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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nightmare Alley (1947)

An ambitious con man (Tyrone Power) works at a traveling carnival assisting a mentalist (Joan Blondell), who he's having an affair with, and her alcoholic husband (Ian Keith). Not content with working the small time, he takes what he's learned from the mentalist and reinvents himself as The Great Stanton and plays the posh nightspots in Chicago with his new wife (Coleen Gray) as his assistant. But his ambition and his greed will also be the cause of his downfall. Based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham, this dark and disturbing piece of film noir was the brainchild of Tyrone Power who was seeking to expand into more complex and challenging roles than swashbucklers like MARK OF ZORRO and THE BLACK SWAN. Power's movie star handsomeness overshadowed his abilities as an actor and he seemed an unlikely candidate to play a conniving hustler who rises to the top only to sink the lowest a man can go. But his belief in himself was justified. It's the best performance he's ever given. But he's matched by a spectacular performance by Helen Walker (THE BIG COMBO) as the duplicitous psychiatrist who turns the tables on him. A gripping film directed with an assured hand by Edmund Goulding and stunning B&W cinematography by Lee Garmes (DUEL IN THE SUN) that defines film noir. With Mike Mazurki, Taylor Holmes, Julia Dean and Roy Roberts.

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