Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Repost: Tonight's Movie: Angel and the Badman (1947)

Note: ANGEL AND THE BADMAN just might be my favorite John Wayne film ever, and I rewatch it every couple years. I last saw this movie about two and a half years ago, so tonight it was time to spend time with it again. This film, with charming performances by John Wayne, Gail Russell, and the entire cast, never fails to delight me! This evening I watched a DVD from Good Times which was quite a good print.

Below is my review from September 2009:

ANGEL AND THE BADMAN is one of my very favorite John Wayne movies, which I revisit on a regular basis.

ANGEL AND THE BADMAN is a simple tale about gunslinger Quirt Evans (Wayne) who is wounded and nursed back to health by a family of Quaker farmers, including beautiful Penny (Gail Russell), who falls in love with Quirt at first sight.

Penny is disarmingly honest with Quirt about her feelings for him, and though at first he struggles against it, Penny's steadfast love and her family's kindness gradually convince Quirt to embrace a new life...if his past doesn't catch up with him.

For those still shortsighted enough to assert that Wayne wasn't much of an actor, I would argue that all one has to do to know the truth about Wayne's acting ability is actually watch his movies. At least half of Wayne's performance in this film was conveyed without dialogue -- his eyes and face are incredibly expressive. There's a wonderful scene where he holds off a trio of bad guys with his steely gaze and an unloaded gun; he also has some quiet comedic moments where he's baffled either by Penny or his own growing feelings for her. I think it's one of his best performances. Wayne was also the film's producer.

Gail Russell is at her most beautiful as angelic Penny, with melting eyes, long dark hair, a gentle smile, and a sense of humor as well. Russell was right up there with Maureen O'Hara in terms of her chemistry with the Duke. Wayne and Russell were reunited the next year in WAKE OF THE RED WITCH.

Sadly, off the screen Russell was very insecure and suffered badly from stage fright; at some point in the '40s she began to steady her nerves with alcohol, and by the early '50s her career was almost at a standstill as a result. Wayne, a good friend, helped resuscitate her career by giving her a leading role in the superb Randolph Scott Western SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956), which Wayne produced. Russell died in 1961, just 36 years old.

The supporting cast in ANGEL AND THE BADMAN is outstanding. I particularly love Harry Carey Sr. as Marshal Wistful McClintock, who has a habit of showing up unexpectedly; Irene Rich as Penny's sweet mother, forever downplaying her cooking talents; and Tom Powers as the doctor who respects the Quakers even if he can't understand their ways.

The cast also includes Bruce Cabot, Lee Dixon, Olin Howland, Tom Halloran, and Paul Hurst. Don't blink and you'll see Hank Worden, best known as Mose in THE SEARCHERS (1956), who has a few lines early in the movie.

ANGEL AND THE BADMAN was shot in black and white and runs 100 minutes. It was largely filmed on location in Arizona, although at least a couple shots outside the farmhouse might have been on a duplicate soundstage set.

This is the only movie in my "Wayne Top 5" which wasn't directed by John Ford. (My other favorite Wayne films, for the record, are SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON, RIO GRANDE, THE QUIET MAN, and THE SEARCHERS.) ANGEL AND THE BADMAN was written and directed by James Edward Grant.

It seems possible that Grant drew some of his inspiration from the modern-day story in 1934's HIDE-OUT and its remake I'LL WAIT FOR YOU (1941), which both have some parallels with the story in ANGEL AND THE BADMAN. Whether or not Grant was influenced by these films, he wrote an excellent script with memorable dialogue; after many viewings I know some of the lines by heart, but continue to savor them just the same.

As has been mentioned here before, this film may have in turn inspired the release of several films the next year with the theme of a bad man reformed, at least in part, by the love of a strong good woman. Examples include YELLOW SKY, starring Gregory Peck and Anne Baxter; BLOOD ON THE MOON with Robert Mitchum and Barbara Bel Geddes, plus Walter Brennan in a Harry Carey type role; and FOUR FACES WEST starring Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.

James Edward Grant only directed one other film, but he wrote the screenplays for many Wayne films over the years. Films with Grant screenplays reviewed here in the past include BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY (1951), which was produced by Wayne; Wayne's HONDO (1953); and the Richard Widmark Western THE LAST WAGON (1956).

The little boy playing Penny's brother was named Steven Grant; it was his only film. A relative of the writer-director?

ANGEL AND THE BADMAN has had multiple DVD releases, including this one. It's also had many VHS releases.

The copy I watched this time around was recorded some time ago from Turner Classic Movies, and it was an excellent print.

Most highly recommended.

Update: ANGEL AND THE BADMAN is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.

2018 Update: I wrote more on this film for Classic Movie Hub.


Blogger barrylane said...


A grand review. Two sidebars: Irene Rich had a fascinating life and career worthy of investigation and conversation. Four faces West had Charles Bickford, not Walter Brennan. Otherwise, we are on the same page.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi! I remember seeing Irene Rich in the pre-Code STRANGERS MAY KISS. What a lovely lady, in both films. I'll have to make it a point to learn more.

I think perhaps you misinterpreted my reference to Brennan; I mentioned him being in BLOOD ON THE MOON, but coming just before I mention FOUR FACES WEST, it could have looked like I had him in the wrong movie at a quick glance! If there's another spot I'm not catching, do let me know -- I like to fix any errors.

Thanks and best wishes,

8:10 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

You are correct. My misinterpretation.

8:24 AM  
Blogger grandoldmovies said...

This movie is one of my faves also. I like Gail Russell in it; as you point out, her character is direct about her feelings, and Russell is charmingly uncomplicated in those scenes. I also like its theme of redemption. One influence that I think may have been on this film is Wayne's Ringo Kid from 'Stagecoach'; like Quirt, Ringo is a basically good man who's badness comes from a desire for revenge; and then who is also reformed by a woman's love.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Great review, Laura. I love this movie too. I bought a public domain DVD of it which was just slightly out of focus and gave me a headache, but was riveted all the same - such a vulnerable performance by John Wayne, daringly playing against type. I have now bought a hopefully better official release from Universal, though I haven't watched this as yet.

I wondered, have you heard Johnny Cash's song 'Angel and the Badman'?
It really has a feeling of the film about it, and is presumably also about Cash himself. The sound on this is a bit ropey, but worth a listen:
I think Johnny Cash must have had a bit of a thing about John Wayne films as he also did a song about 'The Sons of Katie Elder'.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Grand Old Movies, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments on this movie. I like your thematic tie-in with STAGECOACH!

Judy, thanks very much for your comments and the link, I think I heard that Cash song long ago but had completely forgotten it! I appreciate it! ANGEL AND THE BADMAN is definitely a film worth suffering through a poor copy for. :)

Best wishes,

10:25 AM  
Blogger Wheelhouse said...

And don't forget the movie was practically remade as a Harrison Ford vehicle entitled "Witness," albeit updated to modern times with no credit extended to the original with Wayne. I think Ford's character was named John Book, a hearkening back to Wayne's last role in "The Shootist," in which he played "John Bernard Books." My own favorite Wayne films, by the way, are "The Big Trail" (1930), one of the most awe-inspiring movies ever made featuring Wayne's first and arguably best performance (like Elvis, Wayne opened his career with his best work), directed by Raoul Walsh, and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," directed by John Ford. Ford waged a war against Wayne's superb performance in "The Big Trail," by the way, because he loved to pretend that he discovered Wayne as a prop boy and that Wayne's career began with "Stagecoach" in 1939, while the truth is that Walsh discovered Wayne as a prop boy in 1939, named him Wayne because Walsh happened to be reading a biography of "Mad Anthony Wayne" at the time, and cast him as the lead in his widescreen (in 1930!) epic "The Big Trail" shot on location all across the West. Afterward, Wayne became a B picture actor but starred with his name over the title in dozens of movies between the two masterpieces "The Big Trail" and its dwarf brother, "Stagecoach." (You'll see ensemble similarities when you watch the two films that don't favor "Stagecoach.")

4:47 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Laura, I see I commented on this post before, but have returned for a reread after watching the film again. Great piece. I'm especially interested in the other films you compare it to, and will hope to catch up with those too.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Judy! I really enjoyed your post on this film (linked here for other readers!).

I just added a link to my review of FOUR FACES WEST to the post, which was reviewed after my original ANGEL review but before I reposted it a couple years later. Wish I'd thought to add it then! :)

Best wishes,

12:55 PM  

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