Angel on My Shoulder (1946): Archie Mayo’s Fantasy Thriller, Starring Paul Muni and Claude Rains

Archie Mayon directed Angel on My Shoulder, a strange fantasy feature, starring Paul Muni and Claude Rains in a tale about a deal between the Devil and a dead man.

An independent production, the movie was produced by Charles R. Rogers and David W. Siegel, directed by Archie Mayo, and written by Harry Segall and Roland Kibbee

Harry Segall was sort of an expert of this sub-genre, also having scripted Here Comes Mr. Jordan and the play “Heaven Can Wait.”

After his prison release, gangster Eddie Kagle is killed by his crime partner crime, Smiley Williams. Kagle ends up in Hell, where “Nick” offers him a chance to avenge his own death in exchange for help. Kagle looks exactly like Judge Frederick Parker, an upright man who is causing Nick distress because he is too honest.

Nick fears that Parker may cause him more anxiety in future, as he is running for state governor. Nick wants to destroy Parker’s reputation and Kagle agrees to have his soul transferred into Parker’s body. But as soon as Kagle appears as Parker, odd things happen. Kagle pursues his goal, but everything he does to ruin Judge Parker’s reputation just makes Parker look better.

Along the way, Kagle falls in love with Barbara Foster (Anne Baxter), the judge’s fiancée, causing him to question his values and eventually rebel against Nick.

Nick suggests that Kagle shoots Williams, but instead Kagle confronts the man with the truth.  Shocked and frightened, Williams backs away and falls out an window to his death.

Nick, defeated, takes Kagle back to Hell, leaving Judge Parker in better position than before. Nick threatens to make the reformed Kagle’s punishment more painful, but Kagle blackmails his would-be tormentor.  He asks to be made a trustee, and Nick reluctantly agrees.

Due to commercial considerations, the producer changed the film’s original title, Me and Satan, into Angel on My Shoulder.

This was vet director Mayo’s last feature before his retirement.

Cast
Paul Muni as Eddie Kagle/Judge Fredrick Parker
Anne Baxter as Barbara Foster
Claude Rains as Nick
Onslow Stevens as Dr. Matt Higgins
George Cleveland as Albert
Erskine Sanford as Minister
Marion Martin as Mrs. Bentley
Hardie Albright as Smiley Williams

Credits:

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography: James Van Trees
Edited by Asa Boyd Clark
Production company: Premier Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: September 20, 1946
Running time: 100 minutes