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Angel Baby

Angel Baby(1961)

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Angel Baby (1961)

This ambitious independent film about tent-show preachers wasn't just overshadowed by the bigger budget Elmer Gantry (1960). According to some sources, Angel Baby was held back from release for a year to prevent it from competing with the bigger film. As a result, it has been unjustly forgotten, despite strong performances, brilliant camera work and an intriguing tale of a young mute (Salome Jens) healed by traveling preacher played by George Hamilton. She soon becomes a faith healer in her own right only to be duped by an unscrupulous promoter. Jens is radiant in only her second feature (following an inauspicious debut in 1958's Terror from the Year 5000), while Hamilton shows surprising depth. Best of all are the scene-stealing character performances from Mercedes McCambridge as Hamilton's jealous wife, and Henry Jones and Joan Blondell as reformed drunks working the tent circuit. Burt Reynolds made his film debut as an old boyfriend with less than spiritual designs on Jens. Also early in his career is future Oscar-winning cinematographer, Haskell Wexler who zipped around the Florida locations on roller skates with a lightweight camera to capture the excitement of the revival circuit.

By Frank Miller

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