Angel on My Shoulder (1946) starring Paul Muni, Anne Baxter, Claude Rains, Onslow Stevens, George Cleveland, Hardie Albright directed by Archie Mayo Movie Review

Angel on My Shoulder (1946)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Paul Muni and Claude Rains in Angel on My Shoulder (1946)

Here Comes Mr. Nick

Harry Segall lived from 1892 to 1975 and in that time he wrote various stories and plays, he was the man who wrote "Monkey Business" which starred Marilyn Monroe. But Segall also wrote the play "Heaven Can Wait" which in 1941 was turned into the classic "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" which was the story of a boxer taken to heaven prematurely and his soul returned to earth in another person's body. Whilst over the years there have been various version of this storyline what is more interesting is Segal's own twist on it with "Angel on My Shoulder" which saw a gangster sent to hell but his soul sent back to Earth to do the devil's dirty work. And that is the problem with "Angel on My Shoulder" as it is another movie about a dead person being given a second chance and plays out in a familiar manner. Oh there is some variation and a clever ending but for the most "Angel on My Shoulder" is too familiar which in turn makes it ordinary.

After serving a 4 year stretch St. Louis gangster Eddie Kagle (Paul Muni) is out but no soon as he is picked up by his partner Smiley (Hardie Albright) the double crossing rat shoots him dead. Dispatched to the fiery furnaces of hell Eddie comes to the attention of Nick (Claude Rains - Notorious) who spots that he is the double of do gooder Judge Frederick Parker who is a thorn in his side back on Earth. Offering Eddie the chance of getting revenge he sends his soul back to Earth in the Judge's body and expects him to sabotage the Judge's career and campaign for Governor. But things don't go to plan as not only does Eddie as the Judge accidentally boost his popularity but he falls for the Judge's girl Barbara (Anne Baxter - The Magnificent Ambersons) and in doing so has a road to Damascus style conversion to a good guy which complicates everything.

Anne Baxter and Paul Muni in Angel on My Shoulder (1946)

So as already mention writer Harry Segal had already explored the idea of the soul of a dead man being sent back to Earth in "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" and this is basically a twist on this with the dead guy heading to hell instead of heaven and being offered a chance of revenge. It does mean that the first half of the movie or at least once we have done with the scenes in the fiery furnaces of hell is familiar as Eddie having returned to Earth in the Judge's body is unable to act like him. Don't get me wrong as it is amusing as Eddie continues to act and talk like a St. Louis gangster but it is all very obvious as is his falling for Barbara, the dame with plenty of curves in all the right places.

Thankfully after much familiarity as Eddie struggles with his new life and doing Nick's bidding the movie gets interesting as Eddie realises he has fallen for Barbara and likes the idea of being a good guy married to her. I won't go into detail but it make things complicated because being a good guy means nick can't take him back but to live happily with Barbara would mean living a lie and then be prone to being taken back. It makes for a clever ending which is also amusing, much more amusing than the rest of the movie as scene after scene fails to really make you laugh just smile.

But whilst "Angel on My Shoulder" is for the most familiar it does benefit from 2 entertaining performances plus the lovely Anne Baxter as Barbara. Paul Muni who will forever be knock as Tony in the original "Scarface" plays Eddie as a caricature gangster, tough talking and untrusting which is spot on for the movie as he is always full of energy and makes his conversion to good guy more profound. But he is outshone by the always reliable Claude Rains who stands in the background with a smirk on his face and evil plans etched into his brow which makes him especially amusing when things don't go to plan.

What this all boils down to is that "Angel on My Shoulder" is an entertaining twist on the usual idea of a soul returning from heaven to inhabit a body. But because it is built on the same building blocks as these heaven movies it does suffer from being too familiar and that ends up equating to ordinary.