Charles Mitchell has been caught embezzling. He writes a suicide note and goes out wandering on thetown. Small-time hustler Bill O'Brian sees him give a couple of big tips, figures he's rich, and plans to take him over to a big-time card game and fleece him. He enlists Nina Barone to help get Mitchell to the game. She goes along but is more interested in O'Brien than in his schemes. Meanwhile, aperpetually drunk and none too successful playwright, Gene Gibbons, finds the suicide note. He cooks up a scheme (with the reluctant aid of O'Brien) to get the money Mitchell needs to pay back his employer and save his life.
Sardonic newsman turned razor-wit screenwriter Ben Hecht softens his hard-boiled style for a rare directorial outing in Angels over Broadway
. Set in the world he knew and loved so well--Broadway's nightlife of hustlers and suckers and high-society swells--Hecht's tale of tarnished angels stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a street hustler cajoled into fronting a flimsy scheme to heist a gambling hoodlum and save a suicidal stranger. Pre-sex bomb Rita Hayworth is awkward but sweet as a breathy ingénue, and Thomas Mitchell gets all the best lines as a boozy playwright whose chivalrous streak grows with each drink ("Eugene, you're drunk." "My dear, you understate the case by three bottles and a thousand tears."). Hecht has been sharper and wittier but rarely so sentimental. Under his snappy patter is the heart of a jaded romantic taking one more chance. --Sean Axmaker