Cast & Crew
On a rainy night in New York, hustler Bill O'Brien looks for a sucker to fleece and enters a swank nightclub. He sets his sights on Charles Engle, a desperate embezzler bent on suicide as the only way out of his crime. Bill misinterprets Engle's modest clothes and demeanor and thinks that he is a rich "hick" from out of town. What he does not know is that Engle has been given until six o'clock in the morning to repay money that he embezzled to spend on his frivolous wife. Bill enlists the beautiful and ambitious Nina Barona, an aspiring showgirl whom he meets at the club, to act as bait to lure the unsuspecting Engle into a high stakes poker game run by gangster Dutch Enright. Meanwhile, Gene Gibbons, an alcoholic, down-on-his-luck playwright who sees a story in everyone, becomes involved in Engle's life when he is mistakenly given Engle's coat at the cloak room and finds his suicide note. Though he himself is despondent, he decides to plot "a happy ending" for the desperate man. When he approaches Engle and hears his story, Gene tries to trick his former mistress out of a broach that has a value more than equal to Engle's debt, but the broach turns out to be paste. When Gene hears about Bill's original plan to fleece Engle in a poker game, he enlists Bill in a new scheme to win the three thousand dollars that Engle needs by having Engle go to the game, then sneak out after the gamblers' allow him to win some initial "sucker money." Bill is reluctant, but agrees if Engle will give him anything over the three thousand dollars. While waiting in a hotel room for the game to start, Gene scripts a scenario for Bill and Engle, then passes out. Bill decides to go through with the plan, but before the curtain is rung down on the last act, Gene wakes up sober and, having forgotten everything about the evening's events, leaves the hotel to reconcile with his ex-wife, who has always had faith in him. Now stranded, Bill, Engle and Nina must write their own ending. When Dutch learns that Engle plans to skip out with the winnings, Nina appeals to Bill's better instincts and convinces him to beat off Dutch's thugs while Engle escapes with the money. In doing their good deed, Nina and Bill fall in love and redeem themselves, thus finding their own happy ending.
M. W. Stoloff
Best Writing, Screenplay
Angels Over Broadway
Filled with crackling dialogue and an offbeat tone that alternates between light and dark, Angels Over Broadway (1940) was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar®, though director Ben Hecht's script lost out to Preston Sturges' The Great McGinty.
A short story writer, novelist and newspaper reporter, Hecht worked in nearly every writerly form. As a journalist for the Chicago Daily News Hecht broke an infamous story dubbed the "Ragged Stranger Murder Case" in which an Army war hero paid a drifter to murder his pregnant wife.
While in New York in 1926, he reportedly received a telegram from his friend Herman J. Mankiewicz, who had recently arrived in Hollywood. The telegram read: "Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don't let this get around." At Mankiewicz's urging, Hecht left print journalism to pursue new work.
Hecht won his first screenplay Oscar® in 1927 for Josef von Sternberg's Underworld at the first Academy Awards in 1929 and was nominated five more times for a Best Writing Oscar®. He was undeniably prolific, often collaborating with fellow writer Charles MacArthur, most famously on the play The Front Page. Hecht was also paid $10,000 by David O. Selznick to script doctor one of film history's most famous classics, Gone with the Wind (1939).
Though audiences were lukewarm on Angels Over Broadway, critics were mostly enthusiastic. Bosley Crowther crowed in his New York Times review "If it is not the best work that Mr. Hecht has done for the screen, certainly it is the most satisfying of his work that we have seen. As the writer, director and producer, Mr. Hecht has taken the opportunity to reaffirm the fact that drama is created out of people and not out of a warehouse full of props and sets."
Born Margarita Carmen Cansino and later nicknamed "The Love Goddess" Rita Hayworth rose from a humble Brooklyn, Spanish/Irish background. First contracted by Fox Studios at age 16 when a Fox film producer caught her family stage act "The Dancing Cansinos," Hayworth appeared in several small roles for the studio as Rita Cansino.
The fledgling actress found her new name "Hayworth" and image thanks to a painful round of electrolysis to raise her hairline at Harry Cohn's Columbia Pictures. She appeared as part of an ensemble cast as a philandering wife in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings (1939) and was loaned-out to Warner Brothers for The Strawberry Blonde (1941). Also loaned to Fox Studios for Blood and Sand (1941) opposite Tyrone Power, Hayworth won that notable role away from Carole Landis, who refused to dye her hair red for the Technicolor film. Hayworth's auburn hair, ironically enough, would become her most distinctive feature.
It was also Hayworth's memorable dancing - the result of a family legacy of generations of Spanish dancers - along with her great beauty which got her noticed in You'll Never Get Rich (1941) with Fred Astaire.
Hayworth's image in a 1941 Life magazine in which she knelt in a lace and silk nightgown on a bed was so popular that American servicemen made her one of World War II's most famous pinups, even adorning the nuclear test bomb dropped on Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Married five times, Hayworth was unlucky in love, but a remarkable romantic presence onscreen. After a career apex as a ravishing femme fatale in Charles Vidor's film noir Gilda (1946) Hayworth worked in fewer projects, with competition coming from television and Columbia's new sex symbol Kim Novak despite a memorable turn in fourth husband Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai (1947). Some attributed that film's failure at the box office to Welles' decision to cut off Hayworth's famous locks and dye them blonde for the movie.
Hayworth left Hollywood in 1948 to marry playboy Prince Aly Kahn and live in Europe, though the marriage ended in 1951. Though her career never returned to its former glory, Hayworth did return to Hollywood to star in a number of hits including Affair in Trinidad (1952) Salome (1953) and Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) and worked up until 1972 when she made her final film The Wrath of God.
Director: Ben Hecht, Lee Garmes
Producer: Ben Hecht
Screenplay: Ben Hecht
Cinematography: Lee Garmes
Production Design: Lionel Banks
Music: George Antheil
Cast: Rita Hayworth (Nina Barone), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Bill O'Brien), Thomas Mitchell (Eugene Gibbons), John Qualen (Charles Engle), George Watts (Joseph Hopper), Ralph Theodore (Dutch Enright).
by Felicia Feaster
Angels Over Broadway
The working title for this film was Before I Die. The opening credits say "written, directed and produced by Ben Hecht." Ben Hecht was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for his work on this film, but lost to Preston Sturges for The Great McGinty.