Synopsis by Mark Deming
Otto Preminger directed this stylish film noir exercise, intended as a follow-up to his surprise hit Laura. Kicked off a bus traveling cross-country for not being able to come up with the fare, down-and-out press agent Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) ends up in Walton, a small coastal town in California. Stanton fast-talks Joe Ellis (Olin Howland) into giving him a place to stay for the night in exchange for promoting Professor Madley (John Carradine), a "mentalist" whose show Ellis manages. While in Walton, Stanton makes the acquaintance of June Mills (Alice Faye), a wealthy but reclusive young woman, and has his eye on Stella (Linda Darnell), a good-looking waitress working at the local diner. Thanks to Madley, Stanton learns a few things about June, and when Ellis and the professor pull up stakes after a successful engagement, Stanton opts to stay behind, hoping to win Stella's heart. Gold digger Stella makes it known that she has no interest in Stanton unless he comes into a lot of money, but June has made her interest in Stanton quite clear. Stanton hatches a plan: he'll marry June, take her money, divorce her, and then take up with Stella. Stanton and June do in fact marry, but just as he's about to give her the brush-off, Stella turns up dead. Mark Judd (Charles Bickford), a retired cop-turned-detective, is investigating the murder, and while the initial suspect is Dave Atkins (Bruce Cabot), Stella's ne'er-do-well ex-boyfriend, Judd's focus eventually falls on Stanton. Stanton flees Walton for San Francisco, with ever-loyal June at his side; he quickly abandons her after taking her money, but he returns to her side when word reaches him that June has been charged with Stella's murder. Fallen Angel marked a dramatic change of pace for Alice Faye; however, she was very unhappy with how Preminger edited her performance, convinced that much of her best work ended up on the cutting-room floor. Faye was so angry that she quit the movie business altogether and didn't appear in another film until State Fair in 1962.
press-agent, murder, con/scam, detective, diner, golddigger, magician [performer], small-town