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Chandler, a con-man, and his helper Frank decide to create a clairvoyant act for the carny circuit, as a little research reveals Ameicans spent $125 million on mind-readers and astrology. The carny, renamed Chandra, falls for one of his marks, Sylvia, but their love is tested when he brings tragedy to other peoples' lives and she asks him to go straight. Written by
Jon C. Hopwood
Stephen Sondheim picked this movie as the initial film on his special night as the Turner Classic Movies programmer, March 22, 2005. The cable network TCM was honoring him on his 75th birthday. See more »
F.R. Franklin aka Frank:
[to Chandra Chandler as he's being led away to prison to serve a 2-10 year sentence]
It sure is tough to be going away just when beer is coming back.
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Warren William is "The Mind Reader" in this pre-code film also starring Constance Cummings and Allen Jenkins.
William is a snake oil salesman (a con artist) during the Depression, using his skills of persuasion to sell products. One day, his associate, Frank (Jenkins) is reading about mind readers and thinks it might be a great profession, so William becomes Chandra. He is very successful. When he meets the beautiful Sylvia (Cummings), he falls in love. After an unfortunate incident, he promises her that if she'll stay with him, he'll quit. But the con and the money are seductive.
This is an early talkie and very well directed by Roy del Ruth. Unlike some early talkies, it's not stagy and the actors don't have trouble with the dialogue rhythm. Often in these early films, there are big pauses in between lines, but not here.
Warren William is one of my favorites. He played these dark characters in silents and the early years of sound, and then we were able to hear his wonderful laugh and see his humor in films like the Perry Mason series (though he and the scripts weren't Erle Stanley Gardner's idea of Perry Mason), Satan Met a Lady, The Lone Wolf series, and others.
Constance Cummings was both beautiful and amazing, and she does a lovely job here. She deserved to be a bigger star, but she left Hollywood early on and moved with her husband to England, where she made some films and appeared in her husband's (Benn Levy) plays. When she was around 70, she appeared on Broadway in a play about a stroke victim, Wings, for which she won a Tony Award. This was a great opportunity to see her on film.
Interesting film, kind of a forerunner to "Nightmare Alley" in a way - those movie fortunetellers are always fakes.
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