Fallen Angel is a Lost Gem
I've been eagerly anticipating the DVD release of 1945's Fallen Angel, produced and directed by Otto Preminger and starring Dana Andrews. I don't believe the film ever saw a VHS release, and I'd never caught it on tv. The wait over, I was happy to finally get a chance to view the movie, which concerns a shiftless young man, Eric Stanton (Andrews) who wanders into a small California coastal town and is immediately drawn to the town's fickle, cold, yet incredibly luscious waitress, Stella (portrayed by Linda Darnell). The plot thickens as Stanton attempts to woo and wed the town's richest girl, June Mills (Alice Faye) in order to get the money he needs to win the opportunistic Stella's hand. Costarring Charles Bickford, Anne Revere, Bruce Cabot, John Carradine, and Percy Kilbride. The story might have appeared far-fetched, but Darnell (in one of her best performances) is so alluring as the cool, tough Stella it's easy to believe the film's premise, which has the town's entire male population passionately in love with her and spending ALL their free time at the diner where Stella works.
I enjoyed Angel a lot, and didn't solve this "whodunnit" until the final reel. The movie serves as a worthly follow-up to Preminger and Andrews' previous collaboration in Laura; given the quality of the production, the cast, and the director, it's surprising the film wasn't released prior to this new DVD. It's certainly one of my favorites in the 'Fox Film Noir' line, along with Laura, Nightmare Alley, Panic in the Streets, and Kiss of Death. The print is excellent, especially considering the film's "neglected" status. If you're into mystery/noir, don't pass up this Angel.
A side note: Faye reportedly was extremely upset during the shoot, thinking she wasn't being photographed attractively; she also believed the studio was favoring Darnell. Therefore, immediately following the movie's completion, Faye ended her starring career at Fox (she'd return to the studio seventeen years later for the State Fair remake). Ironically, although it's undeniable Darnell's a stunner who dominates her scenes, Faye does fine work in a rare dramatic role, and should have been proud of her contribution to the film.