Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Angel Face (1952/1953)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Angel Face (1952/1953)

In Otto Preminger's dark noir of murder involving a love/hate relationship and betrayal (similar to The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)), it starred Jean Simmons as the gorgeous and sensual but insane 20 year-old Diane Tremayne; she was a scheming, psychotic 'angel of death' femme fatale, advertised with the film's taglines: "She loved one man ... enough to KILL to get him!", and "The men she loved she destroyed":

  • one night, an ambulance was called to the hillside Tremayne estate, driven by working class Beverly Hills resident Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) and his partner Billy (Kenneth Tobey), to treat the 'accidental' mysterious gas inhalation-poisoning of Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil), the American stepmother of 20 year-old English stepdaughter Diane (Jean Simmons). The question was - was it a suicide attempt or attempted murder?
  • the disturbed and spoiled heiress Diane immediately became infatuated with Frank when she met him during the distress call. Frank noticed her playing the piano in another room during the incident to calm herself. He approached her, but when she became hysterical, he slapped her, and she slapped him back - but then apologized. He told her: "I've been slapped by dames before."
  • after following Frank's ambulance in her own sports car and meeting up with him in Harry's diner, Diane came onto him, and he postponed his dinner plans with his steady blonde girlfriend, hospital receptionist Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman), to go out to dinner with Diane instead. As he drove her sports car to dinner at a fancy club, she learned about his past as an ex-race car driver, and his dream to raise $5-6,000 dollars in finances to fund his own garage-shop. After dancing with him, Diane became even more determined to sabotage Frank's relationship with Mary and shake her faith in him.
Diane Following Frank to Diner and Afterwards Driving Her to Dinner and Dancing - Inching Her Way Into His Life
  • over lunch, Diane intimated to Mary that she had dinner with Frank - in order to make Mary jealous. Her efforts paid off when Mary started to date Frank's partner Bill. Diane offered Frank to drive her sports car in the upcoming Pebble Beach Road Race (Frank: "Make it a lot easier for me to get backing for the shop"). She also hired Frank as their family's chauffeur, and arranged for him to live in a small apartment over the garage, while encouraging him to attain his future plans to invest in his own car repair shop - with co-owner financial help from Catherine. He was beginning to fall in love with Diane.
  • then she entered into a full-blown love affair with Frank before executing her diabolical scheme. It was evident that Diane had been thoroughly spoiled by her father, well-respected, henpecked novelist Charles (Herbert Marshall), and she wanted to have him all to herself. The deceitful Diane proceeded to tell a series of lies to Frank - she claimed that Catherine had reneged on her earlier promise to finance Frank's dream, and began to drive a wedge between Frank and Catherine. Diane asserted that Catherine had refused his proposal, and would fire him as chauffeur if she learned of their affair. She claimed her stepmother was manipulative and would take it out on her doting father: "If I try to fight her, she makes him pay for it, and she knows I can't stand that."
  • in the middle of the night, Diane also told Frank that Catherine had tried to kill her by turning on her gas fireplace. Frank began to suspect that Diane was lying about the gas-poisoning incident - and asked: "If she's trying to kill you, why did she turn on the gas in her own room first?" He accused her of outright lying: "I'd say that your story was as phony as a $3 bill."
  • Frank delivered a famous prophetic quote about her and rightly cautioned himself: "I don't pretend to know what goes on behind that pretty little face of yours. I don't want to. But I learned one thing very early - 'Never be the innocent bystander.' That's the guy that always gets hurt. You want to play with matches, that's your business. But not in gas filled rooms. It's not only dangerous, it's stupid."
  • Frank checked out where Mary was in her relationship with Bill by asking her point-blank: "What's the score, Mary? Has Bill taken over or do I still rate?...Yes or no? Bill or me?" When told he was on "probation" and that she didn't want to answer him directly until he was sure what he wanted, he told her he was going to leave his job as chauffeur
  • when Frank threatened to desert Diane and return to Mary: "I never should have taken this job...You have your world, I have mine," she piteously begged for him to stay ("All I want is you. I can't let you go now. I won't") - and promised to pack up and run off with him and sacrifice everything to keep him. He prophetically realized how dangerous she was in regards to Catherine: "You hate that woman and someday you're gonna hate her enough to kill her." Diane confirmed her intense hatred for Catherine - arguing that the "rich widow" had poisoned her father's ability to write: "He hasn't written a line since she married him...She's humiliated him and destroyed him. There's never been anything in my life that she hasn't begrudged or spoiled somehow."
  • Frank was temporarily convinced to remain romantically entangled with her, although he knew her main secretive objective was to murder her wealthy and controlling step-mother, in order to acquire Catherine's inheritance for herself. After convincing Frank to stay, Diane walked to the cliff's edge of the estate's driveway, picked up a piece of litter (a cigarette pack), and dropped it over the edge - an ominous and tragic foreshadowing of the future.

Frank's Indecision About Leaving Diane

Frank's Decision to Remain - Sealed with a Kiss

Diane's Ominous Release of Litter Over the Cliff's Edge
  • a plan to eliminate Catherine (devised by both Diane and Frank) was supposed to work smoothly after both of them tampered with the Tremayne car. It was rigged to crash and kill Catherine by suddenly accelerating in reverse. However, unexpectedly, the day of Catherine's planned drive to Santa Barbara for a bridge tournament, Charles asked for a lift to Beverly Hills for an appointment, and both he and Catherine drove off in the car. The resultant car crash at the end of their driveway sent both Tremaynes over a nearby cliff and killed the two of them.
  • the crash scene dissolved to a view of the female mastermind sitting impassively and playing at a grand piano, about to suffer a nervous breakdown. Delirious and devastated by her father's unexpected death, Diane was imprisoned in a prison hospital-infirmary where she kept insisting that she had planned and executed the car accident-murder by herself ("I did it all by myself. Not Frank"). However, Frank was also implicated since her suitcase was found in his bedroom and it appeared they were planning to flee together.
  • to exonerate themselves from charges of murder, Diane's defense lawyer Fred Barrett (Leon Ames) urged Frank and Diane to marry, so that they couldn't testify against each other ("You have a much better chance together than separately"). It would also look more plausible since they were in the midst of an affair and were planning to elope. The prosecuting district attorney Judson (Jim Backus) during the trial called their marriage a shameless tactic to gain sympathy and beat the charges: "I say the word 'love' is profaned when applied to their unhealthy, shameless passion! And their marriage, under these circumstances, is a travesty."

The Married Couple During their Court Trial

Their Court Case Acquittal

Frank's Intention to Divorce Diane After The Trial Ended
  • after their defense attorney Barrett argued: "If love is a crime, Diane and Frank Jessup are guilty. But this is the only crime that can be, or has been, proved against them," the strategy worked and the newly-married couple was ultimately acquitted. But Frank was ready to give up on Diane and divorce her. She remained jealous of Frank's continuing contact with Mary and threats to end their marriage, but Mary refused to leave her current boyfriend Bill: ("You can't just walk in the door and say, 'I'm getting a divorce' and expect me to fall into your arms").
  • shortly later during a wordless four minute sequence, Diane wandered through the empty rooms and hallways of the mansion and throughout the grounds, contemplating what to do next. She awakened the next morning wrapped in Frank's coat and cuddled in a chair, and rushed to the office of her lawyer Barrett, where she confessed that she alone had killed her stepmother. Without Frank's knowledge, she explained how she had tricked him into showing her how the car's transmission worked so that it could be tampered with to cause a malfunction. The lawyer tore up her written confession of guilt, stressing that the double jeopardy rule prohibited a re-trial: ("Once you've been tried for a crime and acquitted, you can never be tried again or punished for it").

Diane Begging To Go to Mexico with Frank

Sitting In the Car Ready to Go to the Bus Station

The Shocking Finale: A Second Car 'Accident'
  • fatefully in the surprise, ironic bleak ending, as Frank was packing to permanently leave for Mexico by bus, Diane begged him to take her too: ("I can't let you go, darling. I just can't"), but he adamantly refused ("It's all over. It's finished"). She offered to drive him to the bus station rather than take the taxi he had ordered, and he reluctantly agreed.
  • As they sat in the car in the driveway ready to drive off, she produced a bottle of alcohol and two glasses. Just when he poured them drinks, Diane - in retaliation - gunned her car in reverse over the embankment and killed them both - the same cliff where the Tremaynes were killed. The film ended with the taxi-cab driver coming up the driveway and honking his horn to alert his passenger.

Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) - Ambulance Driver

Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) - Troubled

Diane's Love For Her Father Charles (Herbert Marshall)

Diane At Lunch with Frank's Girlfriend Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman)

Mary Now Dating Bill, Frank's Partner

Frank Offered the Tremayne's Chauffeur Job and Lodging

Frank Calling Out Diane's Lying: "
I don't pretend to know what goes on behind that pretty little face of yours. I don't want to"

Diane's Deviousness

The Tremayne's Tragic Car Crash Scene

Diane's Stone-Faced Reaction to the Crash at a Grand Piano

Diane in Prison Infirmary

Diane Waking Up, Cuddled in Frank's Coat


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z