on March 21, 2006
One of the great benefits of the "Fox Noir" series, of which this film is a standout, is the remastering/release of the classic 1940's work of the great Otto Preminger. All the four Preminger titles in this series demonstrate what a concise, fluid director he was, easily managing crowd scenes as well as dramatic close-ups with his supple, effortless camera. Also, Preminger had a true talent for zeroing in on an actor, instantly revealing what made them different or unique and allowing them to play up their strengths. Under Preminger's care the star of this film, Dana Andrews, was allowed to fully flower. There was a very moving quality in Andrews, particularly when playing a heel as he does in this one, which always suggested that he had just enough soul and intelligence to dislike himself. This is why he was one of the great noir actors: without a lot of fuss, he could convey a deeply felt need to be a better man than was possible. He was, in short, a very graceful and subtle tough guy.
Briefly told, the theme of this film is sexual obsession. Every principal male player in the film desperately wants Stella, a hash-slinger in a local café, played by the all-too-soon gone Linda Darnell. This, of course, leads to men behaving very badly.
This clearly was a favorite theme of Preminger's, and he never had a better carnal female than Darnell as an object of desire (actually, the emotion all men in the film feel for Darnell transcends desire into the realm of critical need). Darnell is absolutely great and her appeal has held up very well over the 70 intervening years.
The other thing that makes these Fox Noir DVD's so good is the expert commentary that accompanies these discs in the Special Features sections. I know . . .sometimes these commentary tracks can be very hit or miss, but the folks at Fox seemed to take some care in their selection of experts, and I have enjoyed them all. The commentary track for this one is supplied by Noir historian, Eddie Muller, and I found his voiceover very, very good. In fact, things I might say in praise of this film are covered much better by Mr. Muller, so I will let you listen to him for yourself when you buy the DVD. Mr. Muller is a real treasure trove of interesting trivia and worthwhile insights.
This disc also has Dana Andrews' daughter, Susan Andrews, giving commentary. I have to admit with other DVD movies, I have been often disappointed by commentary from family members of famous stars. Not here. Susan Andrews comes across with an easy warmth and depth that really fleshed out her father, Dana Andrews, as both an actor and a man. I found myself hanging on the stories she told, remembering her father.
Lastly, with regard to the digital remastering, Fox has done it right. These classic Noirs never looked better.
Excellent all the way. --Mykal Banta
on January 21, 2006
Oh yay. The Queen is absolutely THRILLED to see that Fallen Angel will finally be released on DVD in March of this year. I have managed to lay my hands on an American DVD version after struggling with an English-style DVD for the past years. Upon re-viewing, this excellent movie stands up!
This is the third of the Dana Andrews/Otto Preminger movies in my ken, the first two being Laura (swoon) and Where the Sidewalk Ends (yawn). This is hands down the best of the three. Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) rolls into town one night after riding the bus as far as his ticket will take him. He almost immediately encounters Stella (Linda Darnell, and how!) the town sexpot. She works as a waitress and as a golddigger, dating every man in town and a few that just roll her way. But what she wants is to get married and settle down. I don't think she fully understands what it would mean to be married and settle down but that's what she says she wants. Eric is all Hustle and Flow before those words became trite and he makes a couple of bucks helping out a travelling clairvoyant and as an aside discovers the presence of a couple of wealthy sisters who can be and have been taken for a ride! So Eric hatches a scheme to marry the rich sister to get her money in order to marry Stella. Such audacity! Once he's married to the sister June (Played by the lovely Alice Faye) Stella wants nothing to do with HIM, because he's a married man! Oh, the frustration Eric has to endure! Stella ends up dead, a truly brutal cop investigates (be afraid! Holy cow!) and Eric takes it on the lam with his persistent wifey along for the ride. Excellent, excellent noir. Dana Andrews actually acts in this movie, as opposed to standing around looking glum (as in Laura and Where the Sidewalk Ends). This is Dana's best since The Ox-bow Incident.
The movie looks absolutely fabulous. Noir cinematography never looked better, even in the daylight scenes. The dialogue is great ("We were friends in the good old days" "How old?" "Old enough to be good"), the acting, especially Dana and Linda Darnell, is top notch. Linda Darnell... you could eat her with a spoon in this movie. The quintessential Femme Fatale. And then some.
on June 8, 2006
I really enjoyed this movie, not just for the dark film noir so excellently directed by Otto Preminger and the acting skills of Dana Andrews, Charles Bickford, Linda Darnell et all. Those are a given. This film was filled with new things galore, and I love how the DVD features a commentary by Dana Andrews daughter and Eddie Muller explaining all the nuances and little quirks to be found in the movie. This is basically a movie about a con man who falls for a fallen woman (Darnell) and attempts to get this fallen woman by seducing a prim and proper virginal woman (Alice Faye) to get the money for it. Some have ridiculed some of the premise of this movie, but one has to remember this WAS made in 1945!!!
This movie also represents another fall, one in real life, of the great Alice Faye. I'm sure the story has become well known of how she quit Twentieth Century Fox over how her scenes were cut. I just found out from the commentary that she had a scene where she sang the theme song! That should have been in the movie and the DVD, sure love to see that. For Alice was first and foremost a vocalist, she could make you feel the words of a song by her emoting and facial expressions along with her lovely lovely contralto. She was a treasure, and it's sad to know this movie, however entertaining, caused her to leave the business for so long. Although it was her first true dramatic role Alice in no way could be said to be a great actress because of this role, but I felt she held her own.
Dana Andrews is a master, and as some have said the chemistry between he and Linda Darnell's character is palpable. The feel, the interplay between the characters and the small town feel of the setting gives this movie that dark mysterious attraction of a true noir, and as the plot unfolds and reaches a surprising climax resulting in the "fallen angel" of the title, I don't see how a true film buff could not be entertained!
This is a film which is higly respected in "noir" cinema but like many films of the genre, it is heavy entertainment. Released in 1945 as a follow up to "Laura", it used a number of the same technicians, the director Otto Preminger and the leading man Dana Andrews.
Andrews plays a drifter who stops at a small town, falls in lust with a waitress, Linda Darnell, and marries one of the town's respected citizens, Alice Faye, for her money so he can run off with Darnell. Darnell is murdered and the remainder of the film follows the discovery of who did it. The film is claustrophobic reflecting the people and small town in which it is set. The main setpiece is a diner. Darnell, who was never better, is brunette, sexy and laconic, lounging behind the counter like a lazy cat. The superficial quality to her acting sits well on this character. On the other side of the counter, a line up of men gaze upon her lasciviously, watching her every move but hiding their eyes under their hats. You can cut the atmosphere with a knife! The juke box plays the theme song "Slowly" and the music is a toneless tease, just like Linda.
Alice Faye, blonde and subdued, is a perfect contrast, a symbol of good but with an undercurrent of frustration which helps explain her attraction to Dana Andrews and why she would marry this stranger. Much of Alice's part was cut by Darryl Zanuck to shift the emphasis to the broody Darnell. Alice was so incensed she walked out of 20th Century Fox for good, never to return. You can detect the holes in her part of the film, particularly in establishing the motivation for her relationship with Andrews, but enough remains so that we get the point. Anne Revere plays Alice's spinster sister and adds a superb vignette of an unfulfilled woman. By the way, Alice is very good too.
Probably the most impressive feature of the film is the overwhelming sense of sexual frustration, a remarkable example of how to suggest sexual desire within the confines of the censorship of the forties. Everyone is on heat, even Alice. All the males in the cast are unpleasant and charmless so the film is pretty depressing. It lacks the entertainment value of "The Big Sleep" or "Double Indemnity".
The DVD quality is first rate, as expected. The commentary is more like a friendly chat between Film Noir expert Eddie Mueller and Dana Andrew's daughter Susan - pleasant listening but lightweight in content. Mueller is completely over the top about Preminger and Andrews - they weren't THAT good! In particular, they seem to read much more into Dana Andrews who actually seems quite wooden to me.
Many of the scenes which were cut can be envisaged by production stills; for example, now I understand why when Andrews meets Faye in the church when she is playing the organ, much of the dialogue is illogical. There is reference to an earlier meeting which clearly was cut from the film, probably a scene outside the church when he was leaving town and clearly visible in the stills. No wonder Alice Faye was upset because what remains in fact does not make sense. There are 2 other scenes between Andrews and Charles Bickford involving physical violence. These two scenes, in particular, might have contributed to a more satisfactory ending. After so much atmospheric character development, the resolution of the murder is somewhat cursory.
For me, Otto Preminger was too heavy handed for this film to gain classic status and the editing has left holes in the plot, as Alice Faye said. Andrews is on record as disliking the film, feeling it was in bad taste and I know what he means.
on July 28, 2007
This excellent film deserves to be considered among anyone's list of the best film noir movies ever made. The script is not standardized, so the unexpected is always occurring. There is always a twist in the plot. You never know what is coming.
Otto Preminger's direction is taut, focused and he certainly knew how to get the best performances out of all of his actors. As a follow up to the classic film "Laura," also starring Dana Andrews, he etched his name indelibly on the film noir genre.
David Raksin, who wrote the song "Laura" for the movie of the same name, also wrote the theme song for this film.
And the actors are wonderful. Dana Andrews gives his usual fine performance, turning from a hardened con man into a person who can love. The character actors also carry the film: all of them are magnificent. Anne Revere, Charles Bickford, Bruce Cabot and even Percy Kilbride give three dimensional performances that are awesome.
I mention the two female stars last because the situation was interesting. They are as different as night and day from each other. Linda Darnell, dark, beautiful and smouldering, is cast opposite Alice Fay, fair, serious and loyal. Now Ms. Faye was very angry when she saw the final version of the film, feeling her best moments had been edited out and, although she had no hard feelings for Ms. Darnell, she felt the film focused on Ms. Darnell's performance and kind of left her out, or at least placed her at second string. She did not make another film for 16 years.
I believe that, regardless of the cut scenes, Alice Faye made a perfect, not lesser, compliment to Linda Darnell, and each equally gave sterling performances. Neither played second fiddle to each other. Both of their performances were of very high quality and admirable.
You can't miss with this one. It's really enjoyable to watch such quality film making.
"Fallen Angel" is the second film that director Otto Preminger made with cinematographer Joseph LaShelle and actor Dana Andrews, the first being his 1944 masterpiece "Laura". This time Dana Andrews brings his deep voice and nuanced deadpan delivery to a film noir based on the novel by Marty Holland (who is actually Mary Holland), adapted by first-time screenwriter Harry Kleiner and photographed with Joseph LaShelle's spectacularly fluid camera. After an attention-grabbing credit sequence speeds down a dark road at night, Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) gets off his bus before it reaches his destination. He ran out of bus fare. He finds himself in a small California coastal town, where an errant waitress named Stella (Linda Darnell) catches his eye. She's a tough-talking beauty coveted by every man she meets. But only the one who will marry her and give her a comfortable life will get her. Eric wants that to be that man, so he schemes to seduce money out of prim and proper June Mills (Alice Faye). But when Stella is murdered, circumstantial evidence points to Eric.
Dana Andrews was fantastically suited to film noir. Like Humphrey Bogart, he barely moved his facial muscles when he spoke but was able to deliver a layered performance without emoting. It's interesting to watch his face in "Fallen Angel", because so much of Eric Stanton is revealed in his forehead. It's an exercise in acting with fine muscles only. Unlike Humphrey Bogart, Andrews had an imposing speaking voice. He could deliver dialogue forcefully without raising his voice. Again, perfect for film noir. Three films that Andrews made with director Otto Preminger and cinematographer Joseph LaShelle are often classified as "film noir". One of them, the brilliant "Laura", is not film noir in my book. It's mystery/romance. The other, 1950's "Where the Sidewalk Ends", is often considered superior to "Fallen Angel" due to its psychological complexity. But I prefer "Fallen Angel" for its fantastic crane shots, its far more complex women, and its aggressive introduction to its protagonist, who gets off the bus and immediately starts conning the local conmen.
Credit is due Alice Faye for bringing depth to a character that could easily have been saccharine and two-dimensional. "Fallen Angel" was to be her dramatic comeback after her great success in musical roles. It didn't work out that way, because she felt that producer Darryl Zanuck had butchered her part so walked out on her contract. But I'm impressed with Faye's ability to convey subtle desperation underneath June Mills' sensible, uptight exterior. June is more terrified of ending up a spinster, like her sister, than she is of losing her money, her reputation, or marrying a swindler. And when it looks like her sympathy and loyalty will not hold her flimsy marriage together, she's distraught. But her comportment changes only once. She's a credible and sympathetic character, not just Eric Stanton's saving grace. "Fallen Angel" is a superb film noir, with a knock-out performance by Dana Andrews, a star-making appearance from Linda Darnell, a dramatic turn from Alice Faye, great supporting work all around, and a seamless, mobile camera from Otto Preminger and Joseph LaShelle.
The DVD (20th Century Fox 2006): There are 3 photo galleries: A "Publicity Gallery" (20 posters and ads), a "Production Stills" gallery (49 photos), and a "Unit Photography" gallery" (38 behind-the-scenes photos). The theatrical trailer (2 1/2 min) is interesting in that it features a voice-over narration by Dana Andrews, a common technique in film noir, but one that is not featured in "Fallen Angel", except in the trailer. There is a good audio commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller and Susan Andrews, who is Dana Andrews' daughter. Accordingly, there is a lot of discussion oft Dana Andrews, his career and many personal anecdotes, which is a nice addition to the commentary. Eddie Muller provides background on the actors and creative crew, as usual, and discusses Preminger's distinctive camera work, the long takes and mobile camera, the transitions, dialogue, censorship and themes. Subtitles are available for the film in English and Spanish.
on April 23, 2006
Otto Preminger's follow-up to his ground-breaking film noir "Laura" is an off-beat, dark and foreboding tale of con man Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) who arrives in a small California coastal town with literally no money in his pockets. He is soon under the spell of sultry waitress Stella (Linda Darnell). They have no dough to marry, however, so Stanton plans to get hitched to a wealthy heiress, June Mills (Alice Faye), and then get rid of her and take her fortune. Stella, however, is not exactly sitting idly by - she has many boyfriends and dates that infuriate her lover. Ultimately, things don't go as planned; Stella is found murdered and Eric is the prime suspect. Surprisingly, June stands by him and tries to have him cleared.
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.
on March 17, 2006
Fallen Angel has always been unfairly disregarded as Otto Preminger's disappointing follow-up to Laura. It didn't help that Alice Faye was angry with the way the film was edited (to favor Linda Darnell) and Dana Andrews thought the movie was bad. That's not fair to the movie. Fallen Angel, while flawed, is a very different film from "Laura" that has a lot worth recommending. It's a movie that I find more interesting after repeated viewings (especially Preminger's camera work and the film's ideas about the three women: the Faye, Darnell and Anne Revere characters). Fallen Angel has also aged much better than other films by the three leads.
The plot concerns an out-of-his luck man (Dana Andrews) who arrives in a small town, falls in love with a sultry brunette waitress (Linda Darnell) who, after many disappointments with men, wants a wedding ring. Since he's broke, the man marries a sexually repressed blonde girl (Alice Faye) so he can take her money and go back to the waitress. Then the waitress show up dead.
Every character in the film, even Alice Faye's goody-goody blonde girl, has a degree of moral ambiguity. The ending, though, is abrupt and I've always wondered about whether those cut scenes that Alice Faye always complained about (some of "her best scenes", in her estimation, most notably her singing the theme song "Slowly") would have improved the film.
The acting is very good. Alice Faye, in her only strictly dramatic role, is up to the task as the "sexually repressed blonde". It's a somewhat thankless role (at least by today's standards), though, but she does the best she can with it. Film noir fans have given Alice Faye a hard time for playing the good girl role, but the movie really wouldn't work without her to balance things out. (It's one of the basic premises of the film: men think sultry brunettes like Linda Darnell are more fun but then they marry blondes like Alice Faye.) Faye is also surprisingly sexual in this role. Pay close attention to what happens in the hotel room, especially the great moment where she opens the window.
Linda Darnell has a much flashier "girl from the wrong side of the tracks"/"femme fatale" role. As much as I like Alice Faye, I have to admit Darnell is a lot more fun to watch in this movie. I also think Dana Andrews is much better here than in Laura. He has great chemistry with Darnell.
The supporting cast in even better, especially Percy Kilbride (of "Pa Kettle" fame) as Pops, Anne Revere ("National Velvet")as Alice Faye's sister, Charles Bickford as a weird cop and John Carradine in a bit role as a man who speaks with the dead.
The film looks great on the Fox DVD and has all the sordid themes and great black and white cinematography you expect from the best noirs. The commentary track is entertaining and informative, though I wish Eddie Muller had commented on all the cut scenes and done more research about the Alice Faye/Darryl Zanuck feud over this film. Overall, Fallen Angel is a great, but imperfect (there are narrative gaps towards the end, when the crime is solved), underrated film noir. Just don't expect "The Return of Laura".
on March 24, 2006
Dopwn-on-his-luck drifter Dana Andrews falls hard for sexy small town diner waitress Linda Darnell. Hard enough to marry and fleece local rich spinster Alice Faye. But as in any good noir, things don't go as planned. When Darnell turns up murdered, local cop Charles Bickford turns up the heat and Andrews finds himself ready to be framed. This is moody noir at it's best. Bickford is violent and twisted. Darnell is gorgeous but callous with too many men hanging around. Faye is nice and sweet but tied to her older spinster sister Anne Revere. And there's a lot of money (Faye's) waiting to be had. Andrews is perfect as the troubled Eric (as he was as the troubled detective in Preminger's "Laura"). He actually looks likes he's been knocked around. But Darnell is good reason to watch this also. Her Stella is a beautiful hard luck dame waiting for her ship to come in...in spades. Darnell was at her best playing tough girls ("A Letter to Three Wives" or "Hangover Square" are good examples). But Faye, well, she's good but I'm not sure film noir was her arena. I know this was supposed to be a departure for her from the Fox musicals and she walked out when Preminger cut her "best scene(s)" but still she was again playing a "nice girl". It would have been interesting if she had had Darnell's part and vice-versa. Nonetheless, "Fallen Angel" is a great example of what film noir was...right down to the David Raksin score with the jukebox playing the moody song "Slowly" to good effect. The DVD print is wonderful. Thanks Fox. Enjoy.
on August 4, 2007
It should be stated clearly at the outset that "Fallen Angel" requires careful and patient viewing: Dana Andrews arrives in a small California town in the dead of night. He was actually evicted from a Greyhound bus-he didn't have the fare to ride all the way to Frisco! It becomes immediately obvious that DA is a con man and not a terribly likeable one at that. His first stop is the local diner where he falls for the sultry waitress, Linda Darnell. LD is perfectly cast here. She wants nothing to do with the struggling hustler. DA turns to nice girl Alice Faye, who happens to be loaded! The blonde Faye is in perfect contrast to the dark haired Darnell. DA plans to marry Faye, steal her $$ and marry LD! However, this reviewer felt that the movie had no spark until Darnell is murdered- on Andrews' wedding night no less! Afraid of being framed for the untimely demise, Andrews and his new bride flee to San Francisco. During that intense trip, the movie takes shape. DA realizes he has married a nice, classy girl who loves him. The hotel room scenes are actually quite romantic, given the moral codes of the time. DA returns to the small town and FA is quickly wrapped up. Good reviews should not give away resolutions but the ending to "Fallen Angel" is fast and satisfying. This reviewer can cite only two weaknesses to FA: 1) it takes awhile to gel. The most critical scenes are in the final 10 minutes; the careful and patient viewing stated above will be rewarded. 2) One wonders how interesting a second watching would be, once the improbable perp is identified. Amazoners are encouraged to scroll down and read the preceding reviews! There are several nice fascinating tidbits about FA listed! There are certainly some knowledgeable classic movie fans out there! A final thought: Wouldn't Lizabeth Scott have been perfect for the Darnell role? She could have sung the theme song! And if she wound up dead, it would not have been the first time Liz met her demise while the cameras rolled!