Angel Baby (1961): Spiritual Melodrama by Paul Wendko Starring Salome Jen

Directed by Paul Wendko, Angel Baby is a spiritual melodrama, starring Salome Jen in the title role as a woman who believes she has been chosen by God to heal people.

In due course, she is exploited by a promoter and his shrewish, greedy wife (well played by Mercedes McCambridge), who travel the rural South.

The tale centers on her relationship with two men: Burt Reynolds, in his feature debut, plays Hoke Adams, a brutal youngster who assaults her, and George Hamilton, as a sensitive boy who falls for her

Released on May 14, 1961, this expose of evangelism, shot in black-and-white in Florida, has some powerful moments.

The secondary cast includes Joan Blondell and Henry Jones.

Rising star George Hamilton had just made Where the Boys Are, which was a smash hit, but, according to his memoirs, he was determined to make “better, more serious movies”, in part to impress his family of his then-girlfriend Susan Kohner, who has a cameo in the film.

The film was a commercial failure, partly because it suffered in comparison to the far better and similarly-themed, Elmer Gantry, starring Burt Lancaster in his Oscar winning performance.


George Hamilton as Paul Strand

Mercedes McCambridge as Sarah Strand

Salome Jens as Angel Baby

Burt Reynolds as Hoke Adams

Joan Blondell as Mollie Hays

Henry Jones as Ben Hays