Angel in Exile (1948)

vt Dark Violence
US / 86 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Allan Dwan, Philip Ford Scr: Charles Larson Cine: Reggie Lanning Cast: John Carroll, Adele Mara, Thomas Gomez, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya, Grant Withers, Howland Chamberlin, Art Smith, Paul Fix, Tom Powers, Ian Wolfe, Elsa Lorraine Zepeda, Mary Currier.

Adele Mara as Raquel Chavez.

The movie sets out its stall early, declaring right there in the opening credits that

This is the story of a miracle. To those who do not believe in miracles, we can offer no explanation. We can only point out that the man to whom this one occurred . . . . didn’t believe in miracles either . . .

Like me, he probably didn’t know either why the first ellipsis was there. Whatever the truth about that, the stress on the “miracle” aspect of the plot—here and in most of the rare reviews—is probably why I overlooked Angel in Exile when drawing up the entry list for my Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: the movie isn’t a film noir, but it has sufficient noirish interest to have qualified it for inclusion in that book.

Spring 1939 in California, and Charlie Dakin (Carroll) is released after five years in stir for his part in a heist that netted a million dollars’ worth of gold dust. He’s met at the gate by Ernie Coons (Smith), his partner in the heist, who’s been keeping the loot safe all through Charlie’s enforced absence. Ernie reckons the two of them can now split the proceeds; trouble is, the other two participants in the heist, Max Giorgio (MacLane) and Carl Spitz (Fix), have a different idea.

John Carroll as Charlie (left) and Art Smith as Ernie.

Ernie’s cunning plan for laundering the gold is to buy for a song an abandoned mine in the Arizona mountains, stow the dust there, then pretend to dig it up. It’s a good plan, too, until Max and Carl turn up. Another problem is that a local land-management officer, J.H. Higgins (Chamberlin), swiftly guesses what’s going on and demands to be cut in as well.

A further complication is the involvement of the inhabitants of a local village Continue reading

Big Street, The (1942)

US / 88 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Irving Reis Pr: Damon Runyon Scr: Leonard Spigelgass Story: “Little Pinks” (1940; Collier’s Magazine) by Damon Runyon Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, Barton MacLane, Eugene Pallette, Agnes Moorehead, Sam Levene, Ray Collins, Marion Martin, William Orr, George Cleveland, Vera Gordon, Louise Beavers, Juan Varro, Art Hamburger, Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra.

Runyon’s tales are, of course, not noir, and yet they share noir’s milieu so knowingly that it can be hard to ignore their claims. In the case of MIDNIGHT ALIBI (1935) I was sufficiently persuaded of those claims to include an entry in the Encyclopedia; The Big Street might also have been a candidate, had I had the space.

The movie opens with scrolled text beginning:

Loser’s Lane—the sidewalk in front of Mindy’s Restaurant on Broadway—is not as high-toned a trading center as Wall Street, but the brokers are a lot more colorful.

 Generally they prefer to put their money on a prizefight or horserace, but when the action slows, anything can happen and it usually does. . . .

What’s happening today in Mindy’s is the Eating Championship of the World, organized by the merry lowlifes Professor B. (Collins) and Horsethief (Levene), the dueling trenchermen being Mr. Nicely Nicely Johnson (Pallette) and Mr. Joel Duffle (fittingly played by Hamburger); the hoodlum Case Ables (MacLane) has a hefty stake in Nicely Nicely winning. However, Nicely Nicely has fallen ill with dyspepsia, owing to unwise snacking. The Mindy’s busboy Little Pinks (Fonda)—more fully Augustus Pinkerton II—offers the services in Nicely Nicely’s place of his lodging-house co-boarder Violette Shumberger (Moorehead), but she proves inadequate to the task and the vicious Ables loses his stash.

Lucille Ball as a chanteuse facing an uncertain future.

The event’s the opportunity for Pinks to meet Ables’s chanteuse moll Gloria Lyons (Ball), whose yappy little dog Baby Continue reading