The Tarnished Angels (Douglas Sirk, 1957)
Adapted from William Faulkner’s novel Pylon, Douglas Sirk’s lavish black and white film stars regular Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. Reunited two years after the making of the masterpiece, yes I said it, Written on the Wind, this trio does it again for another great Sirk film.
Devlin (Hudson) is a reporter in a small town where a plane racing show is held. We meet the Schumann family of Roger (Stack), LaVerne (Malone), their son Jack (Christopher Olsen), and Jiggs (Jack Carson) the mechanic. However, it is quite clear that LaVerne’s in love with Roger but he lives a passion for flying and this is his only reason to live. He is not interested in human relationships at all. On the other hand, Jiggs is secretly in love with LaVerne and there’s an evocation from Jack that hem ay be his real father.
Their gypsy-like story interests Devlin and he will become attracted to the beautiful LaVerne. AT the same time, Devlin is like Jack’s replacement father and buys him ice cream and gets confidence from him. This is very freudian in the way that Devlin gets intertwined with the little group.
Douglas Sirk often cited The Tarnished Angels as his favorite of all his films. The achievement of his artistic and moral vision was at his best. Even Faulkner himself thought that it was the best filmic adaptation of all his novels. However, it was critically savaged when it came out and was represented as an over acted melodrama. Like most of Sirk’s films, reruns and retrospectives helped to get and appreciate the real value of the feature. Often cited now as one of Rock Hudson’s finest performances.
This being the last film by Sirk on the 1000 Greatest Films of TSPDT that I needed to see, it let me with a general feeling about Douglas Sirk and his melodramas. Not on the list are his Westerns and other films. Even if they are not on any list, they will surely be a part of my future watching priorities. His aesthetics and message were way ahead of their time. Sirk liked to play with the American morale and the American Dream having his outsider vision of the USA just like Fritz Lang and Jean Renoir he made films that understood and commented on this society. An auteur worth the look of his most well-known films and I would highly recommend The Tarnished Angels.