In Angel Face, Robert Mitchum, the poster boy of film noir, signs off on the genre with his last great portrait of doom. As Jessup, Mitchum is a hunk of a man and knows it but his laconic self-assurance belies that fact that all the women he meets in Angel Face, both good and safe (Mary) and evil and possessed (Jean Simmons' Diane, a cute and an attractive but not-so-innocent package of venality and psychosis), overpower him, and the evil one wins out.
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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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Regardless of whether the upcoming Lord of the Rings turns out to be a cinematic milestone, the point is that there are probably some books, whether unfilmable or not, which should remain un-filmed. Even the inoffensive animated version of The Hobbit by Rankin/Bass, which was a lot easier to produce than the forthcoming live-action trilogy will be, illustrates why adapting popular books to movies is rarely successful. The storyline of The Hobbit (Bilbo Baggins goes on trip, finds ring, kills dragons, etc.) is not so powerful that it demands to be retold. And in spite of a good cast of voices and decent animation, the animated film adds nothing to the book. This is usually the case, because the best qualities of books are not the best qualities of movies.
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Things don't turn out too well for Frankie Machine (Sinatra), as the sauce is constantly calling (and causing his drummin' arms to jitter), he has to resort to cheating at card games, and then there's his wife (Eleanor Parker), who's bound to a wheelchair, not to mention her many neuroses.
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Otto Preminger turned his eyes from the legal system (Anatomy of a Murder) to American politics in the underseen and tragically underappreciated Advise and Consent.
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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.