Beliefnet
The Green Pastures The Green Pastures (1929)
Angels: Gabriel and Archangel lead a band of angels--actually the Hall Johnson gospel choir--in a telling of Old Testament tales from a decidedly Southern rural perspective.
Wings and Things: Gowns and feathers, but less hi-tech than Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
Powers: Gabriel plays a mean horn.
Memorable Line: "Even bein’ God ain't no bed of roses,"
Legacy: The movie version of this controversial Pulitzer prize-winning 1929 play was one of the first movies with an all-black cast. It sold nearly 6,000 tickets every hour at its debut at Radio City Music Hall.

It's a Wonderful LifeIt's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Angel: Angel Second-Class Clarence Oddbody
Mission: To show the suicidal George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), who pleads, "Show me the way, oh God," why life is worth living.
Wings and Things: First appears as a shooting star, later in long underwear--but Clarence only gets his wings if George sees the light.
Powers: Can call up an alternate world in which George was never born, but otherwise depends on whimsical folksiness.
Memorable Line:
"One man's life touches so many others, when he's not there it leaves an awfully big hole."
Legacy: Born of WWII, Clarence's angel-as-heavenly Kilroy on probation, and God as a stern four-star general, became the dominant gag for a generation.

The Bishop's Wife The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Angel: Dudley (Cary Grant)
Mission: To help Episcopal bishop David Niven remember the meaning of faith, and of his wife.
Wings and Things: Like Clarence, Dudley looks like you or me, except of course, he’s Cary Grant.
Powers: Mostly small-bore miracles; after all is well, no one remembers him, despite being imbued with happiness
Memorable Line: "Sometimes angels rush in where fools fear to tread."
Legacy: Angels, increasingly lovable, can also be sexy. Re-made as The Preacher’s Wife (1996), with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.

Angels in the Outfield Angels in the Outfield (1951)
Angels: Archangel Gabriel (voice of James Whitmore); the Heavenly Choir Nine
Mission: To help the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team win a pennant, if their abusive manager can keep his tongue in check.
Wings and things: None: only Bridget, an orphan, can see the heavenly helpers.
Powers: An eye-popping curveball.
Memorable Tagline: "The roughest guy you ever met... until an angel said 'Hello!'"
Legacy: Disney's remake in 1994 sanitized the storyline and changed the team to the California Angels. Get it?

BarbarellaBarbarella (1968)
Angel: Pygar the "Ornithothrope"
Mission: To help Barbarella (Jane Fonda) save the harmony of the known universe.
Wings and Things: Lives in a large nest. Talks without using contractions.
Powers: After finding love with Fonda, he rediscovers the will to fly.
Memorable Line: "An angel does not make love. An angel is love."
Legacy: Angels with heavenly bodies

Angel Levine Angel Levine (1970)
Angel: In the racially aware '70s, calypso great Harry Belafonte plays an updated Clarence--only Jewish and black.
Mission: Levine, a former street hustler, has to convince a down-on-his-luck Jewish tailor (Zero Mostel) to believe in him
Wings and things: A black leather jacket.
Powers: Fast talking
Memorable Lines: Tailor: "So if God sends me an angel, why a black?" Levine: "It was my turn to go next."
Legacy: Not the first Jewish angel—that was Jack Benny in 1943's The Horn Blows at Midnight"—Belafonte along with Sidney Poitier, brought back the African-American angel in the '70s.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus