Burt Reynolds’s debut. He plays an aggressive, womanizing good old boy. As the film opens, he’s fooling around with the titular Jenny Angel, a mute young woman played by Salome Jens. When Jenny’s mother catches them, she takes Jenny to Paul, a revival preacher played by George Hamilton. Standing before the congregation, with Paul’s urging, Jenny says, “God” and rediscovers her voice. Soon Jenny’s a preacher herself, but missteps by taking on an opportunistic business partner.
Not as cynical as Ace In the Hole, but cynical enough to warrant title cards reinforcing the film’s religious support. The film paints Jenny’s business partner and Paul’s wife as the villains, each manipulating their partners for their own ends. But in condemning individuals, the film shirks the chance to condemn the system itself and thus proves less resonant. Your mileage may vary, but I found the ending disingenuous.
Still, I appreciated the stacked cast. Hamilton shines in his role—handsome enough to captivate, yet gangly enough to convey his relative naivety. Henry Jones and Joan Blondell steal all their scenes as the flawed but well-meaning couple who shepherd Jenny into her own ministry. And Reynolds looks natural out of the gate, oozing sleazy menace in every leer. A memorable debut, but light-years from the charismatic roles that defined his career.