The Tarnished Angels
In Wheeler Auditorium
“...It is the film in which (Sirk) had the most freedom. An incredibly pessimistic film....
“The film... shows a dying profession.... Robert Stack has been a pilot in the First World War. He had never wanted to do anything but fly, which is why he now takes part in air-shows circling round pylons. Dorothy Malone is his wife; she demonstrates parachute jumping. They can barely make a living. Robert is brave but he knows nothing about machines, so he has a mechanic, Jiggs, the third one of their team, who is in love with Dorothy. Robert and Dorothy have a son, whom Rock Hudson meets when he is being teased by the other fliers: ‘Who's your old man today kid? Jiggs or...' Rock Hudson is a journalist who wants to write a fantastic piece about these gypsies of the air who have crankcase oil in their veins instead of blood. It happens that the Shumanns have nowhere to stay so Rock Hudson invites them to his place. During the night Dorothy and Rock get to know each other. We get the feeling that these two would have a lot to say to each other. Rock loses his job, one of the fliers crashes in the race, Dorothy is supposed to prostitute herself for a plane as Robert's has broken down. Rock and Dorothy haven't got that much to say to each other after all, Jiggs repairs a broken-down plane, Robert goes up in it and is killed.
“Nothing but defeats. This film is nothing but an accumulation of defeats. Dorothy is in love with Robert, Robert is in love with flying, Jiggs is in love with Robert too, or is it Dorothy and Rock? Rock is not in love with Dorothy and Dorothy is not in love with Rock. When the film makes one believe for a moment that they are, it's a lie at best, just as the two of them think for a couple of seconds, maybe....? Then towards the end Robert tells Dorothy that after this race he'll give up flying. Of course that's exactly when he is killed. It would be inconceivable that Robert could really be involved with Dorothy rather than with death.
“The camera is always on the move in the film; just like the people it moves round, it pretends that something is actually happening.... The tracking shots in the film, the crane shots, the pans! Douglas Sirk looks at these corpses with such tenderness and radiance that we start to think that something must be at fault if these people are so screwed up and, nevertheless, so nice. The fault lies with fear and loneliness. I have rarely felt fear and loneliness so much as in this film....”