Angels Over Broadway (also called Before I Die) is a 1940 American film noir drama film starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen. Ben Hecht, who co-directed (with cinematographer Lee Garmes), co-produced and wrote the screenplay, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Fairbanks, Jr. co-produced, helping persuade Harry Cohn of Columbia to finance. Cohn gave them Rita Hayworth, in her first leading role in an "A" picture. "Cohn couldn't figure out what the picture was about but neither could we," said Fairbanks Jr.
Although it was made six years before It's a Wonderful Life, it inadvertently plays as a cynical travesty of that film, given that it follows a similar story: a man planning to kill himself over lost money (albeit in this case embezzled) is "rescued" by a trio of unsavory types who decide that doing "a good deed" might be fun and even profitable.
|Angels Over Broadway|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ben Hecht|
Lee Garmes (co-director)
|Produced by||Ben Hecht|
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (assoc. producer)
|Written by||Ben Hecht|
|Starring||Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.|
|Music by||George Antheil|
|Edited by||Gene Havlick|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Bill O'Brien is a New York con man in search of a suitable gullible person to make some money on. In a fancy nightclub he finds Charles Engle, a man ridden by guilt and on the brink of committing suicide after embezzling a large sum of money that he has spent on his high-maintenance wife.
Charles has the appearance of a common hillbilly from out of town visiting the city and Bill decides to scam him for his money. Bill is unaware that the desperate Charles only has until 6 am to pay back the money he has embezzled before the crime is discovered.
One of the showgirls at the club, Nina Barona, is persuaded by Bill to help trick Charles into entering a poker game to win back the money. The game is arranged by a gangster named Dutch Enright.
Another disillusioned man at the club, playwright Gene Gibbons, learns about Charles's misfortune from the suicide note he discovers in his coat, and wants to write the man a story with a happier ending.
He tries to get a valuable brooch from his ex-girlfriend, to give to Charles so that he can get the money, but his plan fails because the brooch is a cheap copy. Instead he overhears Bill telling of his poker scam against Charles, and persuades Bill to change the plan so that Charles wins the first rounds and is allowed to escape from the game after that. A deal is made, that Bill gets whatever Charles wins over the $3,000 he needs to pay the money back.
However, Gene passes out while waiting for the game to start, and when he wakes up he does not remember the deal he made with Bill, but goes home to his wife. Bill discovers that Gene is gone, and Dutch finds out about Charles's planned escape, and tries to stop him. Nina convinces Bill to do the right thing and help fend off Dutch's men when they try to get Charles and the money back.
Bill is changed by his discovery that behaving honorably has a positive effect on him; he falls in love with Nina, who returns his feelings. Thus they get a happy ending of their own.
The 13th Academy Awards honored American film achievements in 1940. This was the first year that sealed envelopes were used to keep secret the names of the winners which led to the famous phrase: "May I have the envelope, please?" The accounting firm of Price Waterhouse was hired to count the ballots, after the fiasco of leaked voting results in 1939 by the Los Angeles Times.
For the first time, the award for Best Screenplay was split into two separate categories: Best Original Screenplay and Best Screenplay.
Independent producer David O. Selznick, who had produced the previous year's big winner Gone with the Wind (1939), also produced the Best Picture winner in 1940, Rebecca – and campaigned heavily for its win. Selznick was the first to produce two consecutive winners of the Best Picture Oscar. Although Rebecca had eleven nominations, it only won for Best Picture and Best Cinematography (Black and White), marking the last time a film would win Best Picture but not win for either directing, acting, or writing.
The film's distributor – United Artists – was the last of the original film studios (the others were Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia, 20th Century-Fox, Warner Bros., RKO Radio, Universal, and Paramount) to win the Best Picture Oscar. Rebecca was the first American-made film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and the only film from him to win Best Picture. Hitchcock had two films nominated for Best Picture, the other being Foreign Correspondent. Two other directors also had two films in the running this year: Sam Wood (Our Town and Kitty Foyle) and John Ford (The Long Voyage Home and The Grapes of Wrath, which won Best Director).
Pinocchio was the first animated film to take home competitive Oscars, for both Best Original Score and Best Original Song, starting a long tradition of animated films winning in these categories.
The Thief of Bagdad received the most Oscars of the evening, three, the first time a film not nominated for Best Picture won the most awards.1940 in film
The year 1940 in film involved some significant events, including the premieres of the Walt Disney films Pinocchio and Fantasia.Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
The Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay is the Academy Award for the best screenplay not based upon previously published material. It was created for 1940 as a separate writing award from the Academy Award for Best Story. Beginning with the Oscars for 1957, the two categories were combined to honor only the screenplay. In 2002, the name of the award was changed from Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen) to Writing (Original Screenplay).See also the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, a similar award for screenplays that are adaptations.Ben Hecht
Ben Hecht (; February 28, 1893 or 1894 – April 18, 1964) was an American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist, and novelist. A journalist in his youth, he went on to write 35 books and some of the most entertaining screenplays and plays in America. He received screen credits, alone or in collaboration, for the stories or screenplays of some seventy films.
At the age of 16, Hecht ran away to Chicago, where, in his own words, he "haunted streets, whorehouses, police stations, courtrooms, theater stages, jails, saloons, slums, madhouses, fires, murders, riots, banquet halls, and bookshops". In the 1910s and early 1920s, Hecht became a noted journalist, foreign correspondent, and literary figure. In the 1920s, his co-authored, reporter-themed play, The Front Page, became a Broadway hit.
The Dictionary of Literary Biography - American Screenwriters calls him "one of the most successful screenwriters in the history of motion pictures". Hecht received the first Academy Award for Best Story for Underworld (1927). Many of the screenplays he worked on are now considered classics. He also provided story ideas for such films as Stagecoach (1939). Film historian Richard Corliss called him "the Hollywood screenwriter", someone who "personified Hollywood itself". In 1940, he wrote, produced, and directed Angels Over Broadway, which was nominated for Best Screenplay. In total, six of his movie screenplays were nominated for Academy Awards, with two winning.
He became an active Zionist shortly before the Holocaust began in Germany, and wrote articles and plays about the plight of European Jews, such as We Will Never Die in 1943 and A Flag is Born in 1946. Of his seventy to ninety screenplays, he wrote many anonymously to avoid the British boycott of his work in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The boycott was a response to Hecht's active support of paramilitary action against British forces in Palestine and sabotaging British property there (see below), during which time a supply ship to Palestine was named the S. S. Ben Hecht.(nl)(he)
According to his autobiography, he never spent more than eight weeks on a script. In 1983, 19 years after his death, Ben Hecht was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.Constance Worth
Constance Worth (also known as Jocelyn Howarth) (19 August 1911 – 18 October 1963) was an Australian actress who became a Hollywood star in the late 1930s.Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Douglas Elton Fairbanks Jr., (December 9, 1909 – May 7, 2000), was an American actor and producer, and a decorated naval officer of World War II. He is best known for starring in such films as The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Gunga Din (1939) and The Corsican Brothers (1941). He was the son of actor Douglas Fairbanks and was once married to Joan Crawford.Ethelreda Leopold
Ethelreda Leopold (July 2, 1914 – January 26, 1998) was an American film actress. She appeared in approximately 65 films between 1934 and 1972. She also appeared in commercials.Leopold is familiar to modern viewers for her roles in several Three Stooges, Andy Hardy, and Abbott and Costello films. She also had bit parts in such American classics as Angels Over Broadway and Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. Many of her film roles were small or uncredited. She appeared at the 1990 Three Stooges convention,Gene Havlick
Gene Havlick (March 16, 1894 in Enid, Oklahoma, USA – May 11, 1959 in Los Angeles, California) was an American film editor.
He was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning one.
He worked on over 100 films during his 30-year career.George Antheil
George Antheil (; July 8, 1900 – February 12, 1959) was an American avant-garde composer, pianist, author, and inventor whose modernist musical compositions explored the modern sounds – musical, industrial, and mechanical – of the early 20th century.
Spending much of the 1920s in Europe, Antheil returned to the US in the 1930s, and thereafter spent much of his time composing music for films, and eventually, television. As a result of this work, his style became more tonal. A man of diverse interests and talents, Antheil was constantly reinventing himself. He wrote magazine articles (one accurately predicted the development and outcome of World War II), an autobiography, a mystery novel, and newspaper and music columns.
In 1941, Antheil and the actress Hedy Lamarr developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that used a code (stored on a punched paper tape) to synchronise random frequencies, referred to as frequency hopping, with a receiver and transmitter. This technique is now known as spread spectrum and is widely used in telecommunications. This work led to their being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.John Qualen
John Qualen (born Johan Mandt Kvalen, December 8, 1899 – September 12, 1987) was a Canadian-American character actor of Norwegian heritage who specialized in Scandinavian roles.Lee Garmes
Lee Garmes, A.S.C. (May 27, 1898 – August 31, 1978) was an American cinematographer. During his career, he worked with directors Howard Hawks, Max Ophüls, Josef von Sternberg, Alfred Hitchcock, King Vidor, Nicholas Ray and Henry Hathaway, whom he had met as a young man when the two first came to Hollywood in the silent era. He also co-directed two films with legendary screenwriter Ben Hecht: Angels Over Broadway and Actor's and Sin.List of American films of 1940
A list of American films released in 1940.
Rebecca won Best Picture at the Academy Awards.List of Columbia Pictures films
The following is a list of films produced and/or released by Columbia Pictures. It is one of the Big Six film studios. Columbia Pictures is a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Sony.List of film noir titles
Film noir is not a clearly defined genre (see here for details on the characteristics). Therefore, the composition of this list may be controversial. To minimize dispute the films included here should preferably feature a footnote linking to a reliable, published source which states that the mentioned film is considered to be a film noir by an expert in this field, e.g.The terms which are used below to subsume various periods and variations of film noir are not definitive and are meant as a navigational aid rather than as critical argument. Because the 1940s and 1950s are universally regarded as the "classic period" of American film noir, films released prior to 1940 are listed under the caption "Precursors / early noir-like films". Films released after 1959 should generally only be listed in the list of neo-noir titles.Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino; October 17, 1918 – May 14, 1987) was an American actress and dancer. She achieved fame during the 1940s as one of the era's top stars, appearing in a total of 61 films over 37 years. The press coined the term "The Love Goddess" to describe Hayworth after she had become the most glamorous screen idol of the 1940s. She was the top pin-up girl for GIs during World War II.Hayworth is perhaps best known for her performance in the 1946 film noir, Gilda, opposite Glenn Ford, in which she played the femme fatale in her first major dramatic role. Fred Astaire, with whom she made two films, called her his favorite dance partner. Her greatest success was in the Technicolor musical Cover Girl (1944), with Gene Kelly. She is listed as one of the top 25 female motion picture stars of all time in the American Film Institute's survey, AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars.
In 1980, Hayworth was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which contributed to her death at age 68. The public disclosure and discussion of her illness drew attention to Alzheimer's, which was largely unknown by most people at the time, and helped to increase public and private funding for Alzheimer's research.Thomas Mitchell (actor)
Thomas John Mitchell (July 11, 1892 – December 17, 1962) was an American actor. Among his most famous roles in a long career are those of Gerald O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, Doc Boone in Stagecoach, Uncle Billy in It's a Wonderful Life and Mayor Jonas Henderson in High Noon. Mitchell was the first male actor to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award.
Nominated twice for an Oscar, first for The Hurricane (1938), he won the Best Supporting Actor award for Stagecoach (1939); later, he would be nominated three times for an Emmy Award. He was nominated twice, in 1952 and 1953, for his role in the medical drama The Doctor, winning the Lead Actor Drama award in 1953. Nominated again in 1955, for an appearance on a weekly anthology series, he did not win. Mitchell won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, in 1953, for his role as Dr Downer in the musical comedy Hazel Flagg, based on the 1937 Paramount comedy film Nothing Sacred, rounding out the Triple Crown of Acting. In addition to being an actor, he was also a director, playwright, and screenwriter.Walter Baldwin
Walter S. Baldwin Jr. (January 2, 1889 − January 27, 1977) was a prolific character actor whose career spanned five decades and 150 film and television roles, and numerous stage performances.
Baldwin was born in Lima, Ohio from a theatrical family and served in the First World War.
He was probably best known for playing the father of the handicapped sailor in The Best Years of Our Lives. He was the first actor to portray "Floyd the Barber" on The Andy Griffith Show.
Prior to his first film roles in 1939, Baldwin had appeared in more than a dozen Broadway plays. He played Whit in the first Broadway production of Of Mice and Men, and also appeared in the original Grand Hotel in a small role, as well as serving as the production's stage manager. He originated the role of Bensinger, the prissy Chicago Tribune reporter, in the 1928 Broadway production of The Front Page.
In the 1960s he had small acting roles in television shows such as Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. He continued to act in motion pictures, and one of his last roles was in Rosemary's Baby.
Baldwin was known for playing solid middle class burghers, although sometimes he gave portrayals of eccentric characters. He played a customer seeking a prostitute in The Lost Weekend and the rebellious prison trusty Orvy in Cry of the City. Walter Baldwin was featured in a lot of John Deere Day Movies from 1949-59 where he played the farmer Tom Gordon. In this series of Deere Day movies over a decade he helped to introduce many new pieces of John Deere farm equipment year-by-year. In each yearly movie he would be shown in a Tom Gordon Family Film where he would be buying new John Deere farm equipment or a new green and yellow tractor. A picture of Walter Baldwin playing Tom Gordon can be found on page 108 of Bob Pripp's book John Deere Yesterday & Today
Hal Erickson writes in Allmovie: "With a pinched Midwestern countenance that enabled him to portray taciturn farmers, obsequious grocery store clerks and the occasional sniveling coward, Baldwin was a familiar (if often unbilled) presence in Hollywood films for three decades."Walter Sande
Walter Sande (July 9, 1906 – November 22, 1971) was an American character actor, known for numerous supporting film and television roles.