Black Angel (1946)

Constance Dowling was a heart breaker. She started her entertainment career by lying about her age — and her occupation to her mother — to get a job as dancer at New York City’s Paradise nightclub. She went on to have a long affair with married director Elia Kazan, which only ended when she left town for Hollywood.

She lived in Italy from 1947 to 1950, where she romanced Italian poet/novelist Cesare Pavese, who committed suicide in 1950 after a lifetime to depression, political worries and the final rejection of Dowling. In his poetry, he refers to her as the “face of springtime,” yet one of his last poems was dedicated to her and mentioned that “death will come and she’ll have your eyes.” He overdosed on barbituates.

In 1955, Dowling married film producer Ivan Tors, who created Sea Hunt, Flipper, Daktari and Gentle Ben. He also produced her last film, Gog, before she retired to have three children and a foster child with Tors.

I’m telling you all this so that you know why she’s the perfect person to play gorgeous singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling), who is the mysterious and murdered character at the heart of this 1946 film noir.

Every man in Mavis’ life is now a suspect, like her drunk musician ex-husband Martin Blair (Dan Duryea, who usually plays the bad guy; interestingly enough his parents didn’t approve of him being an actor, so he worked for six years in advertising until the stress gave him a heart attack and he went for his dream of being a star), sinister nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre!) and Kirk Bennett, who gets busted for the crime.

Now, it’s time for his sainted wife Catherine (June Vincent, again this movie plays against type as Vincent was named Television’s Favorite Homewrecker by TV Guide as so many of her roles involved her stealing husbands and boyfriends) and Blair to learn the truth.

Broderick Crawford shows up as a cop, as does Wallace Ford (who was in Freaks), former National Boxing Association Middleweight Champion of the World Freddie Steele (who doubled for Errol Flynn in Gentleman Jim), former vaudevillian Ben Bard and Junius Matthews (the voice of Rabbit in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons and Archimedes in The Sword in the Stone).

Writer Cornell Woolrich disliked the movie made from his book. He had tons of other films made from his work, including The Leopard ManPhantom LadyThe Return of the WhistlerNight Has a Thousand Eyes and Rear Window. He also had some surprising adaptions made from his stories, like Umberto Lenzi’s Seven Blood Stained Orchids, the 1984 role-playing and video game referencing Cloak and Dagger and the Tobe Hooper director made-for-TV movie I’m Dangerous Tonight.

This is the final movie for director Roy William Neill, who was behind eleven of the fourteen Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies, as well as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and an early 3D film called The Man From M.A.R.S.

Looking for an enjoyable noir? Good. This new Arrow Films release features a brand new restoration from original film elements, new audio commentary by writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode, and a video appreciation of the film by historian Neil Sinyard. 

You can get this blu ray release from Arrow Video.

DISCLAIMER: This movie was sent to us by Arrow. Thanks!

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