Barton_Keyes

Noir Alley

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One day you're eating filet mignon, the next you're biting the heads off live chickens.

So the wheel of fortune turns. This is sort of a meta noir. The carny folks are trying

to put one over on the rubes and get their money by putting on a show with lots

of fakery and bluster. Sort of like movie people. From the crummy carny to high

society to the psychoanalyst's couch, it's all the same scam only with different tactics

and spiels for the particular environment of the chumps. On a practical note, I never

understood why a smart guy like Stan would give his $150,000($1.7 million in 2019

dollars) to semi-butch Helen Walker. Always keep the money yourself. Lesson not

learned. While it was a pretty typical happy Hollywood ending, I'm mostly glad that

Stan would be given a second chance.

 

 

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How we all seem to love some sleazy characters who both fascinate and repel us at the same time. On the screen, at least. In real life is another story.

I knew one guy who was a natural hustler. Anyone who had any kind of financial transaction with him was sure to get fleeced, even if it was to only a small degree. It was all a game to him and he had no real conscience.

One of the worst things he did was when an elderly widow approached him, telling him she had found some painted tin soldiers that had belonged to her husband but didn't know how to sell them. The hustler told her he would sell them for her (on ebay, I suspect) and he would keep 10% of the profit.

She agreed and was thrilled when he got back to her and told her he had sold them for $5000. The reality, though, is that he had actually sold them for a considerably larger sum, something like 11 or 14 thousand, I forget which, pocketing the difference. After that he then claimed his ten per cent on the $5000 he gave to her. Of course, the widow, who sounded very trusting and naive, had no idea he had so taken advantage of her.

But the reason I know this is that this low life couldn't help but brag about what he had done to a friend of mine. He omitted a lot of specific details, of course, like the lady's name but he was really laughing about what he had pulled off. The fact that he had just taken advantage of a senior citizen who was having a tough time financially didn't faze him in the least. He quite often boasted to my friend about behaviour of this kind because he was proud of his smarts in pulling off scams and had a need to let someone else know just have crafty he had been.

QxaDsiA.png

"You see those yokels out there. It gives you a sort of superior feeling as if you were in the know and they were on the outside looking in. Kinda hard to explain but I like it."

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12 minutes ago, Vautrin said:

On a practical note, I never

understood why a smart guy like Stan would give his $150,000($1.7 million in 2019

dollars) to semi-butch Helen Walker. Always keep the money yourself.

 

Yup, for a smart cookie like Stan that wasn't so bright. He made the mistake of trusting her.

I suspect a lot of real life hustlers types watching the film would cringe when Carlisle did that.

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28 minutes ago, TomJH said:

How we all seem to love some sleazy characters who both fascinate and repel us at the same time. On the screen, at least. In real life is another story.

I knew one guy who was a natural hustler. Anyone who had any kind of financial transaction with him was sure to get fleeced, even if it was to only a small degree. It was all a game to him and he had no real conscience.

One of the worst things he did was when an elderly widow approached him, telling him she had found some painted tin soldiers that had belonged to her husband but didn't know how to sell them. The hustler told her he would sell them for her (on ebay, I suspect) and he would keep 10% of the profit.

She agreed and was thrilled when he got back to her and told her he had sold them for $5000. The reality, though, is that he had actually sold them for a considerably larger sum, something like 11 or 14 thousand, I forget which, pocketing the difference. After that he then claimed his ten per cent on the $5000 he gave to her. Of course, the widow, who sounded very trusting and naive, had no idea he had so taken advantage of her.

But the reason I know this is that this low life couldn't help but brag about what he had done to a friend of mine. He omitted a lot of specific details, of course, like the lady's name but he was really laughing about what he had pulled off. The fact that he had just taken advantage of a senior citizen who was having a tough time financially didn't faze him in the least. He quite often boasted to my friend about behaviour of this kind because he was proud of his smarts in pulling off scams and had a need to let someone else know just have crafty he had been.

QxaDsiA.png

"You see those yokels out there. It gives you a sort of superior feeling as if you were in the know and they were on the outside looking in. Kinda hard to explain but I like it."

Here above TomJH provided a good example of how your various life experiences, allow you to "tune" to certain Film Noirs more that others. 

"A thought to throw into the equation of what makes a Noir/Neo Noir is an individual internal factor. It's subjectivity. Noir is in all of us. Think of us all as having an internal tuning fork, these tuning forks are forged by our life experiences which are all unique. When we watch these films their degree of Noir-ness resonates with us differently, so we either "tune" to them or we don't. The amount of "tuning" (I'm appropriating this term from the Neo Noir Dark City (1998)) to certain films will vary between us all also."

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1 hour ago, Vautrin said:

While it was a pretty typical happy Hollywood ending, I'm mostly glad that

Stan would be given a second chance.

 

I don't know;   Jeff Bailey or Joe Gillis weren't given a second chance and they entered their noir worlds as fairly decent people.       Not the case with Stan who would cheat his own mom if the price was right.

 

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21 minutes ago, cigarjoe said:

Here above TomJH provided a good example of how your various life experiences, allow you to "tune" to certain Film Noirs more that others. 

 

Actually, cigarjoe, I would think our life experiences help us tune to all kinds of films differently. It doesn't have to be film noir.

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2 minutes ago, TomJH said:

Actually, cigarjoe, I would think our life experiences help us tune to all kinds of films differently. It doesn't have to be film noir.

True, but what is or isn't a Film Noir has definitions all over the map, and usually starts heated arguments. Using the personal experience subjective explanation can explain why something that is Noir for you may not ring noir for someone else, using this definition will avoid the arguments, nobody is wrong. 😎

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2 hours ago, TomJH said:

Yup, for a smart cookie like Stan that wasn't so bright. He made the mistake of trusting her.

I suspect a lot of real life hustlers types watching the film would cringe when Carlisle did that.

Yes, you'd think they'd cover the keep the dough lesson in the first week of Running a Scam 101.

I've noticed that in some crime/noir films this basic piece of wisdom is not followed.

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44 minutes ago, cigarjoe said:

True, but what is or isn't a Film Noir has definitions all over the map, and usually starts heated arguments. Using the personal experience subjective explanation can explain why something that is Noir for you may not ring noir for someone else, using this definition will avoid the arguments, nobody is wrong. 😎

Well if nobody's wrong then the whole conversation seems kinda pointless. Anyway I know you're "into" this kind of semi analytic babble so I'll just leave it with you. I'd rather just talk about what makes a film good or, at least, interesting, to me. While it seems to be important to some others, whether a film does or doesn't qualify as noir means nothing to me.

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28 minutes ago, Vautrin said:

Yes, you'd think they'd cover the keep the dough lesson in the first week of Running a Scam 101.

I've noticed that in some crime/noir films this basic piece of wisdom is not followed.

Well that keep the dough lesson isn't given until Scam session 103.   Psychologist Lilith Ritter  completed the entire course.

While I'm cracking wise,  I believe that this twist was done to show that the real professional scammer was Ritter and that the rest were just clumsy amateurs.

PS: Stan also missed another key scam lesson:  don't depend on anyone that isn't tough enough for the job:  Stan knew his wife was weak (well, by being a good person), and that she was only going along because she loved Stan and he 'had her' with his sexual attraction.      

 

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2 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I don't know;   Jeff Bailey or Joe Gillis weren't given a second chance and they entered their noir worlds as fairly decent people.       Not the case with Stan who would cheat his own mom if the price was right.

 

I always thought that Jeff should have shot Kathy and let the dead Kirk Douglas take the rap,

so to speak. Then he could have gone back to his sweet girlfriend and she wouldn't have been

stuck with that dumb forest ranger or whatever he was. I think it was obvious to most people

that the ending was tacked on to produce a more positive finale to Nightmare Alley. And no

doubt Stan was not a good person by far. I still felt a little sorry for him. Maybe once he got

the chicken feathers out of his mouth, he would have reviewed his conduct and decided to

be a better person.

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1 hour ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Well that keep the dough lesson isn't given until Scam session 103.   Psychologist Lilith Ritter  completed the entire course.

While I'm cracking wise,  I believe that this twist was done to show that the real professional scammer was Ritter and that the rest were just clumsy amateurs.

PS: Stan also missed another key scam lesson:  don't depend on anyone that isn't tough enough for the job:  Stan knew his wife was weak (well, by being a good person), and that she was only going along because she loved Stan and he 'had her' with his sexual attraction.      

 

I figured the name Lilith was used to give a hint as to the true nature of her character.

I agree that the Helen Walker character was a scammer on a higher level than Stan, who

was stuck with starting on the low level of being a small time circus grifter, though he

was working his way up. Overall Coleen Gray was fine, but there were one or two scenes

where she seemed a little too innocent to be believed but maybe that was the way they

wanted the character played.

 

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While I love the film (and agree the tacked on semi-hopeful ending doesn't ruin it), I'm always bugged by the shotgun wedding part. Doesn't make sense as nothing was going on between them and considering the low morals of carny people, is ridiculous!

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10 minutes ago, Hibi said:

While I love the film (and agree the tacked on semi-hopeful ending doesn't ruin it), I'm always bugged by the shotgun wedding part. Doesn't make sense as nothing was going on between them and considering the low morals of carny people, is ridiculous!

The film implies that Stan and Molly had sex. Whether or not you think that would so incense carny people as to force a marriage upon them is another matter. But "nothing going on between them" is not quite accurate.

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30 minutes ago, Hibi said:

While I love the film (and agree the tacked on semi-hopeful ending doesn't ruin it), I'm always bugged by the shotgun wedding part. Doesn't make sense as nothing was going on between them and considering the low morals of carny people, is ridiculous!

I agree that shotgun wedding comes off as very contrived;  Stan was having sex with at least two women so what is the big deal.    But it was key to the plot for Molly to be strongly tied to Stan (married),  for them to leave the camp together and start their own scams;   Otherwise Stan would have left Molly once he knew she didn't have the heart to be a reliable scammer.

PS:  Stan didn't have a lot of positive traits but I guess respect for marriage was such a strong social convention it was one Stan treated with some respect (otherwise why not just leave Molly anyway,,,, who cares if she is one's wife).   

 

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19 minutes ago, TomJH said:

The film implies that Stan and Molly had sex. Whether or not you think that would so incense carny people as to force a marriage upon them is another matter. But "nothing going on between them" is not quite accurate.

Well, a chat to me is not having sex. Taking a big leap there. I know it's a code thing, but no one in the audience would conclude they were (having sex). And carny people being appalled by it, pretty funny.

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4 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I agree that shotgun wedding comes off as very contrived;  Stan was having sex with at least two women so what is the big deal.    But it was key to the plot for Molly to be strongly tied to Stan (married),  for them to leave the camp together and start their own scams;   Otherwise Stan would have left Molly once he knew she didn't have the heart to be a reliable scammer.

 

Agree. VERY contrived. I get they needed to be together, but it was a clumsy plot point.

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31 minutes ago, Hibi said:

Well, a chat to me is not having sex. Taking a big leap there. I know it's a code thing, but no one in the audience would conclude they were (having sex). And carny people being appalled by it, pretty funny.

It's Code subtle because it had to be since Molly's so young. But Molly says she doesn't care about anything else after Stan tells her Zeena means nothing to him and she's the one he likes. They kiss for the first time and the scene fades out. That's movie language for sex to follow especially since the two appear so relaxed with each other in their next scene together immediately afterward.

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I don't think they necessarily had sex or that it could be inferred.  I thought it was because Bruno was so possessive over Molly.  The Molly character may have been a little too innocent considering the costume she wore for her act.

As for the ending, I don't see it as a happy ending.  Molly is stuck with an alcoholic geek, much as Zeena was stuck with an alcoholic to care for.

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I'm a little surprised that some posters here didn't pick up on the film's sexual act clues.

After Stan kisses Molly she becomes serious and says, "Stan we shouldn't do this." "Why not?" he responds before kissing her again. She obviously likes the kiss but then says, "No." He then tells her that Zeena and he are just friends, that's all, and he doesn't like to be alone with her since Pete died. He only wants "the code" from her.

When Stan then tells Molly he wants her to come with him and Zeena (when they go on the road together) there is a big closeup of Molly's face saying she doesn't care about anything then (including Zeena obviously) before she and Stan embrace and kiss again, followed by a screen fadeout. I think anyone familiar with the subtleties by which studios had to get around the Production Code by using film language like this would know what happens next.

That is confirmed by the reaction of both Zeena and Bruno to them in the diner. Bruno asks Molly where she had been and she defensively responds by shouting "Where did you think I had been?" Following this the eyes of both Zeena and Bruno slowly fall down to Stan, who is sitting at the table eating and trying to look innocent. When Stan sees them looking at him he still acts casual, saying, "What's the dif? She's here now, isn't she?"

An angry Zeena then tells Bruno there are a few questions she'd like to ask Stan after he gets through with him, followed by the kicker statement from Zeena: "Oh, Stan, Stan, aren't you the foxy one, making out like you didn't know even know this child was on the face of the earth. You sure fooled me."

I can only say that it appears that Zeena wasn't the only one fooled by Stan to go by a few of the posters here who still haven't figured out what he did with Molly.  :rolleyes:

Admittedly the film tipsy toes around what happened between the two but I think it's there to be seen if you take another look at the two scenes put together.

 

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I still say it's a far stretch to imagine sex between them. They kiss. So what? Molly is a nice girl. Am sure virginal. They talk, then go to the party. I don't think anyone in the audience thought they had sex right there under the stars. So why have that big third degree? Like carnival workers would care? Stan has already been diddling Zeena. It was a clumsy attempt to get Stan and Molly together so they could develop his act/scam...

It would've been more realistic if Molly got pregnant, then the shotgun, had they developed the script better.

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14 minutes ago, Hibi said:

I still say it's a far stretch to imagine sex between them. They kiss. So what? Molly is a nice girl. Am sure virginal. They talk, then go to the party. I don't think anyone in the audience thought they had sex right there under the stars. So why have that big third degree? Like carnival workers would care? Stan has already been diddling Zeena. It was a clumsy attempt to get Stan and Molly together so they could develop his act/scam...

It would've been more realistic if Molly got pregnant, then the shotgun, had they developed the script better.

As to why they would care,  to me you answer that in your post;

Molly is a nice girl and she is a virgin;  but she no longer was the latter and since she was so young and Zeena knows that Stan is a scammer, she convinced the others that Stan had taken advantage of her,  and the only way to makes things right was a wedding.

As for what audiences thought when the film was released;  To me Tom has covered that ground well; most audience members were on the up-and-up when it came to sex and the silly Production code 'rules'.    E.g. books at the time were open about sexuality, so I assume most people (well expect up-tight religious folks) understand that,,,,  birds do it, bee do it,  even educated fees do it,,,,

(and Cole wasn't talking about falling in love!).

 

 

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6 hours ago, Hibi said:

While I love the film (and agree the tacked on semi-hopeful ending doesn't ruin it), I'm always bugged by the shotgun wedding part. Doesn't make sense as nothing was going on between them and considering the low morals of carny people, is ridiculous!

I was surprised by it too, especially the suddenness of the whole thing. At the beginning of the

film it isn't made very clear what the exact relationship is between Molly and Bruno. Are they

related, just friends, or does he see himself as her protector. Freaks popped into my mind,

where the circus freaks have their own code and way of doing things, however bizarre it might

seem to outsiders. The Nightmare Alley carnies need to chill out and take it easy.

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Stan was a rat to have taken advantage of an innocent virgin like Molly. That, plus the fact that he did it behind Zeena's back, had Zeena plenty angry at him. I think there was a bit of woman scorned vengeance in Zeena for pushing for Stan to marry Molly.

As for Bruno, in the book he desires Molly but is willing to act as her protector (I just started reading the book but that's the gist so far). Truth is if I was Bruno I'd want to beat the crap out of Stan rather than marry off a louse like that onto Molly (but it's apparent by this time she has it bad for Stan). Maybe this was his way of getting vengeance, too, since he knew that marriage was the last thing on Stan's mind.

The gunshot marriage might not have a thing to do with any carny sense of morality, just good old fashioned vengeance on Stan.

 

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53 minutes ago, Hibi said:

 I don't think anyone in the audience thought they had sex right there under the stars.

That's right. It was under the wagon. ;)

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