Fallen Angel

Premiered Nov. 7, 1945: FALLEN ANGEL, starring Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, and Linda Darnell. Directed by Otto Preminger (Laura, Angel Face, The Man with the Golden Arm). Andrews plays a con man who arrives in a small California coastal town to sell tickets to an upcoming séance by phony psychic, John Carradine. While passing time in the local coffee shop, Andrews is smitten with the waitress (Linda Darnell) and eventually forgoes his plans to follow FallenAngelCarradine’s act to San Francisco so he can stay behind and woo Darnell. The only problem is, Darnell wants a man of means, who can give her a ring, a house, and all that goes with it, but Andrews is flat broke and Darnell is being courted by suitors with real money. Undaunted, he comes up with a plan to get a sizeable sum of money in a short amount of time. He works his charms on the daughter (Alice Faye) of a prominent town official who died and left her a modest inheritance. Andrews figures if he can marry Faye, he’ll have access to the inheritance, and once he gets his hands on the money, he’ll discard Faye and marry Darnell. It’s a pretty hair-brained scheme, especially since he initially assures Darnell he can accomplish all this in only two days! Indeed, after two days of casual dating, Faye agrees to marry him, but on their wedding night Andrews slips out to see Darnell. The next day Darnell is found murdered and Andrews becomes a prime suspect. This film has its share of problems. The most apparent is Andrews’ character. He’s relentlessly gruff, unfriendly, selfish, and treats women, even the one he loves, horribly. Some of this is simply due to how male heroes were often portrayed in films of the 1940s, but even so, Andrews plays it too hard edged and rarely lets up. At no time do you feel sympathetic towards him, in fact, quite the opposite. It’s not difficult to imagine the added dimension someone like Bogart or Mitchum would’ve imparted to this same character. Then there’s the story. You can choose to simply surrender and enjoy the far-fetched plot, but even so, it’s going to be difficult to buy into Faye’s character. First, she hastily marries Andrews, a penniless out-of-towner whom she barely knows, and when it’s finally revealed how much of a heel he is, she resolutely sticks by his side regardless, willing to do anything for him, including hand over all her money. Fortunately, her loyalty is not critical to the advancement of the story, but it’s certainly difficult to understand her motivations. This film is not without its good points, though. Linda Darnell gives a fetching performance as the tough, sexy, no-nonsense waitress who won’t compromise her standards. The banter between her and Andrews makes for some sharp and entertaining dialog. But the film’s saving grace is its twist ending, which is quite satisfying and almost good enough to make up for all the missteps that preceded it. Fallen Angel was Preminger’s follow-up to Laura, which not only was a stellar noir film, but one of the best films of the 1940s. That’s a tough act to follow, so it’s not surprising Fallen Angel doesn’t meet the bar. If you can overlook the self-centered protagonist and some questionable plot elements, there’s a decent mystery to be found here. We give Fallen Angel 3 out of 5 fedoras.

3 Fedoras

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