Four Devils (aka 4 Devils) (1929): Directed by F.W. (Sunrise) Murnau, Starring Janet Gaynor

This tale of four circus performers starring Janet Gaynor was directed by the great German director,  F. W. Murnau, as part silent, part talkie feature.

Devils was released by Fox Film Corporation and was produced by William Fox, who had hired the German-born genius Murnau to come to the US.

It was initially released as a silent with a synchronized music score and sound effects in October 1928, and grossed $100,000 in New York, but because of the sound era momentum, Fox pulled it from distribution and ordered sound to be added.

The sound version, incorporating synchronized sound effects, music and dialogue sequences”, was made without Murnau’s cooperation.

No copies of either version of the film exist, and Four Devils remains among the most sought after lost films of the silent era. Details of the movie can be found on the DVD for Sunrise, released by Fox as part of their 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.

Film historian William K. Everson stated that the only surviving print was lost by actress Mary Duncan, who had borrowed it from Fox Studios.

The novel by Herman Bang was first adapted into film in 1911 by Robert Dinesen and Alfred Lind, and finally in 1985 by Anders Refn.

The young character of Gaynor is played by Dawn O’Day (who later changed her screen name to Anne Shirley, best known as Barbara Stanwyck’s daughter in “Stella Dallas”).

Oscar Nominations: 1

Cinematography: Ernest Palmer

Oscar Awards: None

 Oscar Context:

The winner of the Cinematography Oscar was Clyde DeVinna for “White Shadows in the South Seas.”