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Angel On My Shoulder

Angel on my Shoulder title card

Year - 1946
Studio - United Artists
Stars - Paul Muni, Anne Baxter, Claude Rains, Onslow Stevens, George Cleveland
Director - Archie Mayo
Writing Credits - Harry Segal and Roland Kibbee
Music - Dimitri Tiomkin

Synopsis

Tough guy, Eddie Kagle (Paul Muni), released from prison after four years, is picked up by gangster buddy, Smiley Williams (Hardie Albright). As they chat about past and future crimes, Smiley pulls out a gun and kills Kagle.

Kagle descends to the depths of Hell where he wanders, belligerently, among the fire and smoke. The Devil (Claude Rains), impressed with Eddie's defiance, introduces himself as "Nick" and proposes a deal. He'll allow Eddie to return to Earth to kill Smiley in return for him posing as a man who is his double in appearance, Judge Fredric Parker. Satan wants to ruin the career of the incorruptible candidate for Governor.

Nick and Eddie ascend to earth via a freight elevator, invisible to others, and they enter a courtroom where Judge Parker is presiding. Nick causes the judge to faint so that Eddie can enter his body. Eddie awakens, now as Judge Parker to all around him, but with Eddie's thug personality and speech. The judge, to the consternation of Bellamy, his manservant, and Barbara Foster (Anne Baxter) his fiance, immediately books a plane for St. Louis to seek out Smiley.

Angel on my Shoulder poster

As the plane takes off, Nick appears and causes it to develop engine trouble and it returns to the airport. He insists that his part of the bargain be accomplished first, destroying Judge Parker's life. They go to an auditorium where the judge is to deliver a campaign speech. There, a group of children present him with a watch for his work combating juvenile delinquency. Nick instructs Eddie to tell the audience off in his speech and to insult them. Eddie starts to speak but a group of hecklers from the opposing candidate camp throw vegetables at him. He dives from the stage and fights them single handedly, becoming a hero to the audience, to the disgust of Nick.

Nick then demands that Eddie accept a bribe from a lawyer in his chambers. After the lawyer puts an envelope of money on the desk, he brings in his clients, one of whom turns out to be a cheating moll from his former life. Incensed, he refuses the bribe and vows to convict them in court.

Despite the setbacks, Nick decides to have Eddie take care of Smiley, who has moved into the area to expand his mob operations. Nick arranges for Smiley to go see Judge Parker, to set up a confrontation between them.

Barbara, the judge's girlfriend, cannot understand why his personality has changed so drastically, but stays with him out of her love, and her admitted ambitions to be a part of his political success. She takes Eddie to the site of a home they planned to build in a neighboring state, and talks about her dreams for their life together and having children. Eddie is very moved that anyone could love him for who he is. But, still determined to kill Smiley, he borrows her car and drives off. Barbara senses something is wrong and reports the car as stolen, resulting in Eddie being put in jail. She bails him out after he agrees to marry her.

They go to a minister (Erskine Sanford) who, while they wait, is rehearsing his Sunday sermon. He talks about resisting Mestopholes, saying "...when he whispers in your ear, turn away and listen instead to the angel on your shoulder." Eddie realizes that marrying Barbara, as himself, would be just what the devil wants, and he stops the ceremony.

He returns home where Smiley (and Nick) are waiting for him. Smiley is so frightened to see the man he killed, he backs away and falls through a window to his death.

Although Eddie's good behavior has taken away Nick's power over him, he offers to return to Hades if Nick will agree to leave the judge alone. Eddie says his goodbye to Barbara, who still believes that he is suffering from a split personality. But after Eddie has left, the judge awakes as himself, to her delight.

Nick and Eddie began their descent, and Eddie bargains to be a trustee in exchange for not revealing Nick's failure.

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