Film Notes: Black Angel (1946) directed by Roy William Neill


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USA / 81 minutes / bw / Universal Pictures Dir: Roy William Neill Pro: Tom McKnight and Roy William Neill Scr: Roy Chanslor Story: based on the novel by Cornell Woolrich Cine: Paul Ivano. Mus: Frank Skinner. Cast: Dan Duryea (Martin Blair), June Vincent (Catherine Bennett), Peter Lorre (Marko), Broderick Crawford (Captain Flood), Constance Dowling (Mavis Marlowe), Wallace Ford (Joe), Hobart Cavanaugh (Jake), Freddie Steele (Lucky), John Phillips (Kirk Bennett), Ben Bard (Bartender), Archie Twitchell (George Mitchell). Release Date: 2 August 1946 (USA)

Summary Plot: Has-been alcoholic songwriter Martin Blair goes to Los Angeles exclusive Wilshire House apartments to visit his estranged wife, popular singer Marvis Marlowe, but is refused entrance by the doorman per Marvis’ instructions. Martin sends up a gift of a small heart brooch and, while waiting outside the building, overhears a man receiving permission to see Marvis. Despondent, Martin goes to a bar to get drunk, then, as he often does, his friend Joe takes him home to his apartment and locks him in for the night. After midnight that same night, musician Kirk Bennett goes to see Marvis and, finding her apartment door unlocked and hearing her recording of “Heartbreak” playing, goes inside to wait. After a few moments, Bennett wanders around the apartment and finds Marvis in her bedroom, dead, with the brooch beside her. Bennett hurries out to use the phone, but upon hearing a noise coming from the bedroom, returns and notices the brooch is missing. Hoping to catch the culprit, Bennett hastens out to the hall and is promptly locked out when the door shuts. The next day police detective Captain Flood calls on Bennett and his wife, Cathy, a former singer, and Bennett admits that Marvis was blackmailing him. Bennett is tried and found guilty of Marvis’ murder and sentenced to death. Determined to find some way to prove her husband’s innocence, Cathy follows every lead based on each detail of Bennett’s description of that evening. After discovering that Martin wrote “Heartbreak,” Cathy locates him, only to find him in a drunken stupor. When Martin manages to admit he was outside the apartment that night, Cathy accuses him of the murder, until Joe arrives and explains that Martin was home, drunk. Feeling guilty about her outburst, Cathy leaves Martin some money. The next day, when sober, Martin goes to Cathy’s home to return the money and Cathy describes her fruitless efforts to clear her husband. Upon seeing a photograph of Bennett, Martin tells Cathy that Bennett is not the man he saw enter the Wilshire House, and the two decide to work together to find the murderer. (Read the full summary at American Film Institute here)

Black Angel is a film noir on the high end of the B scale. The story is based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1943 novel The Dark Angel, which is in turn based on his 1935 short tale, Murder in Wax. The film, except for the final twist, doesn’t follow closely the novel. It is said that, Woolrich himself, was not left satisfied with the outcome. I have to say that, even if the story line is rather weak, it can be followed with quite some interest. In addition, the film was made with great skill by British director Roy William Neill, in what was going to be his last film, and has the support of an excellent cinematography by Paul Ivano and a good performance by Dan Duryea.

Notas de cine: Ángel negro (1946), dirigida por Roy William Neill

Argumento: Hollywood, años 40. La policía encuentra en un apartamento el cadáver de la cantante y “femme fatale” Mavis Marlowe. El principal sospechoso es Kira Bennett, antiguo amante de la mujer. Cuando la policía averigua que Mavis había estado chantajeando a Bennett, éste es arrestado y condenado a muerte. Su esposa y el marido alcohólico de Mavis son los únicos que creen en su inocencia y se unirán para descubrir al auténtico culpable en una auténtica carrera contrarreloj. (Filmaffinity)

Angel Negro es una película de cine B negro que puede situarse entre las mejores de su categoría (cine comercial, de bajo presupuesto y sin demasiadas pretensiones artísticas). La historia está basada en la novela de 1943 de Cornell Woolrich The Dark Angel, que a su vez está basada en su relato breve de 1935, Murder in Wax. La película, excepto por el giro final, no sigue de cerca a la novela. Se dice que, el propio Woolrich, no quedó satisfecho con el resultado. Tengo que decir que, aunque el argumento es más bien débil, puede ser seguido con bastante interés. Además, la película fue realzada con gran destreza por el director británico Roy William Neill, en la que sería su última película, y cuenta con el apoyo de una excelente fotografía de Paul Ivano y una buena actuación de Dan Duryea.

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