Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Heads Up! Nightmare Alley Wed.Night !


misswonderly3
 Share

Recommended Posts

Wednesday October 16th, at 9:45 pm, TCM is airing the rare noir *Nightmare Alley*.

Directed by Edmund Goulding ( who's at the helm of such diverse offerings as *Grand Hotel*, *Night at the Opera* , *Dark Victory*, *The Constant Nymph*, and one of Mr.O's faves, *The Razor's Edge* ),

*Nightmare Alley* takes us on a strange and very dark (even for noir) journey that includes the seedy side of carnival life, alcoholism, fake spiritualism, and real human degradation.

 

It's got a very wicked femme fatale ( I won't say who, so as to not give it away...there are several ladies in the film), and Tyrone Power at his handsomest, which is really saying something.

 

If you're a fan of film noir, or carnival shows, or Ty Power, catch it if you can.

(It's even being aired in Canada, which is more than I can say for "Nights of Cabiria". But that's another story.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nightmare Alley is a fascinatingly dark corrosive portrait of ambition and corruption, starting in the seedy world of the carny business. The film deals with a character whose single-minded pursuit of success is strictly at the expense of the innocent and gullible.

 

Thank you for this recommendation, MissW, of the film that I strongly suspect was Tyrone Power's personal favourite of his career.

 

Joan Blondell, who makes a striking impression with an earthy portrayal of a small town carny queen, complained that Edmund Goulding was the kind of director who insisted upon demonstrating to his actors what he wanted by acting out their parts for them, rather than relying upon the performers to do their own interpretations.

 

Well, something obviously went very right for this film, considering the general excellence of the performances from so much of the cast, ranging from Power, who very effectively uses his natural charm and attractiveness as a cover for his darker intentions, to Blondell to Ian Keith as a former top psychic performer who has taken to the bottle to Taylor Holmes as a cynical millionaire desiring to see a lost dead love to, most memorably, Helen Walker, as a psychiatrist, a role that she skilfully plays with an almost serpentine cold bloodedness.

 

MissW, when it comes to a list of the noteworthy films of the unjustly neglected Edmund Goulding, I would like to add the 1938 remake of The Dawn Patrol, with Errol Flynn, in many respects an improvement upon the Howard Hawks original, and 1939's The Old Maid, with Bette Davis.

 

Finally, a question. Is Nightmare Alley the first major "A" Hollywood production to address the issue of fake spiritualism? I know there were a few "B" mysteries (ie. Miracles for Sale and Charlie Chan at Treasure Island) but those films all fell into the category of "light" entertainment.

 

Nightmare Alley tackles the issue in a far more serious manner. It deals with the exploitation of those who believe in the hereafter. I think that Harry Houdini, who debunked all spiritualists, would have been very approving of this film's cynical portrayal.

 

I think this is a must see film. Thanks again for recommending it, MissW.

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTDOucBBdY2xsWMVuaybQh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Finance,

 

RAWHIDE has nothing to do with the later show; in fact, during tv showngs back in the 60s, it went by an alternate title so as not to confuse viewers.

 

RAWHIDE is a very good, taut western set in a stage station, with Power, Susan Hayward and a baby being menaced by a band of outlaws. It is part of an evening of exemplary genre movies starring Tyrone Power, centered on the excellent NA. But all are highly recommendable, and include two rousing swashbucklers: THE MARK OF ZORRO and THE BLACK SWAN, featuring leading ladies Linda Darnell and Maureen O'Hara, respectively. MARIE ANTOINETTE differs from the others in that it was not a Fox vehicle for Power, but a sumptuous MGM production for Norma Shearer. Power has a rsther thankless role, so much so that Darryl Zanuck refused to loan Ty out to other studios afterward.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great to see a prime time Ty Power festival tonight... one of my personal favorite actors. Power had to fight with Zanuck to get to star in "Nightmare Alley", and it shows how much potential he had as an actor if he had been allowed to perform in more serious roles. After all, he did have the acting pedigree for it, much like the Barrymores.

 

Also, it should be noted that after "Marie Antoinette", Zanuck refused to lend out Power to any other studios, most notably for the role of Ashley Wilkes in "GWTW", for which he was being seriously considered.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lord, am I glad that TCM is finally showing Nightmare Alley after all these years. I've always put it up there in the upper pantheon of noirs alongside The Killers, Out of the Past, and Rififi. This movie is so great that even though I've seen it several times already, I'm even considering skipping the major part of the Tigers - Red Sox game tonight in order to watch it again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ray, I agree with your assessments of the endings of both films. I also have to say, though, that both pictures, particularly Nightmare Alley, are so strong that they still leave overwhelmingly dramatic impacts upon the viewer anyway.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

RayF. wrote:

 

>Without being a spoiler, I'll just say that the ending of NA is one of the biggest movie cop-outs along with YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN. My mere opinion, of course.

 

And Hibi and Tom agreed with him.

Well, guys, I won't quibble about YMWAH, since I've only seen it once. But what's wrong with the ending of *Nightmare Alley* ?

 

Ok, "SPOILER" WARNING for all those who haven't seen this film:

 

Remember how fascinated Stanton is with Pete the Geek, at the film's outset? "How does a man get to be like that?", he wonders, more than once.

Well, is it not a bittersweet (mostly just bitter) irony that Stanton ends up just like Pete? I admit, the descent into geekdom process for Stanton seems to be a lot faster ( a couple of years?) than it was for poor old Pete (more like half a lifetime for him). So Goulding condensed things a little, for the sake of storytelling.

 

Now, if you guys are referring to the fact that the devoted Molly finds him and promises to help him, so what? This in itself does not necessarily mean a happy ending.

In fact, I took it more as presaging a repetition of the Joan Blondell (Zeena) / Ian Keith (Pete) relationship we see at the beginning of *Nightmare Alley*. Zeena once loved and worked with Pete, and for the sake of that, she still cares and provides for him. Pete is a pathetic -even tragic - figure, awash in a bottomless sea of alcoholism, and Zeena's feelings for him are complicated, but mostly inspired by pity.

 

We can see that this might very well be the same future for Stanton and Molly.

How is that a cop-out? I see it as appropriately dark and noir. (which of course is the same thing as dark.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> Finally, a question. Is Nightmare Alley the first major "A" Hollywood production to address the issue of fake spiritualism? I know there were a few "B" mysteries (ie. Miracles for Sale and Charlie Chan at Treasure Island) but those films all fell into the category of "light" entertainment.

 

What about Barbara Stanwyck in *The Miracle Woman* (dir. Frank Capra, 1931)?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>Well, is it not a bittersweet (mostly just bitter) irony that Stanton ends up just like Pete? I admit, the descent into geekdom process for Stanton seems to be a lot faster ( a couple of years?) than it was for poor old Pete (more like half a lifetime for him). So Goulding condensed things a little, for the sake of storytelling.

 

Oh well... it's all geek to me!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I havent seen the film in awhile, but I remember Alley ending on a somewhat hopeful note. Not as bleak as the preceding scenes...One could read what you wanted into it. (I havent read your entire post as I want to view it again tonight w/out knowing.......)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tom, I'm genuinely curious...why do you see the ending of *Nightmare Alley* as a "cop out"?

I've explained the reasons why I don't think it is, but I'm genuinely interested to hear what you think about what I said (if anything.)

 

Hibi seems to think the film has a "happy ending", but I don't see it that way, for the reasons I cited below.

 

Feedback?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>But what's wrong with the ending of Nightmare Alley ?

 

SPOILER ALERT ABOUT THE ENDING:

 

MissW, the novel by William Lindsay Gresham ends with Stanton, reeking of booze, showing up at a sideshow looking for work, only to have the hard bitten carny manager offer him the position of geek.

 

The film, as we know, recreates this scene, even including some of Gresham's dialogue. The film takes the scene a step further, with Power as Stanton, responding to the offer with the words, "Mister, I was made for it."

 

This turnaround of events for the lead character is, of course, terrific in its irony, with a ragged looking Tyrone Power, such as his fans had never seen him before (or would again). We're seeing a character about to plunge into the same alcoholic bottomless pit of depravity that had both fascinated and horrified him regarding Pete's character at the film's beginning ("How can a guy get so low?" his own words of pity for another now ringing back to describe himself).

 

The problem for me with the ending is the business afterward to which you referred in which Molly arrives and seems to "rescue" him. That's the cop out for me. It has the distinct feeling of producer Darryl Zanuck deliberately putting, if not a happy, then, at least, a hopeful ending on the film to spare it the bleakness of the novel's ending. Zanuck wouldn't have wanted audiences to walk out of a theatre, thinking of his leading matinee idol tearing the heads off chickens with his teeth.

 

Your interpretation that Stanton and Molly will then possibly go through a repeat of the same kind of relationship that we had earlier seen with Pete and Zeena may well be true - in real life. But this is a movie from the studio system days, the land of (usually) happy endings.

 

I strongly suspect that most fewers will interpret the ending as Power's character being saved at the last minute by Molly. Still, the power of this final sequence, with the seedy setting, moody photography and dissipated appearance of Ty Power, does not, for me, at least, seriously dilute the darkness of this presentation. Nightmare Alley is still prime film noir.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A great shot from Nightmare Alley

 

vlcsnap-2010-07-23-02h17m16s38png.jpg

 

This is one of my favourite scenes in the film, and this photo, I think, captures the striking beauty of Lee Garmes' photography, combined with the elegance of the art direction by Lyle Wheeler and J. Russell Spencer. This scene, in turn, is such a contrast to the tacky seediness of the film's carny sequences.

 

This particular scene, set in the garden of millionaire Ezra Grindle, has, as referenced by one of the characters, a cathedral-like atmosphere. Watching the scene, too, you have the opportunity to appreciate the genuinely touching performance of character actor Taylor Holmes as Grindle, seeing him portray a proud man falling to his knees, pleading with what he believes is a lost love for forgiveness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...