Angel Face

Released Dec. 11, 1952: ANGEL FACE, starring Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Mona Freeman, and Herbert Marshall. Directed by Otto Preminger (Laura, Fallen Angel, Whirlpool). Angel Face is a romantic melodrama with a twist, or more to the point, a twisted protagonist. Jean Simmons plays a frighteningly psychotic woman, who is young, beautiful, educated, and wealthy, and who takes a liking to everyman Mitchum. AngelFaceShe coyly uses all the tools at her disposal – charm, tears, vulnerability, affection, and money – to lure Mitchum away from his wholesome girlfriend (Mona Freeman) and into her arms. Not only does she win over Mitchum romantically, she even hires him to live and work as a chauffer at the estate where she resides with her father (Herbert Marshall) and stepmother (Barbara O’Neil), and promises to help him achieve his dream of opening an auto shop for sports cars. On the surface, it seems like a perfect arrangement, but of course, Simmons has her own warped reasons for ensnaring Mitchum. She desperately wants to get rid of her controlling stepmother, whom she loathes, and needs to keep Mitchum close so she can manipulate him into helping her do it. Being nobody’s fool, Mitchum recognizes her nefarious intentions and tries to extricate himself from the situation, but his epiphany comes a little too late. When Simmons takes matters into her own hands, with unintentionally tragic results, both she and Mitchum are arrested and tried as co-conspirators. Simmons is absolutely perfect as the sophisticated, raven-haired femme-fatale. The camera loves her, and Preminger never misses an opportunity to give us long lingering close ups that contrast her stunning beauty with the cold calculating look in her eyes. Simmons plays both sides of the fence perfectly. Mitchum is Mitchum; down to earth and completely authentic, which is all that’s needed. He has a way of turning the simplest lines into the wisest comebacks, even if they weren’t written that way. At times it’s hard to believe someone so street-wise would fall for Simmons, but it’s an easy point to overlook when everything else in the movie works so well. This is an absorbing film with a standout performance by Simmons and a great ending that’s befitting of any self-respecting noir. We give Angel Face 4 out of 5 fedoras.

4 Fedoras

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