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USA 1945
Directed by
Otto Preminger
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Fallen Angel

Coming hard of the heels of Otto Preminger's much better-known (and much better) Laura (1944), Fallen Angel eschews the world of high society sophistication and descends into the seedy fringes of small town America. Dana Andrews plays a low-rent hustler, Eric Stanton, with only one dollar in his pocket who gets stranded in a  northern California hamlet. Before long he teams up with a travelling “psychic” (John Carradine), has fallen hard for a sultry waitress, Stella (Linda Darnell), and is cooking up a scheme to gyp\ girl-next-door June (Alice Faye) out of her inheritance so that he can run off with the former. But then Stella gets murdered and Eric is being lined up to take the rap.

Based on the novel of the same name by Marty Holland, Fallen Angel is a pulp crime passionel story with an anxious , rootless vibe well-introduced by the opening titles which come up like road signs in the night. The plot is too schematic to be plausible but the characters are strong and Preminger and his cinematographer Joseph LaShelle imbue the film with plenty of noir style and mood although the film’s ending in which the murderer confesses his crime in a lengthy expositional momologue is a bit of an anti-climax.

The performances are strong with Linda Darnell in tip-top form as a trashy femme fatale and Dana Andrews (who had starred in Laura) well-suited as the small-time grifter who promises much but delivers little although, like the plot itself, his relationships with the Darnell and Faye characters are more effective as ideas than what is actually realized on screen.  Andrew’s characteristic low-achieving stolidity hardly accounts for his appeal to these very different women, particularly Faye’s respectably nice girl. One of the film’s oddest elements is the “interview” between Charles Bickford’s sadistic detective, Judd, and a suspect (Bruce Cabot), something which wouldn’t raise an eyebrow today but which presumably would have been very unusual for its Production Code-regulated time.




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