Band of Angels (1957) (DVD)

BoAIt’s best to keep in mind the historical context of “Band of Angels,” before delving into it. I know that’s a common warning with films of a certain age, but in all seriousness, it keep that in mind. What with Black History Month just around the corner, be aware that “Band of Angels” is as dated as they come. Black actors dress as slaves, white extras are dressed as black slaves colored face and all, and the black characters are referred to as Nigroes and Niggers, and one woman is referred as “Cotton tooth.”

Part of the Amazon.com Decision 2006, “Band of Angels” is one of the six home releases taken out of print and brought back into circulation, and “Band of Angels” is an utterly fascinating story. The late Yvonne DeCarlo is utterly astonishing as a beautiful aristocrat named Amantha who discovers that she’s Mulatto. Discovered by slave traders, she’s stripped of her status, and auctioned off against her will as a slave to anyone willing to buy her. Who wouldn’t? Yvonne DeCarlo is stunning to look at, here. Regardless, she attempts suicide rather than living with her known race, and is sold to a kind gentleman who must also come to grips with her mixed race.

The great Clark Gable is stuck in Rhett Butler mode as an aristocrat named Hamish Bond, a man who instantly seeks to romance her, against her will. Dealing with the concept that she’s now equal to the race she disgusts, “Band of Angels” explores accepting your race, in spite of its evident superficialities it composes itself in. It’s not an in-depth and insightful exploration of a woman dealing with her race as someone like Stanley Kramer would approach it, but “Band of Angels” is merely just a woman living with herself in spite of her disgust for her race of mixed color.

Raoul Walsh’s direction is beautiful, with almost the same visual prowess as Victor Fleming. Sidney Portier is, as the pre-requisite demands, dignified as a representative named Rau-Ru. “Band of Angels” is pleasing in spite of its antiquated themes, and it’s an interesting addition to any film buff’s collection.  In spite of its dated story elements from slavery, the loose use of the word “Nigger,” and the superficial story, “Band of Angels” is still a very interesting romance with Yvonne DeCarlo exposing her sheer beauty.