Angel On My Shoulder

Angel On My Shoulder, from 1946, stars Paul Muni, Anne Baxter and Claude Rains, in another telling of the old story about making a pact with the devil.

The title of the film, by the way, is based on a line of dialog from a sermon that the minister is preparing and reads out loud during the wedding scene.

Angel On My Shoulder was written by Harry Segall, who also wrote Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 2.

The plot has been made and remade several times - Down To Earth with Chris Rock, Heaven Can Wait, made 3 times-once with Warren Beatty, Meet Joe Black with Brad Pitt, For Heaven’s Sake with Joan Bennett and…..in 1980 there was a TV remake.

The script is filled with very clever lines; and also listen for the jargon of the day (gat, rod, nix) and some funny comments about Florida.

Eddie Kagle/Judge Parker is played by Paul Muni, who was born Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund in what is now the Ukraine. He began acting on Broadway in 1926 and was signed by Fox Studios in 1929.

His first film was The Valiant for which he received an Oscar nomination. But he returned to Broadway & the stage because he was unhappy with the roles offered to him in Hollywood.

Three years later, he went back to Hollywood to star in the original Scarface and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. His performance in Chain Gang led Warner Brothers to sign him to a contract. During his time with Warner Bros. he starred in several Oscar winning films - The Good Earth, The Life of Emile Zola and The Story of Louis Pasteur.

But a dispute with Jack Warner in 1941 led to the termination of his contract. His contract dispute actually helped propel another legendary actor into stardom.
The part of Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, in the film High Sierra, was supposed to have been played by Muni. But after Muni’s departure, Humphrey Bogart got the role.

Muni’s fight with Warner Bros really hurt his career because, after reigning as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood during the 1930s, Muni only made eight films after 1941.

In 1936, Muni won an Oscar for The Story of Louis Pasteur and in his career, he was nominated for a total of five Academy Awards…..which is really remarkable when you consider that he only appeared in 25 films.

Muni is one of only 6 actors to receive Oscar nominations for their first screen appearance, and he's the only one to eventually win a Best Actor Oscar during his career.

Of the other five, Orson Welles won for Best Screenplay, Alan Arkin won for Best Supporting Actor and Montgomery Clift, Lawrence Tibbett and James Dean never did win.

And Muni is one of only 2 actors in Hollywood history to receive Academy Award nominations for both their first and last screen performances. (The Valiant in 1929 and The Last Angry Man in 1959).

Who was the other actor? James Dean for East of Eden in 1956 & Giant in 1957.
Muni retired from filmmaking in 1959, soon after receiving his fifth Academy Award nomination for The Last Angry Man, and he died in 1967, the same year as Claude Rains.

Overseeing this trip to hell is Claude Rains, an English stage and film actor whose career spanned almost 50 years.

His first screen test was a failure, but his distinctive voice won him the title role in a memorable film in 1933, when someone accidentally overheard his screen test being played in the next room. That role was The Invisible Man.

He was known for many other roles, but perhaps his most famous performance is as Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942). His second most memorable role has to be The Invisible Man (1933), as a disembodied voice who is only seen briefly at the end of the movie.

He was offered numerous other parts, including Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Professor Higgins in Pygmalion (1938), Henry Potter in It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Mr. Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964)and Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).

Rains always portrayed elegance and charm, even while playing the worst characters. He’s no different here….as “Nick”, he plays a charming devil, with a dry sense of humor you wouldn’t expect from Satan. During his long career, he appeared in over 75 films & TV shows and was nominated for 4 Academy Awards.

Rains was the first actor to ever receive a million dollar salary for playing Julius Caesar in the lavish but unsuccessful British version of Caesar and Cleopatra in 1945.

Rains was also in demand as acting teacher…..and young Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud were probably his best known students. Into the 1940s, Rains had risen to perhaps unique stature in Hollywood: a supporting actor who had achieved A-list stardom.

Two of his well-known later screen roles were as a cynical British diplomat in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and King Herod in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), which was his final film.

Actor James Flavin, playing gang leader Bellamy, graduated from West Point, but decided on an acting career instead of the military. A fast-talking, granite-jawed Irishman, Flavin specialized in uniformed cops and hard-bitten detectives, but played chauffeurs, cabbies, and even a 16th-century palace guard. Flavin appeared in nearly four hundred films between 1932 and 1971, and in almost a hundred television episodes.

Hardie Albright, Smiley Williams, grew up in a traveling vaudeville act, and made his stage debut at the age of six. Appearing in over 50 films, Albright retired from acting in 1948 and became a drama instructor at UCLA, where he wrote several books on acting and directing.

Dimitri Tiomkin, who wrote the music tonight, was nominated for an amazing 16 Oscars, 7 Golden Globes and 1 Grammy, and won 3 Oscars and 6 Golden Globes. He was the first composer to receive two Oscars for the same film, for score and song for 1953’s High Noon.

Tiomkin scored four films for Alfred Hitchcock and many of his scores were for Westerns, including High Noon (1952), Giant (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Rio Bravo (1959), and The Alamo (1960).

Tiomkin composed the music for The Guns of Navarone (1961), Town Without Pity (1961), 55 Days at Peking (1963), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and The War Wagon (1967).

Besides cinema, he was also active in writing for the small screen, writing some memorable television theme songs, including Rawhide (1959) and Gunslinger.
He died at age 85 from injuries when he fell and fractured his pelvis.

Anne Baxter was an American actress known for her performances in films such as The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), All About Eve (1950) and The Ten Commandments (1956).

At age 10, Baxter attended a Broadway play starring Helen Hayes, and was so impressed that she declared to her family that she wanted to become an actress.

By the age of 13, she had appeared on Broadway and during this time, she was a student of famed actor and teacher Maria Ouspenskaya. She has the distinction of being the only actress to play two different guest villains on the Batman TV show.

She played Zelda the Great during the first season and Olga, Queen of the Bessarovian Cossacks, during the third season. For that part, she even learned to swear in Russian!

She appeared in more than 100 films & TV episodes, was nominated for 2 Oscars and won one……. and she also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
In 1985, while walking down Madison Avenue in New York City, she suffered a fatal brain aneurysm.

She is buried on the estate of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who was also her grandfather.

George Cleveland, in the role of Albert the butler, is probably best remembered as Gramps on the original Lassie (1954) TV series.

Dr. Higgins is played by Onslow Stevens, an avid nudist who would often try to convince his fellow cast members of the health benefits associated with going natural.