Minnesota farm boy Lem (Farrell) travels to Chicago to sell his family’s wheat crop. He meets Kate (Duncan), a waitress at the local lunch counter, and they fall in love. He takes her back to the country to meet his loving mother (Yorke), little sister Marie (Shirley) and overbearing father (Torrence). His dad is livid that Lem didn’t get a good price for his wheat, and even more angry that Lem has married a city girl. Lem is unable to stand up to his domineering father, and Kate begins to doubt the man of her dreams.
Although German director Murnau left this project before editing was complete, the final film retains his vision and storytelling strengths. His Expressionist roots are visible in the shadowy world of Lem’s farmhouse, offering a striking contrast to the claustrophobic hustle and bustle of the big city. Duncan and Farrell have excellent chemistry, and Murnau’s romantic aesthetic blossoms when the lovers run among the wheat fields. The director builds tension with the arrival of farm worker Mac (Alexander) who further threatens the bucolic idyll. “City Girl” is the underexposed companion to Murnau’s classic “Sunrise,” and should not be missed.