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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
During the location shooting in San Diego of this film, Robert Stack's wife was about to have their first child. While filming the tense scene where Stack propositions his own wife (played by Dorothy Malone), suddenly a plane flew right by the cameras with letters tailing four feet tall proclaiming IT'S A GIRL! Rock Hudson had arranged to have the hospital call immediately when the news came and hired a stunt pilot to tow the message behind the plane. Stack was deeply moved by Hudson's generosity, saying in his autobiography, "It's a moment I've never forgotten. Anybody who tells me that Rock Hudson isn't a first-class gent had better put up his dukes." See more »
When Laverne does her parachute jump, she is seen in close shots hanging by her arms from a trapeze-style bar. However in the longer shots, she is seen to be in a normal parachute harness as she lands. 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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Starring Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, Robert Stack, Jack Carson and an uncredited offscreen violinist hired, apparently, to let us know when we're supposed to feel moved during certain scenes.
Otherwise, without that violinist, who could tell? Douglas Sirk directed this in between (starring the same leads) "Written on the Wind" and (different leads) "Imitation of Life." For various reasons, those are two of the greatest and most entertaining melodramas ever filmed.
On every level, "Tarnished Angels" was phoned in.
George Zuckerman's script intermittently strives for Faulknerian something or other, particularly in Hudson's drunken newsroom monologue in the last reel. But nobody ever talked Faulknerian in real life so it sounds like pseudo-poetic "depth" when it's really just Woolworth pretension.
Maybe better actors could have carried it off, but we'll never know because "Tarnished Angels" is the nadir of everybody's career.
Hudson, thankfully, went on to find his true screen persona as a light comedian with Doris Day. Here, early on, he already looks slightly soft in the face, though still handsome. (But Robert Stack is handsomer, and strips to a t-shirt to boot.) Hudson just reads weak and incompetent as an actor here. One views "Tarnished Angels" from the retrospective of the present and thinks, "Damn, he's dull." Nice guy, but mediocre.
Dorothy Malone? Same thing. You can't help liking her on screen, though her range consists of about three expressions, all phony.
Offscreen, you intuit Malone was a great, down-to-earth, loving gal. Heaven knows she was pretty. But she's so busy "playing" sultry, seductive, sexy and sinful -- jutting her chin defiantly, lowering her eyes and generally imitating Lauren Bacall -- you just want her to retire and go back to Texas and find suburban love and happiness as somebody's wife and mother. Consistently miscast by Hollywood as a sex symbol, she's like watching the president of the PTA, or your Mom, bleached under contract to play "slutty."
Her most (perhaps only) fully realized dynamic performance was in "Man of a Thousand Faces." She was memorable.
Even the great Jack Carson comes off half-mast in "Tarnished Angels." If you pay attention, it's because of the lines. He's fine, except when the dialogue requires him to be "poignant."
Robert Stack is Robert Stack is Robert Stack.
But the shot compositions and lighting are terrific.
Everybody except the violinist, including Douglas Sirk, phoned this one in.
Before the days of 911.
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