In the 1930's, a First World War flying ace named Roger Schumann is reduced to making appearances on the crash-and-burn circuit of stunt aerobatics. His family are forced to live like dogs while Shumann pursues his only true love, the airplane. When Burke Devlin, a reporter, shows up on the scene to do a "whatever happened to" story on Shumann, he is repulsed by the war hero's diminished circumstances and, conversely, drawn to his stunning wife, LaVerne. Written by
Despite the fact that the story is taking place in the early 1930s, all of Dorothy Malone's clothing, hairstyles and make-up are strictly 1957, the year the picture was filmed. See more »
On the level, what'd you do last night?
Nothing much:just sat up half the night discussing literature and life with a beautiful, half naked blonde.
You better change bootleggers.
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Let's get this straight right off the bat: I have read William Faulkner's novel Pylon, and Douglas Sirk's cinematic adaptaion of it, Tarnished Angels, lives in the original's shadow. Pylon, which for some reason is the only Faulkner novel currently out of print, is one of that glorious author's best works. Still, the film is an excellent achievement. The story's power may be a bit lessened, but Sirk's direction as well as the performances of Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, Robert Stack, and Jack Carson make up for it. And while the plot suffers from reductions, the dialogue, much of which, I'm pretty sure, was not in the novel, is very good. The best scene in the film is Rock Hudson's drunken and passionate speech in the news room near the end of the film. In the novel, the equivalent of that speech is found in a garbage can. The final image of the novel is of the newspaper editor reading Burke Devlin's impassioned, prosaic description of the final pylon race. It's a perfect ending for a novel, but the screenwriter here was right in putting those words, or at least the idea of those words, back into Devlin's mouth.
Tarnished Angels is equal in artistic accomplishment to the other great Sirk film I've seen, Written on the Wind. Both star Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone, but there is a big difference between the two. Written on the Wind is a florid melodrama, the kind that Sirk was famous for. The colors are almost psychedelic, and the level of melodrama makes it feel like the world is about to end. Tarnished Angles is filmed in black and white, and, while it is melodramatic, it never feels like it's going over the edge. Sirk plays it at a level where you can feel the desperation of the characters (the novel, which isn't as prudish (the film, of course, was made under the Hayes Code), depicts a level of loss and desperation that is simply murder; the ending of the film, which I wouldn't exactly call happy, is a hundred times less depressing than that of the novel). But, unlike in Written on the Wind, it never seems like Sirk is laughing at or making fun of the characters in Tarnished Angels. It seems like he meant this film to be an honest adaptation of a great novel. He succeeded quite well. 9/10.
PS: The Criterion Company recently released Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows on DVD. I beg them to release this one next. The version on VHS is cropped from its widescreen glory, and you can tell. It feels very cluttered and claustrophobic, and often the panning and scanning seem choppy. The opening credits keep the widescreen, and it looks like it might be an even more visually spectacular film than I noticed. I really wish that they wouldn't get my hopes up by holding the original aspect ratio through the opening credits. What I want to see one day is the word "CINEMASCOPE" cropped to "EMASC" at the beginning of a film in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.
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