Frank Borzage (pronounced "Bor-ZAY-gee") was of Swiss, Italian, and Austrian ancestry, born in Salt Lake City, UT, the fourth of eight children of an Italian-speaking stonemason father and a German-speaking mother. As a boy, he was drawn to acting. At age 20, he'd gone to work for producer/director Thomas Ince. He was supposed to be a general-purpose actor, moving between light leading roles and supporting parts as villains, but in 1914, he achieved stardom in The Wrath of the Gods, a melodrama about an interracial romance between Borzage's character and a woman portrayed by Tsuru Aoki. He starred in several more notable films for Ince, and by 1916, had become an actor/director, beginning with The Pitch O' Chance.
In 1920, Borzage released Humoresque (which was remade in 1946), his first major film as a director, based on a novel by Fannie Hurst. Notable as an extraordinarily vivid drama about Jewish life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the film moved Borzage to the front ranks of Hollywood's newest generation of directors. His other important silent titles included the 1923 drama The 'Nth Commandment and Seventh Heaven (1927), for which he earned the very first Academy Award ever given for Best Director. In the bargain, he helped turn Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell into stars of the first magnitude -- he followed it up a year later with the even better Street Angel, re-teaming Gaynor and Farrell in one of the finest films of the 1920s.