My parents bought a motel (La Casa) in Ponders Corner in 1958 when I was 13. Within a year or so I was working around the motel and even renting rooms. Our motel was the closest one to Fort Lewis. When left alone to run the motel I would get any needed change at a small grocery store only a little over a hundred yards away. You can’t just ask a small business for change, so I would buy something either for dinner or a paperback book to read. I was a prodigious reader. I belonged to several book clubs. I preferred science fiction, classics, and short stories. I don’t recall buying the paperback version of The Magic Barrel, but it would have fitted my M.O. I remembered the stories. My favorite was The Angel Levine.
For months now, I have seen Prime carrying The Angel Levine for viewing. I tried numerous times to watch it, but the film stopped each time before actually running. Last night I had success.
“The Angel Levine is a 1970 American drama film directed by Ján Kadár and starring Zero Mostel, Harry Belafonte, Ida Kaminska, Milo O’Shea, and Gloria Foster. It is based on a short story by Bernard Malamud about Morris Mishkin, an elderly, impoverished New York City tailor who becomes unable to work due to health problems. His wife has also been seriously ill for two years, and their situation is now desperate. The tailor’s Jewish faith, or lack of it, is challenged when a man calling himself Alexander Levine enters his life, claiming to be his guardian angel. Levine says that he must make the tailor believe in his mission, or fail to earn his angelic wings.”
Wikipedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Angel_Levine
The film contains two personal lures beside the author, that drew me in to watch the film when I was dead-tired. Harry Belafonte reached out to me on a lovely evening returning with my parents from a country home near Purdy, Washington. I think we bought the summer cabin mainly because it had a small plaque that gave the name of this charming little home with a wonderful water view and footage: La Casita (the small home). My mother and father and I were crammed into the only seat in our 1957 Ford Ranchero. As we drove home from the peninsula, across the Narrows Bridge, and through Lakewood to Ponders Corner we listened to Harry Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. We drove silently and enjoyed the voice, the laughter of the audience, and the humor of Belafonte. There are only a few moments as a teenager where it felt like we had a family. Later my two sisters came along to boost the feeling. We had several weekend homes, but never spent the night as a family at any of them.
Morris Mishkin is an elderly, religious Jew in New York. His wife Fanny is very ill. He’s a tailor, but he can’t work because his back has given out. He doesn’t even have enough money for Fanny’s medicine. Finally, a black fellow appears from nowhere in the Mishkin kitchen. He says he’s an angel from God, sent to help Mishkin. The black angel is even Jewish, named Alex Levine? But will Morris believe in the angel? And can the angel perform the miracle that he promises? — Martin Lewison – email@example.com
We see Morris’s wife Fanny (Ida Kaminska), in various views of movement and possible health, but we know she will soon die.
Screenplay by Bill Gunn and Ronald Ribman – based on a story by Bernard Malamud.
The Angel Levine is forceful with the doctor, played very well by seasoned actor Milo O’Shea, and Zero Mostel’s Morris.
THE MOST UNDERRATED MOVIE ON IMDb – and I mean it!
mangalitza920 September 2005
… and I DO mean it. If not literally (after all, I have not seen every movie ever created!), at least, obviously, among the ones, the many I know.
5.3 – The rule of thumb with IMDb is this: sometimes movies rated very highly (for example, the piece of Kannes-Kompetition-Krowned-Korean-Kraap called “Oldboy”) can be truly bad. But rarely a movie worth watching is actually rated under 6. This movie, very much worth watching, is. A disgrace.
True, I give it a 10 in protest. The movie is not perfect. Its true rating should be an 8 or a 9. It has some acting flaws (Belafonte especially), the script wanders around, sometimes. However, what we have here is one of the greatest directors of all times, the Czech Jan Kadar, directing two of the greatest actors of all time, the beloved, larger-than-life Zero Mostel and the sublime Ida Kaminska in an acting/poetic/moral tour de force. A pair made in Heaven! It’s true that this movie, little flaws apart, does not pander to the average audiences, but those interested in watching an excellent (while, again, not beyond criticism) movie of the incomparable director who gave us “The Shop on the Main Street” (the best movie ever about Holocaust) should not miss this just because some silly IMDb rating system decides that “American Beauty” is better than “The Angel Levine”. It isn’t.
In the end, the angel realizes he can’t even really help the one person he loved the most. Isn’t that just like real life? We sometimes crush and disappoint those we love and let them down when we should be raising them up. Gloria Foster plays a long time suffering Sally who meets with Levine one more time. We feel more for her than anyone else in the story. We know Levine loves her and she him, but he falls short even with all the help open to him from heaven.
I hope you watch the film and enjoy it.