This Film Noir is rated 7.2 by iMDB.com1 and 80 percent by Rotten Tomatoes2. This film was directed by Otto Preminger. I really liked it, as Dana Andrews is great as a tough guy. Linda Darnell is beautiful and elusive. The supporting players, Charles Bickford, John Carradine, Percy Kilbride, Anne Revere, Alice Faye, and to a lesser degree even Bruce Cabot were all great at weaving this whodunit.
The critics of the era seemed to be looking for another Laura (1944), but how often can director Otto Preminger or any director pull one of those off. Bosley Crowther, of The New York Times, thought the acting and story was below par.3
Today’s movie is Fallen Angel (1945). This is another great Film Noir starring Dana Andrews, Alice Faye, Bruce Cabot, Charles Bickford, and a little bit of John Carradine thrown in for fun. I keep thinking I have topped out on the Film Noir genre but every time I find a new one (old one) I have to update my list of Forty Essential Film Noir Classics.
To paraphrase a line from televisions “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues” 1993-1997 – How long will it take to become a film expert. Answer – A lifetime, perhaps longer.
So, on that note, let’s jump to the actors, about half of which are show veterans.
Dana Andrews plays the role of Eric Stanton, an out of work grifter. Andrews was covered in Episode 4 – In Harm’s Way (1965).
Charles Bickford plays a retired police officer Mark Judd. Bickford was covered in Episode 5 – Of Mice and Men (1939).
William Haade was uncredited as the 1st Bus Driver. Haade’s was covered in Episode 40 – Key Largo (1948).
Alice Faye played the younger of the Mills’ sisters, June. Faye was born in 1915 in New York City. Her first film was George White’s Scandals (1934). Faye was a huge star in the 1930s and 1940s with films such as Alexander’s Rag Time Band (1938), The Gang’s All Here (1943), and Hello Frisco, Hello (1943). She was also a talented singer with several big hits.
After Fallen Angel (1945) was screened, she realized that she had been cut from a lot of scenes and reduced to a bit part. She became so disgusted that she stormed off the lot and didn’t return to film until State Fair (1962). Her final film The Magic of Lassie (1978) with James Stewart. Faye died in 1998 at the age of 83.
Linda Darnell played the role of Stella, a waitress in a small diner. Darnell was born in Texas in 1923. The very lovely, Darnell was modeling by age 11 and doing well. By the age of 13, she was working in the local theaters. Hollywood scouts say the young star and arranged for her to have a screen test. Everything was fine until they found out her age. She was sent packing. But two years later, at the age of 16, she returned to Hollywood and there was no stopping her.
Darnell’s first film was Hotel for Women (1939). This was followed by Day-Time Wife (1939), Star Dust (1940), The Mark of Zorro (1940) with the swashbuckling Tyrone Power, Blood and Sand (1941), Rise and Shine (1941), a comedy, Hangover Square (1945), Centennial Summer (1946) with the great Lillian Gish, in the John Ford directed My Darling Clementine (1946) with Henry Fonda, Forever Amber (1947) with Cornel Wilde where she schemed and scratched her way to the top regardless of the cost, No Way Out (1950), and Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952). She made 46 films in total.
In the 1950’s she worked more in television. Her final film was a western Black Spurs (1965). Darnell died from burns on April 10, 1965, at the home of her former secretary. Ironically, she had been watching one of her greatest performances Star Dust (1940), when the fire began. This beautiful actress died way too young at the age of 41.
Anne Revere played the older and wiser of the Mills’ sisters, Clara. Revere was born in 1903 in New York City. She is a descendant of Paul Revere of the British are coming fame, although he made one of the shortest rides of all the riders that night.
Revere attended Wellesley College and then trained at the American Laboratory Theatre. She made her Broadway debut in 1931 and began films with Double Door (1934). However, no other film roles came her way and she returned to Broadway until 1940.
Back in movies, she was all in. She was nominated for three Oscars, one for playing the mother in The Song of Bernadette (1943), one for playing the mother in National Velvet (1944), and one for playing Gregory Peck’s mother in Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). She won the best-supporting-actress Oscar for National Velvet (1944).
Her acting roles continued and she had just finished A Place in the Sun (1951) with Montgomery Clift when her name became one of 300 on the Hollywood Blacklist. When called before the Un-American House Un-American Activities Committee, she stood on her Constitutional guaranteed Fifth Amendment. She was pushed out of film work for almost 20-years.
She and her husband relocated to New York where they both worked in theater. She did so well she won a Tony for the 1960-61 season. By the mid-1960s, television roles began to be offered. She even returned to a few movies in the 1970s. Revere died in 1990 at the age of 87.
Percy Kilbride played the owner of the diner, Pop. Don’t play cards with a guy named Doc, don’t eat at a place called Pop’s, and never sleep with anyone that has more troubles than you do.4 Percy made a couple of early films but began working steadily after Keeper of the Flame (1943). He had a total of 33 films. In The Egg and I (1947), he first played Pa Kettle along with Marjorie Main as Ma Kettle. The Egg and I (1947) was being shown in Brute Force (1947) in the prison auditorium. Percy made seven more Ma and Pa Kettle movies while Main did better making nine more as Ma.
Hal Taliaferro was uncredited as Officer Gus Johnson. Taliaferro was a silent western actor from roughly 1915 to the late-1930s. When this career ended, he changed his name and started again as a bit player. After a career of this, he retired in the 1950s’ and died in 1980.
This movie begins with Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) being thrown out a Gray Hound bus because he can’t afford the fare of $2.25 to take him the 150 miles to San Francisco. When the driver puts his hands on Stanton, the actor gives that famous hand-off look. Stanton walks into the town of Walton, California where he finds a joint named Pop’s that is still open.
Inside Pop’s place is officer Gus Johnson (Hal Taliaferro), a retired police officer Mark Judd (Charles Bickford) drinking coffee, the owner, Pop (Percy Kilbride), and jukebox salesman Dave Atkins (Bruce Cabot). The cop is concerned that a woman named Stella has been missing for 72-hours. Mark Judd says Stella is not the suicide type and to wait until morning. Dave says the jukebox sales are down and Pop says no one plays it when Stella is not working.
When Stanton asks for coffee, Pop says they are closed. Stanton never misses a beat and orders a hamburger as well. Mark gives Stanton the stink eye and Stanton offers him a cigarette.
About this time, Stella (Linda Darnell) walks through the door. She is well dressed but looks completely worn out. Mark says he knew she would be back. She is snotty to him. Pop gives Stella, Stanton’s food, and coffee. She’s snotty to Pop too.
Stanton, who is almost out of cash heads to the hotel and sees a sign that Professor Madley (John Carradine) is performing a spirit show in a couple of days. Stanton bluffs the hotel clerk and gets into Madley’s assistant’s room. Stanton knows that an advanced man always comes to town for a spirit show to gather information. Stanton is asleep on the bed when Joe Ellis (Olin Howland) returns. At first, he tries to throw Stanton out, even though Stanton says he is an old friend of Professor Madley. When Ellis tries to get money out of Stanton, he knows he has fallen in with the right group of frauds. Ellis tells that Ms. Mills, the daughter of the former mayor, is keeping people from buying tickets.
In the morning, Ellis and Stanton go to visit the Mills’ sisters. The older sister is Clara Mills (Anne Revere) and is played as very stuffy, while the younger sister, June Mills (Alice Faye) is more adventurous and full of life. Clara gives Stanton and his partner the boot. June likes what she sees and later talks Clara into going to the show.
Stanton goes back to Pop’s and the gang is all there, including Pop, Stella, and Mark. Stanton uses all of his marketing talents to push tickets to the spirit show. Ellis comes in with Professor Madley and he joins the team. Ellis goes to dig up info on the dead mayor. Mark is still giving the stink eye to Stanton.
Stanton watches Stella change tickets and rip off Pop. She rejects a free ticket and she says she does not go anywhere alone. Stella tells Stanton that Mark is a retired New York detective.
That night at the spook show a large crowd turns up including Stella and Pop, Clara and June Mills, and retired detective Mark. The Professor ends his show reporting that Clara has lost most of her money to a shyster. The two sisters are shamed and rush out.
Stella is intrigued by the act so she and Stanton go out to a dance joint. He shines her up and where she should be in life. Stanton and Stella as two down and out users really like each other. Stanton tells that he is an out of work publicity man from New York. Stella is looking for a man to take care of her, specifically a man with money. Their date ends poorly.
Even though Madley offers Stanton a job, he decides to stay in town. Stanton waits for Stella to open Pop’s. She is cold and aloft. When Pop comes in Stanton leaves.
The salesman Dave Atkins, drops Stella off at her apartment and says he is done with her and won’t see her anymore. Stanton is hiding in the shadows. He proposes to her and she says she needs a home and money. Stanton says he can get the money. He says the deal is she will wait for him, e.g. don’t date anyone else, until he gets the money. She says maybe.
Stanton goes to the local church where June is practicing playing the pipe organ. She is mad at him for the shame he brought on her family. He sweet talks her and she falls for it. He invites her out for dinner, a movie, and dancing. Stella is on the dance-floor with Dave. Stanton tells Stella he will meet her afterward.
Stanton goes to Pop’s in the morning and Stella is late. Stanton had waited until 3 AM and she never came home. She has acquired a new watch. Mark shows up as well.
Stanton meets the Mills sisters and goes shopping with them. Clara is hating on him. Clara reveals that there is more money stashed in San Francisco. Stanton continues to date June. June is falling hard for Stanton’s smooth talk.
After his date with June, Stanton goes to Stella’s apartment. He says he can’t go through with the plan, but Stella says she is sticking to the deal. If he’s got no money, he’s got no chance.
The next morning June calls Stanton and invites him to go to a concert in San Francisco with her and her sister. The sisters have to do some bank business with their safety deposit box. Stanton says he needs one too but none are available. Stanton tricks June into going to get marriage blood tests. Clara waits in front of the concert venue but there is no concert. Stanton and June come back married.
Stanton pulls out a letter and gets Clara to put it in her safety deposit box.
Back in Walton, Clara gives the family home to June and her new husband. June goes up to bed and Stanton runs out to see Stella. Clara sees him go. Stella tells Pop she has a date. Stanton comes in and tells Stella he will have the money in the morning. He lets her know he married June to get the money. Stella doesn’t take it well. Stella drives away with Mark. Clara sees the whole thing from the shadows.
In the morning, Stanton is sleeping on the couch and June is a sweet as can be. Clara has told June all of the details of the night before. June tells Stanton that Stella has been murdered and Mark, the former detective is waiting to talk to him.
Clara lies to cover Stanton. Stanton goes along with Mark on the investigation. Mark says he saw Stanton and knew he was not at home on his wedding night. The two men go to Stella’s apartment and the body is being loaded into an ambulance. Pop is there as are the neighbor, police chief, and Dave. She was killed between 3-4 AM by a blunt object. The neighbor IDs both men as people that have brought Stella home. Mark sends the neighbor away and Pop stays for a while. The neighbor found Stella’s watch on the stairs.
Mark takes Dave into the kitchen for interrogation. Mark puts on gloves and brutally beats the crap out of Dave while questioning him. The police chief comes back and verifies Dave’s alibi. Mark starts grilling Stanton about the murder. No violence. Mark does mention Clara as a possible murderer.
Later that day June and Stanton leave for their honeymoon in San Francisco. Honeymoon originally referred to the time of year when bees collected honey. Later it came to mean the first month of the marriage is the sweetest and that love wanes like the phases of the moon. Stanton wants to run but June says she wants to give him the money. Stanton decides that they have to hitchhike to San Francisco.
They check into a dumpy hotel. Stanton is acting like a fugitive. June is cool. Stanton storms out to the hotel bar and then to the drug store for a toothbrush and novel for June. After a small fight, she tells him that she loves him. For the first time, he feels something for her as well. They get to know each other.
The next day June heads to the bank while Stanton gets a shoeshine. You can barely see him but the shoeshine guy is Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard from the “Our Gang” movies. Across the street, June is picked up by detectives. She is taken back to Walton and grilled about Stanton’s location. Mark says she is an accessory after the fact. She stands strong and defends her man. They bring in Clara and Stanton’s envelope from the safety deposit box. The pages are all blank. June still stands by her man.
Mark is sitting with Pop’s in the restaurant when Stanton walks in and orders coffee. Stanton sits next to Mark. Stanton talks about the beating of Dave. He has called New York and found out that Mark was let go from the police because of his violence. Stanton says the arrest of June tipped him off about Stella’s watch and it was Mark who was the murder. Stanton says the police are waiting outside. Mark pulls a gun. He confesses that he spied on Stella when she was on other dates. Mark says that when Stella told him she was marrying Dave, he hit and killed her.
Pop goes crazy, grabbing the gun and trying to shoot Mark. Stanton fights to stop the murder and when a shot is fired the police come running in. They take the murderer Mark away. Stanton comforts Pop and then goes outside where June is waiting for him. They happily head to their home.
All through the movie, people keep playing “Slowly” by Dick Haymes on the jukebox for Stella.
World-Famous Short Summary – Man walks a tightrope between two women and almost gets hung on it.
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Beware the moors
 paraphrased for “A Walk on the Wild Side” Nelson Algren 1956.