Angel Face (1952)

by Paul on November 25, 2012

Post image for Angel Face (1952)

 ★★★★

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Otto Preminger is an underrated filmmaker. His films are a highly enjoyable mixture of all different stories and characters, and each unique film is crafted with such miraculous skill and fervor. His 1952 film noir, Angel Face is no exception.Angel Face (1952)

Frank (Robert Mitchum) is a displaced man trying to find his place in America since his return from WWII. Working as an ambulance driver, he arrives at the home of a wealthy family where the mother may or may not have been the target of a murder plot. Frank meets the woman’s stepdaughter, Diane (Jean Simmons), and she instantly becomes interested in Frank on many levels. When Frank leaves the house, Diane follows him to a diner where she begins some not so innocent flirting. She succeeds in getting Frank to take her, and not his girlfriend, Mary (Mona Freeman), out to dinner.

Diane plots to take Frank away from Mary and is more than willing to do anything to achieve her goal. She convinces him to quit his job at the hospital and come work for her family as a Angel Face (1952)chauffeur. Once he is living over the garage they begin a more intimate relationship, even though Frank suspects that Diane may be attempting to kill her wealthy stepmother in order for her father to gain the inheritance.

Angel Face is a first rate film noir with a delightfully wicked story. The plot works well because Robert Mitchum plays the prototypical Mitchum character, with his bravado and confidence shinning in every scene. He acts exactly the way we expect, he speaks the way we expect and he even smiles the way we have seen him smile a hundred times before. That’s what makes Mitchum so wonderfully enjoyable to watch. We know what we are going to get, and he doesn’t disappoint.

Jean Simmons, on the other hand, is unusually out of character for this film. At several points all of the evidence points toAngel Face (1952) her being a selfish, conniving femmes fatales, but because it is Simmons in the role and not a “Gloria Grahame” style actress, it is hard to believe she is capable of any of the atrocities. She just seems so pure, innocent and sweet. She’s superb in the role and it certainly stands out among her best.

Otto Preminger had mastered the art of the “mystery thriller” at this point in his career. At many different times he seems to be toying with the audience, and you can almost picture a smile on his face. Preminger was constantly pushing the limits of what could be shown in a movie, and Angel Face is no exception. For a film in 1952, there is a sexual frankness and understanding between everyone that is Angel Face (1952)unparalleled. Frank and Mary openly speak about the nature of their relationship in a way that no other film would even try. I was shocked when Diane asked Frank to describe Mary, and he tells her that, “She weighs 105 pounds, stripped.” I can’t think of any other movie from that time that would be that open about a relationship. Leave it to the rebellious Preminger to find some way to sneak something taboo into his film.

 

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Colin November 26, 2012 at 1:41 AM

I’m very fond of Preminger’s work too, especially his stuff throughout the 40s and 50s. I think the reason that his reputation isn’t greater today boils down to the fact he went on a little too long and produced some pretty poor movies in the latter stages of his career. I often feel it might have been better had he decided to call it a day after Bunny Lake is Missing.

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Paul November 26, 2012 at 10:26 AM

I think you’re probably right, but I am glad to hear that you enjoy his work as well. So many of his earlier films have been sensational and I hope that other viewers will continue to watch and appreciate his work in the future. I haven’t ever seen Bunny Lake Is Missing, but I hope to get to some time soon. Thanks for checking in.

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JIM December 6, 2013 at 1:34 PM

I AGREE ABOUT PREMINGER. HE WAS AHEAD OF HIS TIME. I THINK THE REASON HE ISN’T MORE REVERED IS THAT HE EVIDENTLY WAS A FIRST- CLASS BASTARD CAUSING THOSE WHO KNEW HIM TO BE RETICENT TO SING HIS PRAISES.

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Paul December 7, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Well I guess it doesn’t matter much now how he treated others, and we all can just enjoy his masterpieces- even with a few flaws.

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JIM December 9, 2013 at 9:53 AM

AMEN TO THAT! MY TWO FAVES ARE “ANATOMY OF A MURDER” AND “THE CARDINAL.”

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Paul December 9, 2013 at 10:39 AM

“Anatomy of a Murder” is my favorite, but I also have a soft spot for “Laura” and “River of No Return”. I actually pulled out “The Cardinal” just the other day, but haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. It’s been a long time, and I want to make sure I will have three full, uninterrupted hours set aside.

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JIM December 9, 2013 at 10:57 AM

YES, “LAURA” IS A GOOD ONE. HIS CASTING OF CLIFTON WEBB WAS MASTERFUL. AND I DIDN’T KNOW HE DIRECTED “RIVER OF NO RETURN,” ALWAYS ONE OF MY FAVORITE 50′s WESTERNS. IT HAD TO BE ONE OF MARILYN’S FAVORITE ROLES TOO IN THAT SHE GOT TO BE MORE THAN JUST A SEX SYMBOL.

Paul December 9, 2013 at 11:12 AM

“River of No Return” never gets old to me, even though it has a few problems. I’ve heard that it wasn’t the greatest shooting experience for Preminger because of problems with Mitchum and Monroe (not with each other, but rather their own personal problems). I do however think the end result is a fun one.

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JIM December 9, 2013 at 12:26 PM

YES, MITCHUM DIDN’T PUT UP WITH ANY BS AND MARILYN’S PROBLEMS IN MOST OF HER PRODUCTIONS ARE WELL-DOCUMENTED, SO I’M NOT SURPRISED THAT THE SET WAS A TUMULTUOUS ONE, GIVEN PREMINGER’S USUAL DEMEANOR.

I ONCE MET MITCHUM, SORT OF. IT WAS IN 1968 AND I WAS VISITING MY BROTHER WHO LIVED IN WEST HOLLYWOOD. ONE DAY I WENT OUT TO SHOOT SOME POOL. AFTER PLAYING FOR A WHILE WHO SHOULD WALK IN AND START PLAYING ON THE TABLE NEXT TO ME BUT BOB MITCHUM! I WAS AWARE OF HIS REP FOR NOT LIKING TO BE TREATED LIKE A MOVIE STAR SO I DIDN’T ACT LIKE I KNEW IT WAS HE. EVENTUALLY, I ASKED HIM FOR THE TIME SO I COULD AT LEAST SAY I CONVERSED WITH HIM. I THINK HE APPRECIATED NOT BEING FUSSED OVER AND I AM STILL GLAD I PRETENDED NOT TO KNOW WHO HE WAS.

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Paul December 10, 2013 at 8:10 AM

It would be pretty cool to have seen Mitchum. I would be telling that story quite frequently if it had happened to me.

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