|The Tarnished Angels. Robert Stack, Jack Carson, Dorothy Malone, Rock Hudson, Chris Olsen.|
Paholaisen enkelit / Svarta änglar / Ángeles sin brillo. US © 1957 Universal Pictures. PC: Universal International Pictures. P: Albert Zugsmith. D: Douglas Sirk. SC: George Zuckerman – based on the novel Pylon (1935) by William Faulkner. DP: Irving Glassberg – 35 mm – b&w – CinemaScope 2,35:1. Special photography: Clifford Stine. AD: Alexander Golitzen, Alfred Sweeney. Set dec: Oliver Emett, Russel A. Gausman. Cost: Bill Thomas. Makeup: Bud Westmore. M: Frank Skinner. M supervisor: Joseph Gershenson. Flute: Ethmer Roten. Stock music: Henry Mancini, Herman Stein. "Old Folks at Home" (Stephen Foster). S: Leslie I. Carey, Corson Jowett. ED: Russell F. Schoengarth. Loc: San Diego (California). Studio: Universal Studios (Universal City).
C: Rock Hudson (Burke Devlin), Robert Stack (Roger Shumann), Dorothy Malone (LaVerne Shumann), Jack Carson (Jiggs), Robert Middleton (Matt Ord), Alan Reed (Colonel Fineman), Alexander Lockwood (Sam Hagood), Chris Olsen / Christopher Olsen (Jack Shumann), Robert J. Wilke (Hank), Troy Donahue (Frank Burnham), Betty Utey (dancing girl).
Helsinki premiere: 30.5.1958, distributor: Oy Filmiseppo – telecast 1973: MTV1, 1992: TV3, 2000: YLE TV1, 23.7.2006: YLE TV2 – VET 48639 – K16 – 2500 m / 91 min
Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Douglas Sirk), 28 Sep 2016.
Revisited Douglas Sirk's favourite film which I had seen only on tv 43 years ago.
I have not read William Faulkner's novel Pylon but The Tarnished Angels feels like an adaptation faithful to the spirit of Faulkner. It is a "lost generation" tale with affinities with Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
In the cinema The Tarnished Angels can be compared with flying movies by William A. Wellman (Wings) and Howard Hawks (The Dawn Patrol). Those were WWI movies directly; also The Tarnished Angels is one, albeit indirectly.
The Tarnished Angels is a Great Depression era story set during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. There is a chaotic joy of celebration with an undercurrent of desperation. Because the director is German I was also thinking about affinities with Weimar cinema, its obsession with the fairground / circus / variety world, and I was even thinking about Siegfried Kracauer's analysis of major Weimar motifs such as "the circle as a symbol of chaos". There are the ferris wheels and the carousels and the circle of the daredevil pilots around the three pylons, with outer circles and inner circles. And the entire lifestyle which may turn into a vicious circle.
Douglas Sirk was a WWI veteran, having served in the German Navy (Seekadett bei der Reichsmarine), himself one of the "lost generation". This story is profoundly personal, deeply felt especially in the performance of Robert Stack as the air force veteran Roger Shumann. Roger only feels at home in the air. He is lost on the ground.
For the second time Sirk worked with the producer Albert Zugsmith with whom he made his two best films, Written on the Wind and The Tarnished Angels. And again he has the same trio of actors, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, and Rock Hudson. For the last time Sirk worked with Hudson, an actor whose scope had been revealed by him. The raw nerve of Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone is balanced by the somewhat wooden but reliable presence of Hudson. The chemistry is powerful between the three. The alcoholic ace journalist Burke Devlin (Hudson) enters the life of the two flying desperadoes, Roger and LaVerne Shumann, in search of a scoop, even a scandalous one. But Jack, the little son of Roger and LaVerne, wakes the better angels of Burke's nature, and he changes into their friend and helper.
The action scenes are well directed. The entire cinematography by Irving Glassberg is marvellous in black and white and scope. Sirk's mise-en-scène is at its most exciting in this film. There is a rewarding feeling for the spectator that in this movie Sirk wants to give us his very best.
A mostly good looking, much used print.
OUR PROGRAM NOTE EDITED FROM JON HALLIDAY'S SIRK ON SIRK, RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER, AND OTHER SOURCES BY SAKARI TOIVIAINEN BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: