F.W. Murnau’s City Girl has often lived in the shadow of the director’s other work, particularly Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which I think is a shame, as I absolutely love City Girl, from the pastoral setting, the score, and the cast led by Charles Farrell and the beautiful Mary Duncan. It’s a shame her acting career was so brief, though I’ll have to check out some of Farrell’s other silent screen appearances on blu-ray, particularly Shooting Star.
City Girl starts off with country boy Lem heading off to the city, with instructions from his father to sell their farm’s wheat crop for a certain profit. Interestingly, while heading to the city, on the train a woman speaks to him, a temptress much like the one featured in Sunrise. But unlike in that film, Farrell’s character rebuffs her approach.
Once Lem arrives in the city, he meets the lovely Kate, a hardworking waitress, and they quickly fall for each other. Kate is desperate for an escape from the concrete jungle in which she inhabits, and Lem is her ticket out of there.
They quickly get married and move back to Lem’s farm, but Kate’s dream life quickly turns into a nightmare when she encounters Lem’s father, a truly menacing presence on screen.
So for the rest of the film Kate and Lem’s relationship is tested by various obstacles thrown in their path.
But yes, personally I enjoyed City Girl more than Sunrise. I found the characters more engaging, and generally the plot was more enjoyable in my eyes. The only criticism I’d level at City Girl would be the ending – it feels like everything is wrapped up too easily, too quickly, and Murnau could’ve done a better job if he had more time, perhaps.