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Angel on My Shoulder

Released Sep 20, 1946 1h 41m Fantasy List
Reviews 64% Audience Score 1,000+ Ratings
When a gangster, Eddie Kagle (Paul Muni), is murdered by his childhood friend and business partner, Smiley Williams (Hardie Albright), he's sent to hell. There he meets Nick (Claude Rains), who tries to get him to return to the living to take over the body of Judge Frederick Parker (also Muni). Kagle agrees, enticed by the prospect of seeking revenge on Smiley. But Kagel's attempts to tarnish Parker's reputation backfire, and when he finally confronts Smiley, his frustration has peaked. Read More Read Less

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Angel on My Shoulder

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Critics Reviews

View All (3) Critics Reviews
Nell Minow Movie Mom Rated: 5/5 Jul 25, 2002 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Rated: 2/5 Jun 13, 2005 Full Review Ken Hanke Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) Muni overacts, Rains saves the day Rated: 4/5 Oct 2, 2002 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

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Martin B Many have said it. Muni was a serial over actor. In this movie he wrecks his character being an over the top stereotyple of a gangster complete with every cliche in the book. Scram, take a powder are you kidding me? You know even gangsters could have an appreciation for the expression "when in Rome act as the Romans do" but it this that never happened. This movie was made in a bigone era but still they made Muni's character an oblivious idiot completely uninterested in adjusting to the circumstances he found himself. Watching Muni stealing every scene with his ham handed cartoon vocabulary is just painful especially compared to the great actors that had to do scenes with him. Horrible writing and Muni was the worst choice to interpret the bad writing. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 01/24/23 Full Review steve d The execution isn't as good as the premise Rated 3 out of 5 stars 03/30/23 Full Review matthew d Be careful of the devil you make deals with in life or death. Director Archie Mayo's romantic, black-comedy fantasy Angel on My Shoulder (1946) is a Satanic miracle of black and white cinema. What I thought would be a gangster film noir turns out to immediately be a demonic fantasy that twists into a charming and touching romantic comedy like you've never seen. Angel on My Shoulder is immediately up there with my favorite black and white films ever made. It's sinister darkness, tender romance, playful humor, and inventive filmmaking make Angel on My Shoulder one of cinema's greatest hidden treasures. Writers Roland Kibbee and Harry Segall get unholy with their story about Lucifer making a deal with a dead gangster so that he might thwart the good deeds of a fair judge. It's a shockingly dark and delightfully irreverent tale for 1946, especially funny since it released the same year as the devoutly angelic It's a Wonderful Life. Angel on My Shoulder is a masterpiece of film with Mayo's direction conjuring up Hellfire and soulful possessions all to demonstrate the virtues of free will and choosing against The Devil himself. There's a neat parable about choosing righteousness and outwitting Lucifer that's delivered in a shockingly pleasant manner. Paul Muni is phenomenally funny and effortlessly entertaining as the tough guy gangster Eddie Kagle and Judge Fredrick Parker. No wonder Muni was the biggest actor of the 1930's as his magnetic charisma, intimidating gravitas, and commanding presence is undeniable. Paul Muni is both scary as the brute gangster Eddie Kagle as well as hilarious portraying Judge Parker with a mobster's rough vernacular. His fierce boss manner is clearly an extension of his iconic portrayal as the original Scarface, but Muni has fun with playing up Eddie's brute ways as well as conveying how hurt he was by his poor childhood. Anne Baxter is my favorite actress from The Golden Age of Hollywood and seeing her with Paul Muni and Claude Rains is simply inspired casting. Muni has incredible romantic chemistry with the ethereal Anne Baxter. They're both so natural and fun. Baxter's effervescent beauty, natural charm, and endearing romantic personality. She is both quaint in her flirty comedy scenes, while capturing a soothing romantic aura that is inescapable. Anne Baxter delivers a magical display of romantic realism prowess and deft dramatic skill. How can you not love her? Claude Rains is one of film's greatest portrayals of The Devil on the silver screen with his Lucifer simply titled Nick here in Angel on My Shoulder. His devilish grin and playful blasphemy is honestly some of the most fun I've ever had watching a film. Claude Rains is so fun as Satan because you can tell Rains had a blast scowling and jeering at every cruel choice and evil plot. He adds a fiery warmth to the film that is already searing hot. Onslow Stevens is neat as the too familiar Dr. Matthew Higgins. He fancies himself a shrink, but it's his own ego that should be downsized, not his patients' minds. George Cleveland is solidly fun as the poor old butler Albert, who is flabbergasted by his employer's sudden change of heart. Erskin Sandford's babbling Minister is a devious invention to get to the finale that I appreciated how silly he acted. Marion Martin is quite pretty and interesting as Mrs. Bentley. Hardie Albright is creepy as the greedy and aloof gangster Smiley Willims with his Cheshire Grin plastered on his face like The Joker. Editor Assa Boyd crafts these seamless fade in and fade out shots of spirits appearing and disappearing that look modern. Boyd's cuts create a fascinating and fast pace for Angel on My Shoulder's brisk 100 minute long farce. Composer Dimitri Tiomkin scores Angel on My Shoulder knowing that his romantic melodies juxtapose the fearsome atmospheric symphony conducted alongside such sweeping majesty. I adored the music throughout Angel on My Shoulder. Cinematographer James Van Trees captures mystifying wide shots of eerie fog and Satanic smoke. His startling shots of Hell's blazing inferno and bursts of Hellfire are dazzling in visual effects work still. I loved the way Angel on My Shoulder was so creatively shot alongside all of Van Trees' lovely close-up shots that feel so empathetic towards Paul Muni's downtrodden gangster and Anne Baxter's alluring girlfriend. Van Trees focuses brightly lit close-ups on Anne Baxter's face with a heavenly glow, while shooting dark shadowy close-ups on Claude Rains' Satan named Nick. Bernard Herzbrun's art direction brings the morbid underworld of Hell to life with its brutal punishments and bleak gloom. All the designs are enthralling. Robert Martien and Maria Donovan's striking mobster suits and judge garments are complemented by Anne Baxter's lovely lady's suits, complete with cute little hats. Make-up artist Ern Westmore makes Claude Rains sleek and sinister, Paul Muni rough and gritty, and Anne Baxter radiant with a flawless complexion. In all, Archie Mayo directs one of film's finest black comedies and one of cinema's sweetest romance dramas all in one Hellish fantasy inferno. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member The first part is a drag. Rated 2 out of 5 stars 01/16/23 Full Review Audience Member Paul Muni and Claude Rains were considered the best actors of their time. They do not disappoint here. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 01/12/23 Full Review Audience Member Another film about the mythological devil, hell, heaven and otherwordly beings is not needed and has been thoroughly done in Hollywood before. Here Comes Mr. Jordan used this same plot with a few twists. The plot in this is therefore lighthearted and fun if you understand this is myth. If, like many religious folk, you take the plot points as sacred doctrine not to be questioned, this becomes a religious film that is beyond the pale of discussion. Taking the lighthearted approach, the performances here makes the movie. Paul Muni is believable as the gangster come back to life, and Anne Baxter does a fine job as his fiancee. Claude Rains as the erudite devil, and George Cleveland as Albert, round out an impressive and cohesive cast. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/16/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Angel on My Shoulder

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Movie Info

Synopsis When a gangster, Eddie Kagle (Paul Muni), is murdered by his childhood friend and business partner, Smiley Williams (Hardie Albright), he's sent to hell. There he meets Nick (Claude Rains), who tries to get him to return to the living to take over the body of Judge Frederick Parker (also Muni). Kagle agrees, enticed by the prospect of seeking revenge on Smiley. But Kagel's attempts to tarnish Parker's reputation backfire, and when he finally confronts Smiley, his frustration has peaked.
Director
Archie Mayo
Producer
Charles R. Rogers
Screenwriter
Harry Segall, Roland Kibbee
Production Co
United Artists, Charles R. Rogers Productions
Genre
Fantasy
Original Language
English
Release Date (Theaters)
Sep 20, 1946, Limited
Release Date (Streaming)
Aug 11, 2016
Runtime
1h 41m
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