7 May 2002 | bbailey-1
A fairly good 50s film: most of it very watchable
'Band of Angels' is an unusual 1950s melodrama with a fairly good cast. The script is not free of a few groaners, and some of the characterizations call for some endurance. The viewers' introduction to Gable's character, for one, is of a US bully from the we-saved-the-world 1950s. Also, a very cliche'd sailor friend's drinking scene at Gable's mansion was sheer torture for this viewer, and an excess of fawning slaves gathering to sing their Mass'ahs praises at the drop of a hat didn't help.
That now out of the way, there's more at work that to my mind saves this movie. Supported by Sidney Poitier and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Clark Gable and Yvonne deCarlo play the lead pair, who openly 'live in sin' and are otherwise reprehensible. All the same, both are portrayed sympathetically. Set in the 'Gone with the Wind' period, Gable plays an ex-slaver and cotton-grower who once prowled his plantation's slave shacks for his jollies. She is the shameful issue of a liaison with a slave on another plantation, and it's even suggested that she fools around on Gable while he's away on business.
This movie's clearly no gem, but it's no dreck. However maudlin and overdone, its basic theme of the redemptive power of love is fairly well handled. The era and settings are unusual and atmospheric enough to hold the viewer's interest, and I had no difficulty with plot over-entanglements even if my credulity was strained now and then.
It may well have been Yvonne De Carlo's best film, and Gable also did a fair job with an okay script (something not unusual while the studios struggled to survive). Sidney Poitier has a small but meaty role as an educated slave with a deep grudge. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. got his first speaking part in this film, and acquits himself smoothly with limited material. Max Steiner grinds out a spotty sountrack that's effective only in the chase scenes, and then only just ...yet a Rozsa or Korngold he never was.
The Warnercolour's glorious, and the art direction is especially fine, with atmospheric scenes especially in the Gable character's New Orleans pied-a-terre and (less so) in his plantation mansion. Mind you, it's all 100% 1950s Hollywood, and very pristine and polished ...but let's not expect too much from the era, when Edith Head primped up the women and the idea of onscreen grime, sweat or facial stubble as far off as spaghetti westerns.
A fairly good film from the 50s, in short: its eventful, sometimes quirky plot, more than passable acting and some unusual settings make most of it very watchable.