Angels over Broadway is a synthetic tale of Broadway nightlife and the characters that roam around Times Square. Aside from Thomas Mitchell, as a screwball playwright who sees a story in every individual, and who delights in plotting a finish, there’s nothing much in the Hechtian tale. Picture stutters and sputters too often to carefully etch human beings, with result that it develops into an over-dramatic stage play transformed to celluloid.
Writer-director-producer Ben Hecht gets little movement in the unwinding, and depends too much on stage technique in trying to put over his points. An embezzler (John Qualen) is saved from committing suicide by the zany playwright (Mitchell) who proceeds to try and help the former out of his jam and give him a new lease on life. Douglas Fairbanks Jr is a slick youth who shills for a big poker game, and sets his sights for Qualen who he assumes is a rural hick. There’s much byplay between the trio and a girl who moves in (Rita Hayworth) before plan is worked out to recoup the coin in the come-on game.
Characters are all over-drawn, with Mitchell providing many sharp cracks on the philosophy of life and living. Mitchell does much to hold together the minor interest retained in the running. Fairbanks fails to get much sympathy or attention as the wise young Broadwayite who knows all the angles. Hayworth is passable as the girl, while Qualen is bewildered enough as the prospective suicide.
1940: Nomination: Best Original Screenplay