Name: Fallen Angel
Release Date: 1945
Writers: Harry Kleiner (screenplay), Marty Holland (novel)
Director: Otto Preminger
Alice Faye: June Mills
Dana Andrews: Eric Stanton
Linda Darnell: Stella
Charles Bickford: Mark Judd
Anne Revere: Clara Mills
Bruce Cabot: Dave Atkins
John Carradine: Professor Madley
Percy Kilbride: Pop
Run-Time: 98 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
This classic noir from director Otto Preminger made a star out of Linda Darnell and so frustrated Alice Faye that she didn’t make another film until an appearance in “State Fair” in 1962.
Faye stars here as June Mills, the wealthy, plain-Jane spinster targeted by a ruthless con-man, Eric Stanton (Andrews).
Stanton has conspired with Stella, a darkly beautiful waitress who’s won his heart, to steal all of June’s money so the two of them can run off together.
But in short order, June discovers the truth about the grift and Stella turns up dead. Nonetheless, she stays by Stanton’s side as he goes about learning the truth about her murder.
Taut and sharply plotted, “Fallen Angel” is an example par excellence of the pulp mysteries that Hollywood turned out with astonishing regularity — and without diminished quality — in the middle to late 1940s.
Cinematographer Joseph LaShelle makes masterful use of light and shadow to bring to life the one-horse northern California town where most of the film’s action takes place.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine these films being in anything other than black and white.
The absence of color highlights the emotions that flicker across the characters’ faces. And the murky lines between dark and light suggest the blurred moral lines that each of them — particularly Dana Andrews’ Stanton — walk.
Forgotten by most, “Fallen Angel” is one of Preminger’s strongest films. And though she’s hardly a household name today, the vampish Linda Darnell was one of the emerging starlets of her day. There’s never mistaking what her Stella values most or the primary weapon she has to get it.
Dana Andrews plays Eric Stanton with a kind of feral minimalism. It’s not tamed until Alice Faye’s June brings it to heel, causing him to realize that he can’t go through with his plan. By then, it’s too late for Stella, who’s left a trail of suitors in a town too small to carry many secrets for long.
And now a word about why it took Alice Faye more than 15 years to make another movie after “Fallen Angel.”
According to commentary that ran after a recent airing on Turner Classic Movies, “Angel” was intended as a starring vehicle for Faye, who’d already made a name for herself as a formidable pop vocalist.
But it soon became apparent to the filmmakers that Darnell’s wanton waitress was the more interesting of the film’s two leading ladies. Preminger began adding scenes for Linda Darnell. But for every scene he added for Darnell, he had to take one away from Alice Faye. This greatly diminished her screen-time.
Faye didn’t learn of the cuts until after a screening at the studio. When the screening ended, the story goes, she drove off the studio lot and out of the movies until “State Fair.”
“Fallen Angel” ended up being a great opportunity for Darnell, who went on to star in such films as “No Way Out” and “The Lady Pays Off.”