Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fallen Angel (1945)

Deception abounds in Fallen Angel.

Just about every character pulls some kind of scheme in this strong film noir effort from Otto Preminger (Laura).


The funny stuff starts early when a Greyhound bus driver gives the heave-ho to Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews). He's stayed on past his fare purchase. The driver knows all about the falling asleep excuse. Stanton gets turfed in Walton, a small town between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

With little cash, Stanton pretends to be a friend of Professor Madley (John Carradine), a psychic who will soon be rolling into town. That deception gets Stanton a room for the night.


It's doubtful Madley has any type of real academic training either. His assistant gets the goods on a community's dead before showtime and feeds details, not too loudly, during the performance.

Stanton, and plenty of other fellows, takes a shine to Stella (Linda Darnell). She's a knockout waitress with all the warmth of a frozen water pipe. Potential suitors, including her own boss Pop (Percy Killbride), think they have a chance with Stella. A fat chance is about as good as it gets for them.

Stella has a racket of her own too, falsifying bills of diners so she can take extra cash from the register.


Stanton's determined to come up with the cash Stella wants security before she'll marry him. He zeroes in on June Mills (Alice Faye), the daughter of a highly respected late mayor. She was also left a nice estate by her dad.

Stanton, who appears to have no interest of religion in his life, turns on the charm on June when she's rehearsing the organ at church. It's all an act. He even tries to rendezvous with Stella when he sees her at a dance hall while on a date with June. Stanton and June quickly marry, much to the disapproval of her sister Clara (Anne Revere), who was burned by a man in her own past.

"He's a charlatan," she warns her sibling.

Even when Eric disappears on their wedding night (!) to seek out Stella, June stands by her man.

When Stella turns up dead, a former big-city cop, Mark Judd (Charles Bickford), is determined to prove Stanton killed the woman. He, and June, flee. Did Stanton kill her? If not, who? Will he still try to fleece June out of her savings? Will they actually fall in love?


"I got everything by talking fast in a world that goes for talking and end up with exactly nothing," Stanton notes in a candid moment with his definitely better half.

Fallen Angel works for many reasons -- a great cast, terse dialouge and a whodunnit plot that should keep audiences guessing until the end.

Did June kill Stella so she wouldn't lose her man? Is Clara responsible, wanting to prevent her sister from the same pain she endured? Did a spurned suitor of Stella's murder her?

Watch Fallen Angel and find out.

RATING: 7.5/10

FUN FACTS: Jukebox salesman Dave Atkins is played by Bruce Cabot. He was in the original King Kong with Faye Wray. His last film was Diamonds are Forever.

Anne Revere was Mrs. Green in Gentleman's Agreement. That film is also reviewed on this site.

In a commentary accompanying the movie, film noir historian Eddie Muller notes many of the crew who worked on Laura teamed up again for Fallen Angel.

John Carradine appeared in plenty of horror films (Captive Wild Woman, Voodoo Man). It's great to see him in a dramatic role as Professor Madley. Heck, he was even in The Grapes of Wrath.

Percy Killbride was perhaps best known as Frank 'Pa' Kettle in a series of Ma and Pa Kettle films.

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