Friday, January 17, 2014

Fallen Angel. 1945

This is a pretty good but somewhat improbable dandruff on a double breasted navy blue pin stripe suit film noir that was directed by Otto Preminger one year after his masterpiece Laura and once again using leading man Dana Andrews and some of the same crew. This one begins with Andrews down on his luck being asked to get off an overnight bus because he doesn’t have money for his fare so off he goes and he finds himself in a small coast town somewhere between San Francisco and nowhere. Walking to the “business district” of the town he finds a dump diner called “Pops Eats” where he can just about manage to get himself a cup of java and a burger but because the diner is about to close Pops the owner played by none other than Percy Kilbride few years away from his big break in movies as Pop Kettle and film immortality gives him a hard time. It seems that his sluttish sultry hard as nails waitress Stella has not showed up all day, and Pops who has a crush big time for her is worried. Soon she appears very quickly into the scene and is so hungry that Pops gives her Dana’s burger. “That was the best hamburger I never had” Dana says and this is how we are introduced to Stella played by the beautiful the wonderful Linda Darnell who is one of the fallen angels. Andrews another fallen angel is very taken with Stella as is every man who lays eyes on her, and is soon trying to make her. Darnell is tough and gives Dana a run for his empty pockets and she ain’t putting out so fast. The film as I said is improbable and it gets more so as it goes on but that doesn’t mean its not entertaining. Dana soon smooth talks himself into a hookup with a phony spiritualist played by the great John Carradine as Professor Madley who is scheduled to put on his phony baloney show at the town hall but is meeting serious resistance from two spinster sisters, the daughters of the late mayor who are totally against this fake ghost talker. Dana takes charge and charms the younger more attractive sister surprisingly well played by the song and dance star of all those awful 20th century fox musicals of the 40’s Alice Faye to get her more immovable sister played by the always good Anne Revere to give in and let the show go on. Faye all prime and proper with her blonde hair in a bun starts to get all hot and bothered over Dana and agrees to go out on her date with him, and is soon all ga ga goo goo over him, but Dana only wants to do it with Linda. He decides to play along with Alice because he finds out that she is loaded with dough and he figures a way to bamboozle her out of her cash with a proposal of marriage so he can later hop it out of town with Darnell who will hit the deck with Dana if he can come up with big bucks. Meanwhile Linda is hip hoping all over the place with every guy who crosses her path including the aging but still slightly hubba hubba Bruce Cabot who we all know as the heart throb who wrestled King Kong for Fay Ray’s affection back in the depression. Also lurking in the shadows is another fallen angel this one a retired cop from New York played by Charles Bickford who silently hankers after Stella like a silly little pup. Well Alice lets down her hair and marries Dana which puts her sister practically in a coma, and on their honeymoon night which they are spending at the sister’s ancestral home, Anne who will continue to live with the couple catches Dana sneaking off to meet Stella and later that night a murder happens The rest of the film is a bit muddled and rushed, there is a fast hitch hike to San Francisco that defies logic with Faye and Andrews leaving without money or luggage and looking none the worse as they check into their dump of a hotel. This is a good scene though, the dumpy hotel’s neon sign can be seen partially through their open window spelling out “hot” as Dana and Alice finally make it as a couple and spend the rest of the night talking about their pasts. Andrews who had a real life big time drinking problem looks worn and disheveled in some scenes which work to deepen his portrayal of a sad lost guy and mirrored his own life. Still he had a warmth and kindness about him which came out in most of his screen performances, and when ripe and young you could easily see why the ladies (and some men) were crazy for him. The film as I said has a rushed feel to it and this is especially true in the ending, but the film has a nice look about it, Noirish in a 20th Century Fox way with smooth cinematography by the great Jospeh LaShelle who won an Oscar for his work on “Laura, and also did nice work here mixing up the real locations with back lot sets. Definitely worth a look.


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