Band of Angels (1957)
“You’re no blue blood any more, honey. The master bought you…and now he’s waitin’!”
Director: Raoul Walsh
Cast: Clark Gable, Yvonne De Carlo, Sidney Poitier
Synopsis: Amantha Starr grows up as a privileged southern Belle in the antebellum South, but her world is destroyed after her father dies and she discovers her mother was black.
Echoes of Gone With the Wind hang over every scene of Band of Angels, Raoul Walsh’s overblown melodrama set in the deep South just before and during the US Civil War. An ageing Clark Gable (Dancing Lady, It Happened One Night) plays Hamish Bond, a plantation owner with a shady past who buys Amantha Starr (Yvonne De Carlo), a former Southern Belle who, at the funeral of her father, discovered her mother was a negress. De Carlo, not a particularly attractive actress, heaves her bosom this way and that, and of course it’s not long before she’s swooning in the arms of her new master. Meanwhile, as the war clouds loom, Bond’s young slave-mentor Rau-Ru (Sidney Poitier – A Patch of Blue, Duel at Diablo) finds it increasingly difficult to hide his long-simmering resentment.
If Band of Angels wanted to be a new generation’s GWTW it should have spent a few more million and employed a brighter cast. As it is, Gable struggles to show any kind of interest, and De Carlo simply struggles. Only Poitier makes an impression. Characterisation is broad, though, and too simplistic. Apart from Rau-Ru, the blacks only get to express themselves by singing in large groups, while all Yankees are shown to be cruel and ignorant hypocrites. Despite all this, the film does have trashy entertainment value, and benefits from having old hand Walsh at the helm.
(Reviewed 3rd November 2014)