Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley

5.0 2
Director: Edmund Goulding

Cast: Edmund Goulding, Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray

     
 
Nightmare Alley is the sordid tale of a conniving young man who, in the words of one of the film's supporting characters, ends up low because he aimed so high. Drifter Tyrone Power sweet-talks his way into a job as barker for a rundown carnival. He is fascinated by an illegal side-show attraction called "The Geek," a near-lunatic who bites the heads off live

Overview

Nightmare Alley is the sordid tale of a conniving young man who, in the words of one of the film's supporting characters, ends up low because he aimed so high. Drifter Tyrone Power sweet-talks his way into a job as barker for a rundown carnival. He is fascinated by an illegal side-show attraction called "The Geek," a near-lunatic who bites the heads off live chickens and then is "paid off" with a cheap bottle of rotgut and a warm place to sleep it off. Otherwise, Power's attention is focussed on a beautiful if slightly stupid carnival performer (Coleen Gray) who works in an "electricity" act with an equally dense strongman (Mike Mazurki). Power also befriends an alcoholic mentalist (Ian Keith), who demonstrates how easy it is to fool an audience into thinking that his mind reading is genuine. When the mentalist dies after accidentally drinking wood alcohol, Power works his way into the confidence of the performer's widow (Joan Blondell), who teaches Power all the tricks and code words of the mind-reading racket. Power walks out on Blondell in favor of Cathy Downs, who marries him and becomes his partner in a classy nightclub mentalist act. But Power is dissatisfied with show business, and with the help of a beautiful but shifty psychiatrist (Helen Walker) he convinces several wealthy people that he can communicate with their dead loved ones...for a price. One elderly millionaire (Taylor Holmes) offers Power a fortune if he can conjure up the spirit of the millionaire's dead daughter. Power enlists his wife to impersonate the deceased girl, but at the crucial moment she has an attack of conscience and exposes the fraud. His career ruined, Power goes to the crooked psychiatrist for help, but she laughs in his face and calls the cops. He escapes the law by going on the bum, and before long is a drunken derelict. When he approaches a carnival for work, he is told that there is only one job open...as a "geek." When asked if he wants the job, the defeated Power replies "Mister, I was born for it." Based on a lurid bestseller by William Lindsay Gresham, Nightmare Alley was Tyrone Power's attempt to break away from romantic leads in favor of roles with more substance. The picture wasn't a success, but it proved that Power was more than just a pretty face.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
Aiming to prove his acting ability and stretch his image, leading man Tyrone Power pushed to star as a tragically ambitious spiritualist/con man in Edmund Goulding's film noir melodrama Nightmare Alley (1947). In Jules Furthman's adaptation of a William Lindsay Gresham novel, Power's conniving Stan rises from carny barker to renowned "psychic" only to be done in by a woman and his own guilt. Though Stan's eventual fate may be clear from the moment that he first lays eyes on the sideshow's debased "geek," the bleak story is unusually (and fascinatingly) squalid for a Hollywood studio production, even given the obligatory final moment of redemption. Swathing Stan's spiritual corruption in a somber yet dream-like atmosphere, Lee Garmes's expressive cinematography reaches a surreal apex of light and shadow when Stan pretends to conjure the spirit of a dead woman in a wealthy client's garden amid the obliquely lit trees and bushes. Bolstered by an excellent supporting cast including Joan Blondell as a used and abandoned sideshow soothsayer and Helen Walker as a criminal who actually gets away with it, Power gave one of the best performances of his career, but Nightmare Alley failed at the box office.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/07/2005
UPC:
0024543173151
Original Release:
1947
Rating:
NR
Source:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:51:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by historians James Ursini & Alain Silver; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Tyrone Power Stanton Carlisle
Joan Blondell Zeena
Coleen Gray Molly
Helen Walker Dr. Lilith Ritter
Taylor Holmes Ezra Grindle
Ian Keith Pete
Mike Mazurki Bruno
Julia Dean Mrs. Peabody
Roy Roberts McGraw
James Burke Town Marshal
Florence Auer Housekeeper
George Andre Beranger Geek
Oliver Blake Actor
George Chandler Actor
Harry V. Cheshire Mr. Prescott
Edward Clark Farmer
Clancy Cooper Stage Manager
George Davis Waiter
Henry Hall Man
Al Herman Cab Driver
Robert Karnes Hotel Bellboy
Mike Lally Charlie
George Lloyd Actor
Emmett Lynn Actor
George Mathews Knife Thrower
Jerry Miley Friend in Spode Room
Harry Hays Morgan Headwaiter
Maurice Navarro Fire Eater
Jack Raymond Hobo
Gene Roth Masseur
Laura Treadwell Woman
Jerry Wald Radio Announcer
Eddy Waller Old Farmer
Marjorie Wood Mrs. Prescott
Albin Robeling Captain
Hollis Jewell Delivery Boy
Nina Gilbert Worried Mother
Gilbert Wilson Husband in Spode Room
Charles Flickinger Bellboy
James Flavin Clem Hoatley

Technical Credits
Edmund Goulding Director
Bonnie Cashin Costumes/Costume Designer
Jules Furthman Screenwriter
Lee Garmes Cinematographer
Roger Heman Sound/Sound Designer
George Jessel Producer
Thomas K. Little Set Decoration/Design
Barbara McLean Editor
Cyril Mockridge Score Composer
Lionel Newman Musical Direction/Supervision
Ben Nye Makeup
Stuart A. Reiss Set Decoration/Design
Fred Sersen Special Effects
Russell J. Spencer Art Director
E. Clayton Ward Sound/Sound Designer
Lyle Wheeler Art Director

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Titles [1:17]
2. The Geek Freak Show [3:49]
3. What Madame Zeena Knows [4:57]
4. Teach Me the Code [2:50]
5. Making the Big Time [1:40]
6. How the Cards Fall [2:13]
7. Visions From the Crystal Glass [4:28]
8. The End of Pete [6:50]
9. A Code of Success [1:25]
10. A Carnival Engagement Party [3:05]
11. The Great Stanton [8:52]
12. A Scientific Explanation [1:51]
13. Old Friends, Dangerous Predictions [5:42]
14. Beyond the Code [3:46]
15. From Talent to Deceit [:30]
16. Testing God [3:46]
17. To Bear a False Witness [3:45]
18. Cornered [7:51]
19. The Hanged Man [5:26]
20. Stanton the Geek [4:15]

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Nightmare Alley 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love actors who have the ability to reinvent themselves. To really appreciate this film, you should see some of Power's other work first. For instance, go check out the Eddie Duchin story or Zoro. See how well he plays the positive, lovable, moral character. Then, check out this film about the seedy world of carnival folk. Ty stars as Stan, an overly ambitious carnie stagehand who becomes a great nightclub mindreader. Eventually Stan's ambition overcomes his sense morality and he begins to use his "special gift" to take advantage of people, with disastrous consequences. Without giving the film away, one of my favorite lines is Ty's "Brother I was made for it" line near the end. Check it out.
burlbsimon More than 1 year ago
Today, the movies are all about special effects and I'm sick of it. Nightmare Alley was written during an era of movies that had plot, story, morals, and development of character. With no special effects whatsoever, this film is better than any movie I've seen in the last thirty years. I never give out any details about a movie because it will spoil the story to know anything about it before viewing it; with that said i can simply say that this is a highly recommended movie and its a must see (not for children.)