15 November 2011

NIGHTMARE ALLEY/1947/TYRONE POWERS

NIGHTMARE ALLEY

1947/Director:EdmundGoulding/Writer:Jules Furthman, William Lindsay Gresham (novel)

Cast: Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, Helen Walker, Mike Mazurki


From what I understand Tyrone Power bought the rights to Lindsay Gresham’s novel for something like $60,000 and wanted it to be a vehicle to shed his romantic lead image and establish him as a legitimate actor. The studios at first felt the material was unfilmable but Powers and prospective director Edmund Goulding were persistent and the movie was filmed. Powers plays a traveling sideshow carnie on the look out for his big break who he finds in the sideshow fortune teller. They team up after her alcoholic husband or boyfriend drinks a bottle of wood grain alcohol and do a mind reading act that soon grows too small for Powers. He is shotgun married to the strongman’s (Mike Mazurki) naïve but sexy daughter played convincingly by pretty Collen Gray.

He crosses paths with smart and sultry Joan Blondell who plays the typical film noir femme fatal who is always one step ahead of the desperate and haunted male lead. She plays a high class psychiatrist whose clientele include the social elite that Powers targets for his big scams. The movie plays with moral issues and big questions in the way a good film noir film would, and that is with great photograhy, tough dialog and cool acting. The films never become pompous or overblown because the people suffering from these existential calamities are people on the edge of life, living pay check to pay check who live by their wits and luck and flexible morals.

His transformation into “the geek” is excellent and there are plenty of great lines. There are some problems too that require some added suspension of disbelief, for example, that the so called code Powers and Gray uses to dupe the audiences could be so effective based on how it is used in the film is far fetched. It just could not work but we have to accept that it would work in order for the story to be propelled along. Again we must accept this for the plot to work. Sometimes some things like this can ruin a movie for me but in this case it did not. Despite these little flaws and the fact I usually don't enjoy carnival movies (except for La Strada and few others) the movie works well and Powers in fact becomes a legitimate actor and left his pretty boy image behind for the most part. And the black and white is glorious.








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