Fallen Angel (1945): Preminger’s Film Noir, Starring Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, and Alice Faye

Otto Preminger directed Fallen Angel as a follow-up film noir to his sleeper hit Laura, in the previous year, which also starred Dana Andrews and, of course, Gene Tierney.
Overall, though, Fallen Angel is inferior to Laura in both the dramatic and stylistic aspects.
Our Grade: B- (**1/2* out of *****)
Kicked off a bus traveling cross-country for not being able to pay his fare, down-and-out press agent Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) ends up in Walton, a small coastal town in California.
Stanton fast-talks Joe Ellis (Olin Howland) into giving him a place to stay for the night in exchange for promoting Professor Madley (John Carradine), a “mentalist” whose show Ellis manages.
While in Walton, Stanton meets June Mills (Alice Faye), a wealthy but reclusive woman, and also courts Sella (Linda Darnell), a sexy waitress at the local diner.
When Ellis and the professor pull up stakes after a successful engagement, Stanton stays behind, hoping to win Stella, a gold digger who has no interest in Stanton unless he has money.
Stanton then plans to marry June, take her money, divorce her, and get Stella. Stanton and June proceeds with the marriage, but things change when suddenly Stella turns up dead.
Mark Judd (Charles Bickford), a retired cop-turned-detective, is investigating the murder. The initial suspect is Dave Atkins (Bruce Cabot), Stella’s ex-boyfriend, but soon Judd becomes suspicious of Stanton.
Stanton flees Walton for San Francisco, with June, but he quickly abandons her after taking her money.  However, he returns to her when June is charged with Stella’s murder.
In the last reel, Stanton returns to Pop’s Eats, where Judd is waiting.  It turns out that Judd is the killer, having found out that Stella had agreed to marry someone else rather than wait for divorce.  Judd pulls out his gun, but Pop wrestles it away, and Judd is arrested.

Outside, when June asks Stanton where they are going, he tells her, “Home.”

One of the film’s major problems is the lack of chemistry between Dana Andrews, who gives a one-dimensional performance (mostly tough and angry) and Alice Faye, who seems uncomfortable (perhaps miscast).

Alice Faye

Fallen Angel marked a change of pace for Alice Faye, who was better known for her big-budget and lavish musicals in the 1930s and 1940s.  However, she was unhappy with the way Preminger edited her performance, a good deal of which was simply cut out.  In fact, Faye was so disappointed with the experience that she quit screen acting altogether and didn’t appear in another film for 17 years–until the musical “State Fair,” in 1962.

Credits:

Produced and directed by Otto Preminger
Screenplay by Harry Kleiner, based on Fallen Angel by Marty Holland
Music by David Raksin
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Edited by Harry Reynolds
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date: October 26, 1945 
Running time: 98 minutes

Cast
Alice Faye as June Mills Stanton
Dana Andrews as Eric Stanton
Linda Darnell as Stella
Charles Bickford as Mark Judd
Anne Revere as Clara Mills
Bruce Cabot as Dave Atkins
John Carradine as Professor Madley
Percy Kilbride as Pop
Olin Howland as Joe Ellis