Black Angel, The Movie (1946)

No author furnished more material for the classic film noir era than Cornell Woolrich. And none of his novels got a better straight noir adaptation than his 1943 classic The Black Angel. Universal’s 1946 movie version, Black Angel, (I don’t know why they lopped “The” from the title) is as quintessentially Woolrich as his adaptations get. Yes, Rear Window is a better movie, but it’s distinctly a “Hitchcock movie,” while Black Angel is 100% a “Woolrich movie” from the era he helped to define. Phantom Lady (1944) established what a Woolrich novel could be on screen; Black Angel (1946) is the full maturation of Woolrich film noir and is on my shortlist for the best of the style from the 1940s.

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Cornell Woolrich’s The Black Angel

In August I examined the influential film noir Phantom Lady, which was part of the 1944 wave of stylish crime films that established noir as the new mode of murder-dramas, even if the term film noir was still years from general use. Because Phantom Lady was adapted from a novel by Cornell Woolrich, the most important literary noir author and one of my personal favorite writers, I followed up with a post about the 1943 book. After that, it was impossible to stop me from moving forward to Woolrich’s next novel, which would also be turned into a classic film noir a few years later: The Black Angel.

The Black Angel was published in 1943, the same year as Phantom Lady. It’s the fifth novel from Woolrich’s “main period” (1934–1948), when he wrote the majority of his suspense fiction. It has a plot with similarities to Phantom Lady, but it also corrects a number of the errors of that book to create a more personal and desperate story with less need for a long explanation clogging up the last twenty pages. Woolrich took the Carol Richman chapters from Phantom Lady and imagined what a story about rescuing a man from Death Row might look like if told from her perspective. 

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