Yvonne de Carlo is shown in a scene from Band of Angels. She plays Amantha, the daughter of a plantation owner. She has been sent away to Ohio, or some such bastion of Yankee perfidy, and returns home to find that her father has died bankrupt, that his slaves are being sold, and that she is the daughter of one of his slaves, and is hence black. Now how Miss de Carlo could ever be considered black is beyond me, but she is. So she is taken to New Orleans and sold into slavery. She is bought by Clark Gable. Much bodice ripping and heavy breathing ensue. It is after all 1957 or thereabouts when the film came out.
Sidney Poitier plays Gable’s right hand man, but underneath his supposed devotion to Gable is a simmering hatred. Sidney’s character proves disloyal, and it is eventually revealed that the relation between the two characters is not as pure and simple as it originally seemed. Gable’s character too is revealed to have a complex history and a back story that is only gradually revealed.
In contrast to another film, Pinky, in which the mulatto character, Jeanne Crain, accepts the social construction of her race, which is dependent upon the absurd “one drop” rule, Amantha struggles with being defined by others. The denouement ultimately depends upon her establishing a sense of self and identity that does not yield to the social construction of race by others in or out of her supposed racial group.
I find that it is practically impossible to dislike Gable, only in one of his early movies, 1931’s Night Nurse, have I found that I disliked his character. Even his portrayal as Blackie, in Manhattan Melodrama, was charismatic and attractive. (In all fairness I should admit that I haven’t seen all of Gable’s movies.) In Band of Angels Gable’s charisma plays against the eventual revelation of his unpleasant past.
There is a notable literary source for the movie as well. It comes from Robert Penn Warren, author of All the King’s Men, and doyenne of the New Criticism. Amazon reviews indicate that many people find it to be one of Penn’s lesser efforts, while others love it.
Overall it’s an interesting movie with an attractive cast, and an interesting twist on the Civil War.