Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Angels Over Broadway (1940)

ANGELS OVER BROADWAY is an exceedingly strange film about three people -- a hustler (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), a chorus girl (Rita Hayworth), and an alcoholic playwright (Thomas Mitchell) -- who rescue a suicidal man (John Qualen) one rainy evening in New York.

The film's action takes place in a single night, as the threesome work to find a way their new friend can obtain $3000 to replace funds he'd embezzled.

The movie has some interesting moments, most involving Fairbanks and Hayworth, plus a good ending, but the meandering plot is buried in mountains of ostensibly profound dialogue, and Mitchell and Qualen have too much screen time. Mitchell can be a fun actor, but it's a bit tiresome watching a talkative drunk for an entire movie.

Rita, who turned 22 the month the movie was released, was beautifully filmed in black and white, and Fairbanks is fun as a fast-talking con man, but there's not much more to be said about the movie. It's peculiar enough that I was actually wondering at some moments how it got the go-ahead for release by Columbia. Fortunately the film is short (79 minutes) and the pace picks up in the second half of the movie.

The movie has its advocates -- Stephen Scheuer gives it 3-1/2 stars and terms it "fascinating viewing" -- but I'm more inclined to agree with Leonard Maltin, who describes it as "too offbeat for most viewers" in his 2-1/2 star review.

ANGELS OVER BROADWAY's Oscar-nominated screenplay was written by Ben Hecht, who codirected with the film's cinematographer, Lee Garmes. Cinematographer Garmes occasionally produced or directed films; by chance, he produced last night's movie, BEYOND TOMORROW (1940). ANGELS OVER BROADWAY was produced by Hecht and Fairbanks.

ANGELS OVER BROADWAY can be seen on TCM. It's also available on DVD.

Worth checking out once if you share my enjoyment of Hayworth or Fairbanks -- maybe other viewers will like it better! -- but otherwise I'd rank this one pretty low on a "movies to see" list.


Blogger Moira Finnie said...

I've only seen the last half hour of this film and it looked as though there was a strong streak of that late '30s whimsy at work, though I could also see the movie as a forerunner to film noir. I enjoyed both those aspects of the portion I saw, but I can see what you mean about Thomas Mitchell's rambling, philosophical drunk being a bit tiresome if the story relied on that character too much. I'll have to try to see this again sometime. I do have a weakness for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., (especially in the '30s and early '40s, when he played one con artist after another, trying to avoid his father's shadow, no doubt). I'll try to find this on dvd.

I'd love to know your opinion of one of Ben Hecht's other independent and more experimental films, made with his partner, Charles MacArthur, called Crime Without Passion (1934), which starred Claude Rains.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Moira,

I think the part you saw was the best part -- it felt a little more like a gangster screwball comedy than what had come before. (Some of their endless chatting in a nightclub had me baffled, and I'm generally a fairly patient movie viewer...) I'd love to know what you think when you get a chance to see it all.

Over the last year or so I've really come to appreciate Douglas Fairbanks Jr. He seems to have led a life as interesting in its own way as his father's. I especially enjoyed him in THE YOUNG IN HEART. I recently purchased his film THE RAGE OF PARIS on DVD -- my 10- and 13-year-olds thought it was wonderful, I could hear them laughing while I was stuck working in the other room (grin). I'm looking forward to seeing it soon!

I haven't seen CRIME WITHOUT PASSION but it sounds intriguing. I always enjoy Claude Rains. Thanks for mentioning it, I'll be on the lookout for it.

Best wishes,

4:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older