Half Angel - 1951


Half Angel Loretta Young and Joseph Cotton

"It's not easy for me to get away, on account of the witch. The girl I live with. She's a monster. I have to wait until she's exhausted or asleep and even then she tries to stop me."

Robert Riskin wrote the script for Half Angel, but he had become ill and the story, which is perfectly likeable as a bubbly romantic comedy with a Cinderella-faery tale element, barrels ahead in a straight line and probably would have had more finesse if Riskin could have spent more time with it.

Featuring a split-personality plus amnesia, it would seem like there's a natural noir vibe to a film with a title like Half Angel but it is really a straight-up romance and showcase for Loretta Young who has to play two characters. On one hand she is the fact-checking, proper and soon-to-be-married nurse Nora Gilpin, but then she spots childhood sweetheart John Raymond Jr (Joseph Cotten), and her sleep walking ailment rapidly metastasizes into a whole other person who looks like Nurse Gilpin but certainly doesn't dress, talk or behave like her. She is soon determinedly tormenting Joseph Cotten's character until he can remember her from their short encounter as children, and soon there's a full-born romance in motion between the two, though it only proceeds at night. The problem is the daytime Nurse GIlpin who is supposed to be marrying a different guy altogether and is wondering why she is feeling more and more exhausted each day when she reports for work.

There's not a lot of meat to this tale though it does have a number of psychological dilemmas on its mind and is looking for a way to break Nurse Gilpin out of her emotional straight-jacket. Instead the story, as well written as it is, mostly provides backing for Young to display a variety of outfits and for Joseph Cotten to play mystified and then smitten in a funny way.

Sets are pure early 1950s American and are well done, but are a bit claustrophobic because they get reused quite a bit, and the big location scenes of Cotten and Young at a seaside boardwalk are so narrowly edited it doesn't come across as a true location at all but instead just another closed-in set.

All of that aside, Young is perfectly delightful as a trussed up woman who, once the chains are off after she falls asleep, is resourceful and determined to have things her own way and to utilize whatever idea she comes up with. Joseph Cotten is of course a perfect support player, though he's the male lead, because his main job is to help present this caterpillar becoming a butterfly in the best light possible, and that he does.

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Original Page September 30, 2020 | Updated Deb 2023