The Tarnished Angels

1957, Movie, NR, 91 mins

Review

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The best-ever adaptation of a Faulkner novel for the screen, directed with passion and perception by Sirk. The once underrated director, now recognized as a master of implicitly subversive melodrama, draws excellent portrayals from Hudson (who had come a long way as an actor by this point), Stack, Malone, and Carson in an authentic and stimulating Depression-era drama of racing pilots and daredevil exploits.

Stack arrives in New Orleans in 1932 with his barnstorming troupe, his wife Malone, his son, Olsen, and his loyal-unto-death mechanic, Carson. They have arrived to participate in an air show and race, with Stack hoping to win the big prize money with a dilapidated plane. Hudson, an idealistic reporter for one of the local newspapers, is assigned to write some features about the air show, so he interviews Stack and his family, intrigued by their gypsyish lifestyle. As he comes to know these people, his initial sarcastic attitude toward them changes to one of respect. Middleton, a wealthy old man who lusts after Malone, gives Stack a plane to fly in the air show, but wants Malone in return. Stack, meanwhile, proves himself master of the air until his plane develops a problem while turning the last pylon to win the race.

The acting is first-rate here, and the script is outstanding, full of wit, black humor, and occasional fine poetic monologues, especially the lines delivered by Stack when he wistfully looks back upon WWI and those of Hudson when he returns drunk to his newspaper and describes the lives of the nomads of the air. Sirk does a marvelous job with his action scenes, all of which appear realistic. Faulkner saw this film and considered it the best picture ever made of his work. The author based much of his story on the exploits of his own brother, Dean Faulkner, who was a barnstorming pilot in the early 1930s. leave a comment

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The Tarnished Angels
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