Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Lost Angel (1943) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

After spending last weekend at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival, this weekend has been a great time to relax at home and catch up on a few screeners!

This afternoon I watched an old favorite: Margaret O'Brien in MGM's LOST ANGEL (1943), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

I first saw LOST ANGEL on local TV at a young age; I suspect the film was my first exposure to Margaret O'Brien, not to mention the marvelous Marsha Hunt.

I couldn't have known as a child that I'd be privileged to see each of these actresses in person multiple times over the years! Marsha, in fact, was at Cinecon last weekend to view her film THE ACCUSING FINGER (1936). I'm happy to report she will celebrate her centennial birthday a month from now!

The still of Hunt and O'Brien at the right is part of my personal collection, acquired when I was a teenager. It's an original still with a 1943 date stamp on the reverse side.

I've seen LOST ANGEL multiple times over the years, though it had been at least a dozen years since my last viewing. I was happy to find that it has only become more charming with the passage of time, especially as my admiration for Hunt and the rest of the cast has grown. They just don't make family movies like they used to!

O'Brien plays Alpha, a foundling who is raised "scientifically" by a group of professors to see if they can turn out someone a lot smarter than the average child.

After being interviewed by a reporter named Mike (James Craig), six-year-old Alpha is inspired to run away from the institute where she's been raised and discover the real world -- not to mention "magic" which Mike has told her about.

The notion of a child raised without parental love is a wee bit disturbing, but the professors are kindly, and since the premise of the film is Alpha finding a loving family, it works.

It's an amusing, gentle tale in which a gun-wielding crook (Keenan Wynn) is no threat; instead he finds himself reading Alpha fairy tales -- and then, after he stumbles over the words, she ends up reading to him! The film is more humorous and less tear-jerking than some of O'Brien's other films.

Craig and Hunt are charming, and Hunt even gets a chance to sing "I've Got You Under My Skin" in a nightclub scene.

I've written in the past that MGM often put Craig in films with child actors; he had a good way with them. In interviews O'Brien has discussed having a crush on Craig and being jealous of Hunt since she was playing his girlfriend! Craig and Hunt had also appeared together in THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943), and Craig would reteam with O'Brien in OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945); each of those films is classic MGM Americana at its best.

LOST ANGEL's sterling supporting cast includes Alan Napier, Donald Meek, Sara Haden, Henry O'Neill, Elisabeth Risdon, Philip Merivale, Donald Curtis, and Kathleen Lockhart. William Bishop and Russell Gleason are among Craig's reporter pals. Ava Gardner has a nice bit part with lines as a hat check girl. Child actors Robert "Bobby" Blake and Bobby Driscoll also make appearances.

LOST ANGEL was directed by Roy Rowland. It was filmed in black and white by Robert Surtees. The running time is 91 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is an excellent print. This disc includes the trailer.

Coming soon: A review of O'Brien's BIG CITY (1948).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Patrick said...

Another fine review and I agree with you,they don't make family films like this anymore.
But I am glad they are still trying,the remake of Anne of Green Gables with Ella Ballentine is very strong and worth viewing....

4:50 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I just love this film, and O'Brien, Hunt and Mr. Craig. The latter pair at their best in The Human Comedy, and that is quite good.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Putting it on my wishlist!

5:13 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for your feedback. Barrylane, glad to know you also love the film -- like you I admire THE HUMAN COMEDY, which I need to revisit and review here at some point!

Patrick, I haven't seen that ANNE remake, thanks for the feedback.

Hamlette, let me know if you check it out!

Best wishes,

10:31 AM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I will try to! My kids love Margaret O'Brien in Meet Me in St. Louis (for a while, we called our youngest "Tootie" after her character in that), so I'm thinking we might all like this one!

12:41 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I'm recording this one as I haven't seen it in years, but just reading the title filled me with warm memories. Loved your article.

5:26 AM  

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