Thursday, March 17, 2016
She's a Housewife. He's a Songwriter. Together, They Fight Crime!
We don't expect Film Noir and Hard-Boiled stories to reflect real-life in the way crimes are committed or investigated. The Hard-Boiled universe is not the real world. It plays by its own rules and, by golly, you'd better not try to tell it to do otherwise!
But a good Hard-Boiled or Noir story will immerse you and make you believe its true. That's one of the things that makes Black Angel (1946) so good. It takes a silly idea, treats that idea seriously, builds a coherent story around it, then makes us believe it.
Mavis Marlowe (Constance Downing) is a blackmailing, ruthless Femme Fatale. Generally, this is a character type that sticks around for the entire film. But she actually gets herself strangled to death pretty early on.
The cops soon tag Kirk Bennett for the crime and find more than enough evidence to get a conviction. Kirk is soon languishing on Death Row.
But his wife Catherine firmly believes he's innocent. Desperately, she tracks down Marty Blair, an alcoholic songwriter who was once married to Mavis and had good reason for wanting her dead. But Blair has an air-tight alibi.
But this leads to a housewife/songwriter team-up. Pooling what they know, they determine that a brooch missing from the crime scene would finger the real killer and they soon find good reason to believe a local nightclub owner (Peter Lorre in a typically perfect performance) is the real killer. Fortunately, Catherine can sing, so she and Marty get a gig together at the club, surreptitiously looking for the brooch whenever they have the chance.
Black Angel is a wonderful little Film Noir--smart, suspenseful and full of great character actors in the supporting roles.