Fallen Angel (1945)
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Also, Dana Andrews, with all his unique ambiguity and minimalism, turns in one of his finest performances ever; just a hint of his outstanding performance (and probably his best) in "Where the Sidewalk Ends". Andrews' co-stars Alice Faye and a sluttish Linda Darnell are great as well. The magnificent chiaroscuro photography by Joseph LaShelle has certain crispness and lucidity that is similar to Anthony Mann's "T-Men".
Some may find the second half of the film quaintly melodramatic and David Raksin's romantic score is admittedly less memorable than "Laura" but "Fallen Angel" deserves to be seen and viewed within its credentials.
The effect is haunting and breathtaking.
When Alice did agree, after fifteen years away from the screen, to appear as Pat Boone's mother in the remake of State Fair. Again, she was disappointed as the director Henry King, whom she had been promised would do the film, was reassigned and the film given to Jose Ferrer, who had never been to a state fair or directed a film. Thereafter Alice appeared only in a few bit parts and left screen roles completely.
But, I think Alice under-appreciated the work she did in Fallen Angel. The critics were not that hard on her, but she really wanted to make a major success in a dramatic role and unfortunately that didn't happen. The film, however, is very much worth seeing and has never been available on video previously. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The almost always underrated Dana Andrews is superb here in a brilliantly understated performance: by posture, tilt of head, and deft deployment of his eyes he communicates more than most actors manage to tell with their whole scenery-chewing bodies; and Alice Faye kept me guessing: was her June the "still water runs deep" character whodunit? Most of all there's 'Fallen Angel's peerless camera-work and direction that raise it a notch or two above the rather overrated 'Laura' - whose plot sometimes drags and which is chiefly rescued by the literate, finicky presence of Clifton Webb; and Gene Tierney's mannered, diffident, and albeit mysterious Laura isn't half the hard-boiled noir femme fatale that Linda Darnell's Stella is in 'Fallen Angel.' There's another lovely, understated effort here from Bruce Cabot and still another from Percy Kilbride; but in the supporting cast Anne Revere stands out for moving the plot along, for creating tangible suspense, and for two solid moments of palpable nape-prickling foreboding.
'Fallen Angel' is just one of the most underrated noirs. Period.
Just one question I'd like to put: when Dana Andrews enters the hotel auditorium during the spook show, is the blonde woman, seated on the aisle one row behind the brunette (Adele Jergens, uncredited) woman Andrews asks to shift over, his future 'The Best Years Of Our Lives' co-star Virginia Mayo? She sure looks like Mayo.
By the way, the recent 'Fallen Angel' DVD release commentary track by noir maven Eddie Muller is gracefully enhanced by his pairing with with Dana Andrews' daughter Susan Andrews.
Needless to say, "Fallen Angel" redeems Preminger's ability to present a film in the classic noir of it's time and because of this is competitive with Billy Wilder's "Lost Weekend" (1945) and "Double Indemnity" (1944), both huge successes with audiences. But what about "Fallen Angel"?
Despite the cinematography and the super cast, "Fallen Angel" went to the chopping block via the critics. The critics rated this film as mediocre and audiences stayed away. Alice Faye, in her only dramatic role, left the movies in disgust partly because of what the critics did to this film. Why?
From beginning to end, the viewer is treated to some of the best cinematography that this art form had to offer. The way sluttish Linda Darnell is depicted before the camera is a treat for the eye and enhances her sexuality. The way Percy Kilbride is smitten with Darnell throughout the movie, up to the climax is an essential link to the continuity of the movie as well as with the novel by Marty Holland. The way Charles Bickford sits behind the lunch counter, slowly sipping his coffee sending a message to the viewer that something deep inside him is simmering, ready to explode. We all know that Bickford, along with Kilbride, Dana Andrews and Bruce Cabot all are victims to the whims of the dark Darnell.
And the way the blonde, good and virtuous Faye is contrasted with the dark, bad and selfish Darnell is more proof that this film should be marketed for the masses. The plot is strong, the camera work of Joseph LaShelle and, especially the film direction by Preminger rates this movie as one of the best of it's time.
Yes, this film rates up there with "Laura", "Double Indemnity" and "The Lost Weekend"; all three super classics from this era and available on VHS and DVD. Why not "Fallen Angel"?
The movie is star studded. It not only features Andrews, Darnell and Faye, but spectacular performances are made by Charles Bickford, Anne Revere and Bruce Cabot.
The movie is a typical film noir with a catchy plot. Otto Preminger makes great use of lighting to portray the typical murky image found so often in a hard boiled, sex-money drama as film noirs were meant to portray.
It is a shame that this movie is not available on video.
Alice Faye gets a straight dramatic role for a change and is effective enough in the part. When the film was edited, some of her best scenes were cut in favor of footage given to Linda Darnell. Faye quit the Fox lot, vowing never to return. Years later she did for "State Fair".
Linda Darnell excels in her role as a tart and the supporting cast includes veterans like Charles Bickford, Anne Revere, Bruce Cabot, John Carradine and Percy Kilbride. The ending is somewhat of a surprise unless you've been playing detective and catching the hints.
Dana Andrews adds another tight-lipped portrait to his gallery of rogues. For more about this fine actor, watch for my career article on DANA ANDREWS in an upcoming issue of FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE.
Since Linda Darnell's heyday was the 1940s, and she has now been dead for 40 years, her name doesn't appear on lists of all time beauties, but she was surely one of the most beautiful women ever to appear in films. Here she plays the object of many mens' affections, Stella, a slutty waitress in a coffee shop. Dana Andrews, passing through town, becomes obsessed with her, and in order to get money, he marries the wealthy Faye. He promises Darnell that he will rip off Faye and her sister to give Darnell the life she wants. Then Darnell ends up murdered, and Andrews becomes an instant suspect.
One thing about noir films that has always troubled me is the ease with which women fall for these nasty guys after about three seconds. It happens here as well, with Faye just gone on Andrews after one date.
The genre has been done better, but still, the film holds one's interest and is well done if not exciting. Apparently the ravaging it received by the critics caused Alice Faye to leave film work for some time. It was a nontraditional dramatic turn for her, and apparently some of her scenes were cut in favor of Darnell.
Despite it not being Preminger's best, it's worth a look.
This is a great little film. It seems a hair stiff at times, or a bit low budget (which it wasn't), but mainly I found this to be a gem, a true noir with the lead male lost in the world but with a kernel of goodness deep down. Dana Andrews plays an understated paradigm that isn't sassy or diffident the way Bogart is, but is just as admirable somehow, whatever the petty thieving he is up to.
This is the followup of sorts to director Preminger's Laura from the year before, reprising Andrews in the main role, and using the same photographer and the same composer, who contributed another theme song, recurring in the jukebox several times. The photography, thanks to Joseph LaShelle, who later would be cameraman for one of my favorite noir films, Road House, the great Where the Sidewalk Ends (another Preminger movie with Andrews) and much later, I Was a Teenage Werewolf (with Michael Landon), is really remarkable, with a lot of somewhat longer takes that show off both the consistent acting and give the scenes a sense of flow and lyricism. Even the way Andrews is shown walking has a quality of calm drama, and it's partly due to how he is filmed. Watch how perfectly framed the figures are, and the shadows, and how often something in the background can be seen perfectly while something else is happening closer to us.
The title suggests some metaphors and there is a long quote from a poem about fallen angels, and it seems that Andrews is that angel, a good man who fell and who, through the course of events largely out of his control, rises up again. Certainly the murder of the loose single woman played by Linda Darnell, one of his two love interests, he has nothing to do with. He eventually helps solve it. The other love interest, a cultured single woman played by Alice Faye (and her money), he wins over at the end partly because he is, in fact, an angel of sorts. In some weird sense, he saves this Faye character from her own kind of purgatory, reading books and festering away for years with her sister at home. If Andrews presents the main theme of the movie, the two women present a parallel one, one of contrasts, largely, but also showing how they both (improbably) fall for the man for similar reasons. He's a nice guy, a charmer, and damned good looking.
Going back to Laura, by comparison, you'll find the characters here are largely admirable rather than irritating, and that the main plot intention isn't for Andrews to solve a crime, but to win over one (or both) of these women. There are some things you have to just swallow, like how quickly the love affairs blossom, and how easy he seems to get his complex plans in action to get the money. But it's not a documentary, and the drama, punched up with some amazing visuals, is terrific.
Dana Andrews plays a fast-talking guy who seems to always be on the fine line between good and evil. He blows into a small town and immediately is attracted to the town's "bad girl" (Linda Darnell). However, he's broke and she'll have nothing to do with him until he has money. So, Andrews hatches a plan--make the moves on a rich lady spinster (Alice Faye) and then after marrying her, he can quickly dump her and take up with Darnell! Nice guy, huh?! The problem is that while he does marry Faye, when Darnell unexpectedly ends up murdered, Andrews is the prime suspect. Plus, after seeing the investigator in action (beating confessions out of suspects), he takes off for San Francisco--and his new bride insists on following there.
The problems with the film are motivation. While it seems pretty obvious that Andrews is a jerk, his plan to wed Faye and use this money to catch Darnell seems overly complicated. Plus, he's brand-new in town--why do all this for two women you barely know? As for Faye, she's a real enigma. Why would she ever fall for a man so unlike her and then help him evade the law when he's accused of murder--and it seems likely he DID kill the woman on his very wedding night?! Her devotion is slavish and she seems awfully stupid and tough to believe. Had the plot been hashed out more--allowing far more time to pass in getting to know both women--then it might have made sense. Instead, we are expected to believe that after only one week in a small town, all this occurs!
Now what's to like? Well, the dialog is very snappy and typically Noir. Andrews in particular is fully of snappy one-liners and his attitude is perfect. The cop, Charles Bickford, is also great--being ugly and brutal--a true Noir detective! Really, aside from rushing everything too much, the film's plot was very good. I just can't believe that the famed director Otto Preminger seemed to push this film's pace along far too quickly and not allowing sufficient time to pass to explain Andrews' and Faye's motivations.
The rest of the cast is good to excellent also. Charles Bickford is superb in a somewhat formulaic role. Dana Andrews gives a performance he gave often but that is good. Ann Revere is properly menacing as Faye's older sister who doesn't approve of what she's doing.
Linda Darnell is good but something isn't right about her. Maybe I prefer seeing her in a more favorable light. She was such a charming, beautiful actress, it's hard to think of her as a bad girl. And, essentially, that's what she plays here. Who wants to think of her as calculating and cold-blooded? The real star of "Fallen Angel" is its atmosphere. We have the usual drifter, a somewhat incongruous big-city cop, and the usual smalltime denizens in the small town where it takes place. A mood of doom hangs over this town and we sense that from the very beginning.
The cinematography is first-rate. The script is a little predictable but very literate.
It's not "Laura" and, though the public at the time may have expected it to be, I don't. But it falls short of the top rung of noir. And yet -- It will haunt anyone who sees it. It's not easy to shake off.
The plot sees Andrews as press agent Eric Stanton, who down on his luck gets turfed off the bus some 150 miles from San Francisco and finds that he is in the small coastal town of Walton. Here he meets sultry waitress Stella (Darnell) and frumpy recluse June (Faye). The former he is very attracted too, so is everybody else it seems, the latter has just come into a lot of inheritance money, something else that catches Eric's eye. Pretty soon his life will be surrounded by love, infatuation, jealousy and worst of all—murder.
More a mystery whodunit than an overtly dark venture into the realm of film noir, Fallen Angel is still a tidy and atmospheric movie. One where we can never be fully sure everything is as it at first seems. Especially the three main protagonists, where Preminger, in spite of not remembering doing so, misdirects the audience about the character's make ups. This greatly aids the whodunit structure where the killer is well disguised until the end reveal. Its also nicely shot by LaShelle, where the lighting is key for scenes involving the more vixen like Darnell and the more homely Faye, the difference, and what it says, is quite striking. It be a nice narrative line to follow on revisits to the film. The acting is safe, with Darnell leaving the red blooded men amongst us happy and wanting more. And in spite of some uneven threading of the plot in the last quarter, the end is a triumph and a genuine surprise. 7/10
Footnote: The source novel the movie was adapted from was written by Marty Holland. Also the author of The File on Thelma Jordan (1949), Marty was actually a she named Mary, of who little or nothing else is known about because after 1949 she upped and vanished never to be heard of again!
I've seen several of Otto Preminger's noirs for the first time recently and Fallen Angel is one of the best. It's got everything you could ask for in a noir. Atmosphere you can cut with a knife, terrific performances from the entire cast, an intriguing plot, interesting cinematography and lighting, and just about everything else you could name are as good as you'll find. Fallen Angel also has some very nice mystery elements. The final reveal really caught me off guard. I would have never guessed the real killer's identity. It's just a wonderful movie.
David Raksin again provides a haunting theme, with Dick Haymes providing the vocals for Stella's favorite song, "Slowly" that plays repeatedly at the diner where she works. The relationship between Andrews and Darnell is very daringly portrayed for the 40s - what Preminger was able to get away with is amazing - I'm surprised the censors weren't all over him! And Faye and Andrews actually end up sharing the same bed in a motel room (although their characters are married at this point) but considering the production code, it's amazing that the scene was not cut out by the censors. Charles Bickford provides the right amount of suspicion, cynicism and ulterior motives as the local police detective who knows much more than he will admit. Darnell's role as Stella was a turning point in her career - she went from portraying virginal heroines to tarts and femme fatales. Her chemistry with Andrews is explosive; it could almost be considered a entanglement that calls for a restraining order. Faye's blondness and Darnell's dark brunette coloring give the distinction between heroine and temptress.
This film is most remembered for the fact that this was the last film that Alice Faye would make for over 20 years - she was so angered because much of her screen time was reduced in favor of Darnell (although she placed blame on the studio, not Linda), that she left the lot in a huff and threw her keys at the guard.
The DVD transfer is great; it looks especially good since the film has been out of circulation so long. Interesting extras, including photo galleries, the theatrical trailer, and commentary by noir expert Eddie Muller and Dana Andrew's youngest daughter, Susan, who gives some wonderful insights into this under-appreciated actor.
Not as classic as "Laura" but definitely a good example of what dark film noir is all about.
The blonde or the brunette, the angelical Alice Faye or the wild Linda Farnell... well, that's a hard choice. Anyway, you can enjoy their presence here in "Fallen Angel" any time you feel like.
*My rate: 8/10
The main reason for watching the film, again and again, is the sensational cinematography by Joseph LaShelle. This movie will be a treat for those fans who appreciate the fine detail this great camera man created for "Fallen Angels". The coastal California town gets a fabulous treatment in the hands of Mr. LaShelle. Also, the music score by David Raskin, working again with the director is typical of the times where the action takes place.
We are introduced to a Eric Stanton traveling by Greyhound bus toward one of the big California cities, but not having enough funds, he must get off in a remote place. He is perhaps not ready for what he is going to encounter. For better, or for worse, he goes into the seaside cafe where Stella, the beautiful waitress is the 'star' attraction among the male population of the town. One can feel the heat emanating from Stella, as well as what effect her presence has on all the men that visit the place.
The film shows that most of the story has been modified to satisfy the studio executives, because it doesn't make sense most of the time. We are witnesses to political incorrectness when the police chief beats a witness repeatedly in order to extract a confession from him. Also, the instant romance between June Mills, the spinster church organist and Eric Stanton and their surprise wedding is something one only sees in movies, but then again, who knows, the old maid must have been just ripe for picking.
For this film being made in 1945, it has a sexuality that comes across openly whenever we are taken to the seaside cafe and watch all the men ogling Stella, the waitress who provokes desire in them. Linda Darnell, a gorgeous woman herself, gives a powerful performance as Stella. Ms. Darnell clearly understand what makes her character tick.
Dana Andrews is also excellent as the drifter who falls for Stella, but realizes he must play his cards right in order to get his ticket to a better life with June. Alice Faye in a dramatic role doesn't come as well as the others, perhaps because her character is not clearly defined.
A film to watch for the great cinematography and as a curiosity piece from Otto Preminger.
One significant plus is the performances of the three leads. Diamond- jawed toughguy con artist Dana Andrews dizzily monotones his way through a fusillade of come-ons and take-offs, shucking and jiving his way upwards in a bedroom community with quiet panache and casual menace. Alice Faye (who was so edited out in favor of Linda Darnell that she basically quit the business for the better part of two decades) shines as the closeted church organist with a heart of gold and lust. And Darnell makes the most of her smoulderingly disaffected come hither (but don't touch me) gazes. As bizarre as it is to think men would order lousy food in the greasy spoon dive where Darnell waitresses day after day, year after year in order to be around her, this is about the only thing in the entire script which is remotely plausible.
Don't examine motives, track character arcs or analyze logic and you'll be happier with FALLEN ANGEL. In a movie where the police deputize civilians to beat up witnesses in order to "gather information" and where some individuals' entire character and identity change at the drop of a hat, the charm of this movie is in the gleefully melodramatic yet charming interactions of the love quadrilateral that is Alice Faye, Faye's sister, Dana Andrews and Linda Darnell. In particular, Andrews and Darnell display some good chemistry in their dark and twisted courtship, which in 2004 plays as much like a borderline stalking and attempted rape as it does romance. It must have been particularly racy in 1945.
Not believable for a second, but enjoyable for more than an hour, FALLEN ANGEL is worth a look for hardcore fans of crime drama, noir, and Dana Andrews / Linda Darnell. Possibly the definitive example of "bad boy meets bad girl, bad boy marries good girl to steal her money to get bad girl, bad boy blamed for bad girl's murder, bad boy ends up with good girl thanks to bizarre and ridiculous deus ex machina ending" out there. Like Andrews' irrational love for Darnell, the less you analyze it, the more hidden charms you may find to appreciate. Seven bullets out of ten.
Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) arrives in the small town of Walton with little money and no immediate prospects and goes to Pop's diner where he sees a stunning looking waitress called Stella (Linda Darnell) and also learns that a touring spiritualist, Professor Madley (John Carradine) is due to appear in a show in the town in the very near future. Eric is an ex-press agent who is very persuasive and unscrupulous and displays these qualities in style as he cons Madley's assistant into thinking that he knows the Professor and then gets involved in publicising the show. Ticket sales are slow because of opposition from Clara Mills (Anne Revere) who is the daughter of the well respected and now deceased previous mayor of the town. When Eric attempts to persuade Clara to give the show her approval she initially refuses but then changes her mind due to the influence of her sister June (Alice Faye) who is quite taken with Eric's type of charm.
After the Mills sisters' opposition is removed the tickets sell in large numbers and the show is a financial success. The grateful Professor offers Eric a permanent job but he declines because, by this point, he's become obsessed by Stella and so decides to stay in Walton.
Stella has an army of admirers and is also very materialistic so when Eric tries to develop a relationship with her, she soon makes it clear that she'll only be interested if he can guarantee marriage and enough money to satisfy her high aspirations. In response, he devises a scheme to marry June Mills for a short time so that when the marriage is annulled he could achieve a substantial financial settlement which he could then use to win over Stella. However, shortly after having married June, Stella is found murdered and Eric becomes a suspect. In order to prove his innocence, he then makes his own investigations before discovering the identity of the real killer.
The characters in this bizarre story are made believable by some fine performances, especially from the supporting cast. John Carradine is excellent as a humorous and very pragmatic charlatan and Charles Bickford is convincing as a retired New York police detective who'd moved to California for the benefit of his health. Anne Revere is good as the sour and sceptical Clara and Alice Faye is subtle in the way that she gradually conveys the fact that there is more to June than first meets the eye.
Dana Andrews capably portrays Eric's fast talking ability to manipulate people and also the toughness which enables him to grit his teeth and cope when things don't go as planned. Linda Darnell's capacity to look sullen and disdainful and to act tough and determined was, no doubt, what made her such a great choice to play the devious and dishonest Stella.
This movie is frequently overlooked but is still worth investigating as it has much to commend it and will certainly be appreciated by most film noir fans.
"Fallen Angel" is a disappointing film-noir by Otto Preminger. The unreasonable story has only unlikable characters and situations very hard to believe. The conclusion with Eric Stanton resolving the case by distance is awful. My vote is five.
Title (Brazil): "Anjo ou Demônio" ("Angel or Demon")
Dana Andrews is rock solid as the shifty drifter, who might, just might, be a little better than he thinks he is. Linda Darnell is senstational as the waitress, hard, calculating and incredibly voluptuous. Her close-ups are the equal of Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney in the forties.
Reportedly, Alice Faye left Fox after she lost several scenes in the editing room, where Zanuck decreed that the film should play up Darnell and her carnal allure. But Zanuck was right. Darnell is sensational and Alice Faye is not touching as the old maid. She's about ten years too old for the role and looks matronly. She probably shouldn't be blamed for her misconcieved performance since she was miscast in the first place. Had Zanuck cast Dorothy McGuire, or some other, younger woman who had a modest, touching quality, the contrast to Darnell's sluttishness would have been far greater and audiences would have cared more about what happens to the old maid.
Even with this flaw, however, the film is a little gem, well worth trying to catch. With a more appropriate actress in Faye's role, this might have been a major noir.
Great scene: Andrews walk into the diner where Darnell works and hears the film's theme, a low, sultry love ballad, playing on the jukebox for the umpteenth time. "Does that song play all day long?" he grouse to Darnell. Bored as hell, she rings up a sale on the cash register and, without even looking at him, snaps back, "I like it." Great stuff!