan Muzhi's 1937 film Street Angel has been cited as being influenced by elements of 7th Heaven and another Frank Borzage film Street Angel (1928).[18]

The theatrical poster for 7th Heaven is displayed on the wall of the student Watanabe's lodgings in the oldest surviving film by the Japanese director Yasujirō Ozu, Days of Youth: A Student Romance (Gakusei Romansu: Wakaki Hi, 1929).[19]



  1. 1 2 (Eyman 1999, p. 114)
  2. (Goble 1999, p. 447)
  3. Bird, David (September 15, 1984). "Janet Gaynor Is Dead At 77; First 'Best Actress' Winner". nytimes.com. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  4. American Society of Cinematographers (February 1996). "Films Chosen for Library of Congress National Film Registry". American Cinematographer. ASC Holding Corp. 77 (22): 114. ISSN 0002-7928.
  5. Seventh Heaven at the Internet Broadway Database
  6. (Hischak 2008, p. 238)
  7. (Bradley 2004, p. 125)
  8. 1 2 (Melnick 2014, p. 293)
  9. 1 2 (Holston 2012, p. 56)
  10. (Crafton 1999, p. 528)
  11. 1 2 (Eyman 1997, p. 113)
  12. (Soloman 2011, p. 114)
  13. "Biggest Money Pictures". Variety. June 21, 1932. p. 1. Cited in "Biggest Money Pictures". Cinemaweb. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2011.
  14. (Dyer MacCann 1996, p. 106)
  15. (Dumont 2006, p. 396)
  16. (Dietz 2014, p. 121)
  17. "20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 2008 DVD edition". silentera.com. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  18. (Clark 2013, p. 741)
  19. (Morefield, Olson 2015, pp. 4–5)

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