Eye For Film >> Movies >> Fallen Angel (1945) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
A dead end town, part way between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A drifter, Stanton (Dana Andrews), thrown off the night bus for lack of funds. A run-down diner. The kind of woman small towns just can't sustain. Obsession, and promises, and desperate plans. We've been here before.
It's classic Otto Preminger territory. The shadows are long, merging with Stella (Linda Darnell)'s black hair. She's a woman who likes a good time, but she's not stupid. She's not going to risk getting knocked up without a ring on her finger from a man who can buy her a nice house to live in. Stanton doesn't have a dime, but he's a smart guy, a marketing man who demonstrates his talents promoting a travelling 'spook show' (a fad of the time, based around mentalism and spying on the audience). He isn't hampered by much of a conscience. The town also happens to be home to a shy young heiress whose money would solve his problems very nicely. His path seems clear.
Not as twisty or substantial as most Preminger tales, this nevertheless showcases his trademark ambiguity, focusing on observation rather than any attempt to manipulate the sympathies of the audience. The strong cast channel this; though Andrews is reprising a familiar character, Darnell balances frustration and practicality to complicate her seductress. It's Alice Faye, as the heiress, who contributes the most, giving her character unexpected depth and turning the feelings she develops for Stanton into a sign of strength rather than weakness. She presents us with a woman who takes ownership of her emotions, something important in later Preminger films like Anatomy Of A Murder and The Man With The Golden Arm, which makes her an interesting counterpoint to the genre's femmes fatales.
Fallen Angel also benefits from a strong supporting cast, whilst the combination of snappy dialogue and Joseph La Shelle's striking cinematography gives it classic noir appeal, especially as things go awry towards the end. As the story grows increasingly improbable, it's very much a case of style over substance, but with a lot of style. In the context of Preminger's more densely plotted works, it has the feel of an experiment, a poetic exercise slotted in between the prose. It may not win over many new adherents but it has a good deal to offer to genre fans.