An unemployed drifter, Eric Stanton wanders into a small California town and begins hanging around the local diner. While Eric falls for the lovely waitress Stella, he also begins romancing a quiet and well-to-do woman named June Mills. Since Stella isn't interested in Eric unless he has money, the lovelorn guy comes up with a scheme to win her over, and it involves June. Before long, murder works its way into this passionate love triangle.
The Film Noir of the Week is Fallen Angel -- the 1945 film directed by Otto Preminger. The cast includes Dana Andrews (Boomerang! (1947) and Laura (1944), Charles Bickford Brute Force (1947), Linda Darnell Hangover Square (1945), Anne Revere Secret Beyond the Door... (1948) and John Carradine Female Jungle (1954), Bluebeard (1944)
The film begins with a car speeding down the road with the credits zipping by as super-imposed street signs. The camera pulls back and it’s revealed that it’s a bus. Dana Andrews gets pulled off the bus because he doesn’t have enough cash to get to San Francisco. (he’s about 150 miles short). He walks over to Pop’s Eats (now a noir icon with those great “BEER” signs out front) and he runs into a group of men looking for the waitress Stella. Apparently every man in town has a crush on her. So begins a twisted tale of Eric Stanton – a former New York press agent down on his luck so much that now he's a drifter (and he'll soon be a con man). After Stella returns (the sexy Linda Darnell) to the diner (to the relief of Pops and others) Stanton cons his way into an empty hotel room to sleep. Its professor Madley (the great John Carradine) and his assistant’s room and Stanton talks his way into helping them get their show publicized. Madley is a traveling soothsayer grifter. When Stanton hooks up with Madley and his spook act he meets Clara and June Mills (Anne Revere and Alice Faye) two suckers Madley wants to take.
Madley puts on a very entertaining séance by bringing up the finances of the late Abraham Mills – the father of Clara and June. The two leave the séance upset.
Meanwhile, Stanton falls in love with Stella. She’s as bad as Stanton. She likes to take money from Pop’s cash register. After a quick romance Stanton decides he wants her. She refuses to marry him because of his poor financial condition. Desperate for money, Eric marries the wealthy local spinster June Mills, whom he plans to quickly divorce. Clara sees through the scam but is unable to stop the romance. Stanton can’t stay away from Stella even on his wedding night. Instead of sleeping with his wife, he visits Stella.
Just as he's about to dump his new wife, Stella turns up dead.
Mark Judd (Charles Bickford), a hard-bitten ex-cop turned detective, investigates the murder that first leads to one of Stella’s ex-boyfriends and after a police-style beating of the suspect finally leads to Stanton.
Stanton flees to a seedy hotel room in San Francisco, with June at his side. He quickly abandons her after taking her money, but he returns when word reaches him that June has been charged with Stella's murder.
I won’t give away the ending but its fun.
I think Preminger didn’t have chops of other, more talented, noir directors (as far as visual style goes), but this film - with all the fluid camera movements - looks great. Joseph LaShelle (The cinematographer for Laura) does his usual excellent work. The film’s shadowy world is just right. As with all Preminger films, the women look fantastic. Notice Stella’s long legs when she first comes back to Pop’s. From what I’ve read online, most don’t buy the prim and proper Alice Faye or the crazy twists at the end of the film. I, however, enjoy it greatly maybe because of the constant broken desperation Stanton is in. I also enjoy the contrast between the night-time Stella and the sunny day June; and the seedy side of town compared with June’s suburban neighborhood.
Written by Steve-O
20th Century Fox by Otto Preminger, Harry Kleiner, Marty Holland.
Stars: Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, Charles Bickford.
Genres: Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
Keywords: roadhouse noir drifter
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