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Paramount paid $8,500 for Melchior Lengyel's play. The film length was gradually cut from 2916.94m (11 reels) to 2478.33m (nine reels) after pre-release showings in New York City and six California cities from 25 July 1937 to 13 September 1937. See more »
Silly how upsetting a little thing like saying goodbye to one's husband can be.
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ANGEL (Paramount, 1937), produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, returns Marlene Dietrich to sophisticated comedy following her amusing role in DESIRE (1936) as a continental jewel thief. As much as this production could very well have been a cute romantic fantasy of an angel assigned from Heaven out to guide a troubled individual on Earth, what resulted was a domestic story about a bored wife who acquires the pet name of "Angel" from a complete stranger while her husband is away. While Dietrich's DESIRE proved favorable, ANGEL did not.
The story begins on an airplane bound for France where Lady Maria Barker (Marlene Dietrich) registers at the Hotel Imperial. Coming to the Club De La Russia, 314 Rue De La Tour, to visit with an old friend, The Grand Duchess Anna Dmitrievna (Laura Hope Crews), the club's owner steps away to take care of matters, leaving Maria to step into a private sitting room where she encounters Anthony Halton (Melvyn Douglas), an American looking to meet someone for an amusing time in Paris. Mistaken for the Duchess, Maria agrees to show the gentleman around. After dinner, the couple rest on a park bench where Maria, refusing to give her name, finds herself embraced and kissed by a man who not only expresses his true love for her after only a short time, but dubs her "Angel." As breaking away to buy her a bouquet of violets, Halton returns to find his "Angel" gone. Sir Frederick Barker (Herbert Marshall), a British nobleman and delegate to the League of Nations, returns from Geneva to his British home and his wife, Maria. Unaware of her unhappiness and their dull existence together, things begin to change upon the visitation of her husband's wartime friend, a man wanting to meet his "Angel."
Taken from the play by Melchor Lengyel, ANGEL contains some variations lifted from Lubitsch's own 1932 musical, ONE HOUR WITH YOU, where a doctor (Maurice Chevalier) innocently encounters a flirtatious married woman (Genevieve Tobin), who turns out to be the best friend of his wife (Jeanette MacDonald) whom she invited to their home. As with the husband and guest pretending to not to lead on their previous encounter to his spouse, Dietrich's Maria and Douglas' Halton do the same, but on more on a serious nature. Containing less wit than Lubitsch's previous efforts, the supporting cast contains some of the best known "comedy relief" types on screen, ranging from Edward Everett Horton and Ernest Cossart as the household servants, to the daffy Dennie Moore playing Cossart's fiancée, Emma McGillicutty. Interestingly all their roles, which might have given the story some life during some dull stretches, are sadly limited. For one of the film's better assets, there's that fine "Angel" theme score composed by Frederick Hollander.
According to Robert Osborne, host on Turner Classic Movies where ANGEL premiered in January 2002 during its tribute to Marlene Dietrich, Lubitsch and Dietrich both had high expectations for this film. In spite of Samson Raphaelson's promising screenplay, the film's box office failure lead to Dietrich's termination from her home studio. Fortunately the label of Dietrich as "box office poison" didn't last long with her reinvention screen persona in the hit western of DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (Universal, 1939) opposite James Stewart.
Virtually unknown and/or forgotten among the film credits of either Dietrich or Lubitsch, ANGEL did get some exposure through its 1990s distribution on home video through MCA/Universal. Possibly viewing ANGEL more as a drama than a comedy might help accept the film for what it is rather than what it's expected to be. (**1/2)
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