Otto Preminger's Fallen Angel is a textbook example of well-crafted noir. It has the just right mix of atmosphere, characters, and flim-flammery. The mysterious Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) arrives in a small coastal California town and stops in at a diner called, naturally, Pop's Eats, to do some advance promotion for an itinerant phony psychic who will be putting on a show the next night. Within moments, he's deeply in love with the waitress, the classicly noir Stella (Linda Darnell), a real looker with great gams and a tough attitude. Those lips, those eyes, those barbed remarks... Eric's in love.
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What follows is some of the best dialogue to come out of the postwar era, a parlor room mystery as we dig into the pasts of the three women to try and figure out which husband has had enough. Keeps you on the edge of your seat but, boy, does the film take itself seriously at times.
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He's also remembered as a patch-eyed, hard-drinking sentimentalist. He regularly chewed his handkerchief and, depressed from his binges, needed long recovery periods before being able to work. But his genius with moving images made his movies a part of our collective cinema psyches. This DVD gives us a chance to join Ford at his own level, where the sharp blacks and whites are as he originally intended, dialogue and plot are minor, and image means everything.
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Rex Harrison was rarely the go-to guy for comedy, but he's put to incredible use in Unfaithfully as a British composer/conductor in America. His younger wife (Linda Darnell) and legion of fans are fawning, and he's obviously wealthy beyond his dreams, with servants galore. We spend the first half of the film getting to know Harrison's Sir Alfred in typical screwball fashion, but at the midpoint Alfred learns that wife Daphne may be having an affair with Alfred's secretary.
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Cinema's best-known (and only, as near as I can tell) Hispanic hero came to the screen in this, one of his best-known incarnations, with Tyrone Power in the role. While the 1940 Mark of Zorro has a swooping score (nominated for an Oscar) and thrilling swordfights, it borrows much to heavily from the Robin Hood school of filmmaking. Don Diego's love affair with the beautiful Lolita (Linda Darnell) reeks of soap-level melodrama, and all too often it drags down an otherwise thrilling movie.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.