2016-06-30
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.

Heaven Can WaitHeaven Can Wait (1978)
Angel: The Escort (Buck Henry)
Mission: After accidentally pulling a star quarterback (Warren Beatty) out of his body before his time, the Escort handles damage control while a substitute body is found for the QB's soul.
Wings and Things: Heaven has gone corporate, and the Escort, a company man, sticks to conservative suits.
Powers: Life and death, repartee
Memorable Line: "You don't understand, Mr. Jordan. It's a mistake! I can't be dead! I'm the quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams and I'm starting against Dallas on Sunday."
Legacy: Somebody up there likes this story: "Heaven" is a remake of the 1941 Oscar-nominee "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (1941); 2001’s "Down to Earth" with Chris Rock is a subsequent remake.

Highway to HeavenHighway to Heaven (1984)
Angel: Jonathan Smith (Michael Landon)
Mission: A probationary angel teams up with an ex-cop/ex-alcoholic (Victor French) to help folks they encounter.
Wings and Things: A devilishly rugged aviator jacket
Powers: Empathy (and Little Joe looks) usually trumped angelic endowments.
Memorable Line: "The magic’s inside of you if you believe in yourself."
Legacy: Proved that spirituality, if syrupy enough, could work in primetime.

Wings of DesireWings of Desire (1987)
Angel: Damiel (Bruno Ganz)
Mission: Tired of monitoring human lives, Damiel wishes to become human himself after falling in love with a trapeze artist.
Wings and things: Set in Cold War Berlin, the film gives its heavenly agents somber black trench coats and cool ponytails.
Powers: Whispering in human ears introduces comforting words into our tortured streams of thought
Memorable Line: "From her to eternity"
Legacy: Briefly made angels chic, an effort undone by its 1998 remake, "City of Angels"

Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika (1992)
Angels: The Angel; Angel America, Angel of Death
Mission: To alert a human named Prior that he has been chosen to somehow stop progress and return the world to the "good old days."
Wings and Things: Angels as drag queens reset the standard with magnificent gray-silver rack of feathers.
Powers: Humans experience orgasmic bliss on seeing the Angel.
Memorable Line: "[Angels] can do anything but they can't invent, create, they're sort of fabulous and dull all at once."
Legacy: Little in this for angels, but great for drag queens.

Touched by an AngelTouched by an Angel (1994)
Angels: Monica (Roma Downey), Tess (Della Reese) and Andrew, aka The Angel of Death (John Dye)
Mission: The heavenly triumvirate reminds desperate people that God loves them.
Wings and things: When revealing their true natures, they are bathed in an ethereal glow.
Powers: The ability to dole out miraculous advice and support.
Memorable Line: "There's not a doctor on the face of the earth that can save that man's soul. His faith in God is what he needs now."
Legacy: Fueled the huge angel revival of 1990s.

MichaelMichael (1996)
Angel: Archangel Michael (John Travolta)
Mission: Out for a last hurrah on earth before being stuck behind the Pearly gates, he manages to steer three tabloid reporters toward redemption.
Wings and Things: Comically huge, molting wings. Smells like cookies, despite pack a day smoking habit.
Powers: Has fought the Devil and authored parts of the Bible, but onscreen only brings a dog back to life.
Memorable Line: (From movie poster) "He's an angel... Not a saint."
Legacy: Refreshingly unholy, Michael suggests angels are unconcerned with petty human definitions of sin.

DogmaDogma (1999)
Angels: Bartleby (Ben Affleck), a fallen angel, and Loki (Matt Damon), the angel of death.
Mission: Exiled to Wisconsin, they discover a portal back to Heaven in New Jersey.
Wings and Things: Slacker attire, occasional bombastic breastplates and powerful wings.
Powers: Hold their own with WWF superstars
Memorable Line: "I can spot a commandment-breaker a mile away."
Legacy: The anti-"Touched By An Angel," satirizes religious folks, not the troubled, as the ones who need to earn their wings.

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