T. it.: La banda degli angeli. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Robert Penn Warren. Scen.: John Twist, Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts. F.: Lucien Ballard. Mo.: Folmar Blangsted. Scgf.: Franz Bachelin. Co.: Marjorie Best. Mu.: Max Steiner. Su.: Francis Stahl. Int.: Clark Gable (Hamish Bond), Yvonne De Carlo (Amantha Starr), Sidney Poitier (Rau-Ru), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Ethan Sears), Rex Reason (Seth Parton), Patric Knowles (Charles de Marigny), Torin Thatcher (capitano Canavan), Andrea King (Miss Idell), Ray Teal (Mr Calloway), Russell Evans (Jimmee), Carolle Drake (Michele), Raymond Bailey (Mr Stuart), Tommie Moore (Dollie). Prod.: Warner Bros. Pictures. Pri. pro.: 3 agosto 1957 35mm. D.: 125’. Col.
In a discourse over a few pages, brilliant as ever and even more tendentious, Jacques Lourcelles strips Gone with the Wind of its legendary status, and invites those interested in the “specific poetry of the South during that time in history and the romantic conflicts that took place” to watch the “superb” Band of Angels, directed by Raoul Walsh eighteen years later. One may fervently disagree with Lourcelles’ evaluation of Gone with the Wind, but there is no doubt that Band of Angels sparks an immediate and ironic comparison – starting with the opening credits with a close-up on a large tree and colonial house in the background, all made more quaint by a pointillist pattern seemingly inspired by needle point. So the poetry of the South, with its plantations and its mansions, is what’s left hanging in the fantasy of a well-educated girl who likes to do needlework? A proud character destined to overcome a number of misfortunes, a Scarlett O’Hara type with a drop of black blood in her veins? In an era when the studio system was already facing its decline, Walsh takes on a movie that is exemplary of that system as it is exceptional, dismantles its meaning and fills it with something else. That something else being everything the 1939 movie had taken out: that drop of black blood in pale Yvonne De Carlo’s veins turns into a (narrative) torrent about to flood, surfaces in the two slaves’ attempt to escape, flows alongside the “voices of freedom” from the North to the mouth of a chatty little black servant, pours into the long shot of the slaves ready to greet their ‘good master’ at Pointe de Loup – a wonderful scene, like in a hallucinatory-ethnographic musical -, tinges the hatred of freedman-son Sydney Poitier, who speaks the (moderate) political language of 1957 calling for revolt against the poisonous “kindness” of white people; and finally it floods the central scene in which Clark Gable, “his eyes like slits onto the abyss” remembers his years as a slave merchant, while “the narrative fabric unravels, and the present, inflated by eruptions from the past, bursts” (Toni D’Angela, in his recent Raoul Walsh o dell’avventura singolare). Negritude is everywhere, in the disillusioned epic in which “freedom is a white word”, as is the idea of defeat, “because no one can escape who he is”: neither the Southern negroes freed by the Yankees nor the former slave owners. But there is such Walshian sweetness in that embrace by the placid river, the boat waiting, the last adventure, with time run out, offered to his old hero/star/alter ego… Gone with the Wind‘s ending was ebullient defy; Band of Angels‘ is pure consolation (and I’m saying it with the maximum reverence for this marvelous word).