POWER, PASSION, MURDER & PERFUME: “FALLEN ANGEL” (Movie Memory)

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I knew you’d come back Stella.

[She looks at him from her chair in disdain, rubbing her sore feet] Okay.

One of the great Femme Fatales of the Film Noir entrances. With that disgusted and tired look at her boss in the Diner Stella sets the tone for a nearly forgotten masterpiece from Director Otto Preminger: Fallen Angel 1945.

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“Fallen Angel” is overshadowed by Preminger’s Laura 1944 but today it is making a comeback.

This great and newly appreciated Noir from is packed with power, passion and sex. It has more wallop than I expected. In fact the shocker is like a slap in the face from a baby in a pram. It is dark and moody. The great cinematography by Joseph LaShelle turns the combined sunny locations of Orange California and Pismo Beach into a menacing and dangerous fictional beach town drenched in greed, deceit and murder. It’s dark nights are shot in great deep contrast and slashing shadows that illuminate danger rather than mask it. The music by David Raskin is haunting and perfect for the film and the screenplay by Harry Kleiner from the book by Marty Holland is sharp, and biting and in the dance scene at the bar a brilliant example of how to beat the Hayes Code to a pulp with innuendo and wit.

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The cast is outstanding with the lead Dana Andrews as a shady guy on the make willing to do almost anything to get what he wants. Alice Faye turns in a subtle and deeply colored portrait of a spinster about to be taken for a ride along with Anne Revere who shines as always as Faye’s uptight doubting sister. The wonderful Percy Kilbride shows that there is much more to him than Pa Kettle. He is brilliant as a hash house burger slinger in love with the hard edged tough as nails local femme fatale Stella.

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And what a fatal femme she is! Lush, gorgeous and much underrated Linda Darnell makes the aforementioned unforgettable entrance in the film and then proceeds to give us a modern no nonsense dame who knows there is only one way for her to get up and out of Nowheresville California. She cashes in on her looks and sex appeal with a biting glee and desperation that lights up the screen and nearly ignites the sets.

She plays this role with ease and a great command of the screen and shows that she was more than just a beauty in the movies. She was a movie star with great screen talent.
This is a wonderful film with a twist that will leave you gasping. Great movie and a star making performance by Miss Darnell.

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***

White flowers in her jet black hair and a slink and sway that could burn a church to the ground by just walking past it leads me to ponder the type of perfume Stella would wear? Fracas is a little to easy a choice and came out a year or so after the film. She may wear white flowers in her hair but she is too earthy and hard to be that obvious. L’Air du Temps is to soft and lovely for this Siren.  Those white flowers are a hiding her spiders web… she would be more pungent and almost too sweet, like near rotting plums and peaches about to turn brown in the sun. And there it is. the dark purple of Stella’s soul, bruised by too many men trying to trap her and leaving her hard and distrusting. She would wear Edmund Roudnitska’s dense and dangerous Femme from Rochas (1944) It’s dry Chypre in constant battle with the lush plum fruitiness of it makes perfect sense. Spicy, and above all like Stella, earthy and in your face. Oakmoss, leather, benzion, amber, cinnamon and vanilla add to the always changing and deceptive nature of Femme. It is indeed well named and arrived on the world fragrance stage at just the right time and place to match and meet on the Hollywood sound-stages the very fascinating creature, the deadly and enticing, Femme Fatale.

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