Recently shown on Talking Pictures TV (but always likely to be shown again) is the charming and very sweet ‘The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp’ (1954)- ostensibly, it is about an angel (Diane Cilento) who is sent down to the very appropriate Angel Islington in London, who in pawning her harp to get some money to live, is required to show everyone that she meets the right path in which their true happiness lies. Written off and looked down upon by most of its contemporary critics, it is a slight film (it runs not much more than an hour) but one that is delightful in a number of ways.
The credit for its charm is largely down to one person-Diane Cilento who is front and centre of the fantasy. She needs to be impressive for us to believe in her and she is. Although the future Mrs Sean Connery would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in ‘Tom Jones’ (1963), to me, this was her best film performance. She is sweetness and charm personified in what can be seen as almost a London version of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (1947).
The Angel (she has no other name) comes to earth and is introduced to a number of characters whose fate she has in her hand. There is Len (Phillip Guard) who works for pawnbroker Mr Webman (Felix Aylmer) but fancies Jenny (Shelia Sweet) daughter of the music loving local Sgt (Edward Evans). Mr Webman is a scrooge like cynic about life though, but his real passion is his love of his music boxes. Meanwhile, Len is trying to get up the courage to ask Jenny (or any girl) out, whilst her father neglects his wife- all things that Angel needs to nudge along, so that they realise what they have to do to be happy.
It is all set in a non-gentrified and monochrome part of North London and is a post war happy little community where kids are charmed by music boxes and even local criminals like Alfie Bass are a bit soft. The humour is very light hearted and understated by writer Charles Terrot (whose book this is based on and was previously turned into a 1951 TV show). There is for example a sweet moment when Len who desperately wants to take a girl dancing asks Angel out which she happily accepts- astonished by this, Len says “Are you in love with me?”. She says “Yes, of course.” “Crumbs” is Len’s cry to which Angel assures him “Don’t look so worried, I love everybody”.
‘The Angel Who Pawned Her Harp’ is not a very demanding picture but what it does do is engage your heart and emotions so that you do care what happens to the characters of this little community and makes you feel a little bit lighter and brighter afterwards.
If you can’t wait for Talking Pictures TV’s next showing, Renown Films have a special DVD of it available for £10- see the details below: