“Love alone can make the fallen angel rise — for only two together can enter Paradise.”
It’s smoldering Darnell who — much to Faye’s reported dismay — really carries the film (indeed, Faye was so upset about this fact that she blamed Preminger for butchering her role through editing, and infamously walked away from Fox Studios before her contract was up). While wide-eyed, leggy Darnell was never a truly accomplished actress (my first film appreciation professor — during a discussion of 1950’s No Way Out — snarkily pointed out that Darnell’s idea of acting was to pout or sneer), she radiates insouciant sex appeal, and fits the femme fatale bill perfectly.
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Therefore, when she dies halfway through the film, so does any inherent tension in the story. The issue of how poor, duped Faye will respond to news of Andrews’ deception fails to hold our attention; meanwhile, her more intriguing spinster sister (Anne Revere) — with a “love lost” story of her own — is given far too little screen time. While many critics have noted that the film’s unsatisfying denouement is its weakest element — and I’ll agree — ultimately it’s just a capstone on what is mediocre noir at best.
P.S. Ironically, the following year, many of the key plot and character elements of Fallen Angel — a roadside California diner, a troubled drifter, an ambitious femme fatale waitress, etc. — would show up in the superior noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: