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Obituary - Muriel Angelus
The Guardian- 9/ 2/ 2004
One of Rodgers and Hart's greatest hits, Falling In Love With Love, was first sung in the 1938 Broadway production of The Boys From Syracuse by Muriel Angelus, who has died aged 95. The New York Times critic thought her portrayal of Adriana in this musical adaptation of The Comedy Of Errors "a monument to precariously controlled wifely patience", and that she sang "with exquisite sweetness". Unfortunately, her sweetly exquisite soprano voice was heard too seldom in a career that began at the age of 12 and ended at 33.

Born in London of Scottish parents, the blonde Muriel Angelus Findlay began singing in music halls before entering films in 1928 in the silent The Ringer, the first of three versions of the Edgar Wallace play. A year later, she was in Germany for Maskottchen, based on an operetta by Walter Bromme, in which she played "the other woman". If the producers had waited a few months for sound, they could have included the songs.

In her first talkie, Night Birds (1930), she got to sing a number in a West End revue, in which a detective, on the trail of her fugitive boyfriend, disguises himself as a chorus boy. More serious was Hindle Wakes (1931), the first sound version of Stanley Houghton's 1912 play, where Angelus portrayed Beatrice Farrar, the respectable fiancee of Alan Jeffcote, a Lancashire mill-owner's son, who refuses to go away with him for a naughty weekend. Instead, he takes a mill girl, only to return to Beatrice after the girl remembers her "place". Jeffcote was played by the Scottish-born actor John Stuart, whom Angelus married during the shooting of the film.

They then appeared together in Let's Love And Laugh (1931), an inconsequential comedy-drama in which she was the daughter of a publisher, and he an aspiring writer. She then embarked on several farcical comedies, some directed and starring Monty Banks (Mario Bianchi), the husband of Gracie Fields, with titles such as My Wife's Family (1932), So You Won't Talk (1935), and Blind Spot (1932), in which she played an amnesiac, a melodrama Angelus would have wanted to forget.

In 1936, she starred in the Eric Maschwitz stage musical Balalaika at the Adelphi Theatre in London. Angelus was ravishing as Lydia, a ballet dancer and singer, who falls in love in Paris with an exiled Russian prince after the Bolshevik Revolution. It was the sort of thing that went down very well in the West End in the 1930s, and it ran for over a year. It led to Angelus being offered the role of Adriana in The Boys From Syracuse, and a contract with Paramount, for whom she made four prestigious films.

The first was William Wellman's The Light That Failed (1939), the second remake of the Rudyard Kipling novel, which tells of the desperate attempt of a painter (Ronald Colman) to finish his greatest painting - of a prostitute (Ida Lupino) - before he goes blind. In a moving scene, Angelus, as the now blind artist's girlfriend, has to hide the fact from him that the painting has been slashed by the prostitute in a jealous rage.

Of the three last films she made, all in 1940 - Safari, a studio-bound jungle melodrama with Douglas Fairbanks Jr as "the best hunter in West Africa"; The Way Of All Flesh, in which Angelus was a thieving adventuress; and The Great McGinty - the last is by far the most memorable. In this, Preston Sturges' first feature, about a tramp (Brian Donlevy) who becomes state governor by craft and graft, Angelus played his secretary, offering to become his public wife for the sake of the "women's vote". Angelus triumphs as the sole character with half a conscience in one of Hollywood's best satires.

After another success in a Broadway musical, Early To Bed (1943-44), as the madame of a bordello in pre-war Martinique, which people, for reasons known only to the librettist, keep mistaking for a girls' school, Angelus left show business. In 1946, long divorced from Stuart, she married Paul Lavelle, the conductor of the Radio City Music Hall orchestra.

Fifteen years later, Lavelle and Angelus recorded Tribute To Rodgers And Hammerstein, in which, naturally, she sung Falling In Love With Love. She is survived by her daughter from her second marriage.

· Muriel Angelus, actor, born March 10 1909; died August 22 2004
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