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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Never in the annals of film history has one man screwed up his life as badly
as Dr. Richard Talbot, played by Kent Smith. From the very beginning of this
film, Talbot's life unravels, at first very slowly, but, as the film
progresses, in a hideously downward spiral that goes out of control by the
end of the film. Watching this film makes one want to chant `I'm glad I'm
not this guy!' over and over again. Kent Smith's antics as Dr. Talbot in
this film make Fred Mac Murray's Walter Neff of `Double Indemnity' or
Wendell Corey's Cleve Marshall in `The File of Thelma Jordan' look like
childs play. Both of these movies can scare you silly regarding
infidelity, but still, there is no comparison.
As the film begins, Talbot is portrayed as a straight-laced family man; an individual who has no clue about the world around him save for his family and work. This, of course, doesn't last too long. Enter Nora Prentiss. Ann Sheridan does a superb job portraying the alluring Nora, a nightclub singer who gets clipped by an automobile while she's crossing the street. Just by luck, Talbot is outside of his office and sees the accident. Being a doctor, he brings her up to his office in order to repair the damage, which consists of a bruised knee. The ride downhill to ruin begins for Dr. Talbot, first in a subtle way. He becomes tempted to see her perform in the nightclub across the street from his workplace. You can feel the rush toward disaster get a little quicker at this point.
First it's dancing, then it's a jaunt to his summer cabin when the family is away on a trip, then it's expensive gifts, then it's his coming home in the wee hours of the morning. By then his wife, played by Rosemary De Camp, becomes suspicious, but (miraculously) maintains her reserved attitude about what's happening around her and her family. The gnawing anxiety inside of her finally prompts her to angrily quip, `Not everyone in San Francisco is in poor health' or "I wonder what's going on inside of you" to her husband during one breakfast. Of course this is the day of their daughter Bonita's birthday which, of course, he forgets because of his frequent late evening trysts with Nora. You can feel the plunge toward certain disaster getting more apparent, just like feeling a noose being put around one's neck.
It gets so bad by this time that he can't even concentrate on his work. Before a New York doctor witnessing an operation, he almost kills the patient. Of course this happens after Nora tells him that she wants to call it quits (good timing!). Talbot can't give her up. He pursues her like a male moth pursues a pheromone laden female. She keeps pushing him away, but nothing can stop this guy by now.
By now everyone viewing this film has a clue that this guy is tormented by the demon of infidelity. He feels like a trapped rat in a corner. He wants to divorce his wife, but lacks the courage to tell her. The viewer can feel the gnawing dilemma within Dr. Talbot and by now is REALLY glad that he's not in his shoes! Enter Walter Bailey, played by John Ridgely. Bailey is a heart patient who, coincidentally, collapses and dies in Dr. Talbot's office the moment he is writing a note to his wife asking for a divorce. Talbot notices that Bailey is the same age, height and weight as himself. In a day before DNA identification, Talbot sees a way out of his dilemma. He places his ring, watch and money clip on Bailey, drives his 1941 Buick to a cliff somewhere in Carmel, CA, douses the interior of the car with alcohol and sets it on fire with (of course) Bailey in the driver's seat. It gets much worse, by the way...
So, Talbot "kills" himself in his endeavor to by with Nora. The continuing downward spiral gets a little more bizarre and precarious... He takes off to New York City with Nora and keeps informed with San Francisco newspapers about his death. He then notices that the District Attorney is investigating his death, so another factor is introduced in the plot: paranoia. He and Nora stay shut up in the hotel they're living in. Nora is perturbed that they're not living a "normal" life like everyone else. She is also confused as to why he is acting the way he is, not knowing what's being written in the San Francisco papers.
Talbot becomes even more paranoid when they go out dancing one evening and he runs into the same doctor who watched that botched operation mentioned earlier. He tells Nora that they have to leave NOW without explaining to her what the problem is. By now Nora is really perturbed about what's going on so she confronts him. He finally explains to her the mess that he got himself into, all because he wanted to be with her. The walls start to close in on Talbot as you can see him deteriorate in the seclusion of his hotel room. Hotel meals, newspapers and alcohol are all that he looks forward to in his `prison'. Nora gets a job as a singer at Phil DiNardo's (played by Robert Alda) nightclub and manages to make a living for both herself and her `prisoner' boyfriend.
Still another factor appears in the plot: jealousy. Talbot, who by now is calling himself Thompson, becomes enraged that Nora is spending too much time at the nightclub and with Phil. It doesn't help any when he reads in the gossip pages how Nora and Phil are `an item'. One night he slips out of his hotel room and goes to the nightclub, pummeling DiNardo and fleeing in the latter's car. As can be expected in this film, he speeds off, is pursued by the police and has an accident resulting in severe facial injuries. He treats his injuries like a blessing, thinking that his being altered in this way can let him live a `normal' life in the great outdoors without being identified by anyone. Can Dr. Talbot really put away his past self now? Not a chance. In perfect timing, the law arrests him because of a fingerprint identification on the can of alcohol he used in order to destroy his previous identity. Whew! They extradite him back to California where he is tried for the death of himself. He is so disfigured that not even his wife or past colleague, Dr. Joel Merriman, recognize him. He is sentenced to die and he makes Nora promise never to tell anyone who he is. Would you? Warner Brothers advertised the movie with a tremendous advertising campaign. The billboards asked: `If you were Nora, would you talk?'
If there ever was a deterrent for philandering, this is it. The film is filled with a tragedy of errors from beginning to end. Dr. Talbot's fall from grace is truly astounding. His impulsiveness at throwing caution to the wind, as one would say, shows the stupidity of one man on his ability in screwing up his life big time. It really leaves one chanting over and over again, `I'm glad I'm not this guy!'
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie allows the viewer no easy out. Its female character cannot
be hated. Ann Sheridan, not generally a favorite of mine, is excellent
in a subdued performance and her character is very honorable. Well,
apart from fooling around with a married man. But without that, we'd
have no story.
The absolute destruction of the Kent Smith character is shocking. It is not entirely plausible psychologically, but this is a movie. His wife is cold and uninteresting. She doesn't even recognize him in court after he's had plastic surgery necessitated by an accident. And Sheridan is gorgeous and beautifully costumed and coifed.
Robert Alda, a very handsome and talented actor who ought to have been a huge star and but is known primarily because of his real-life son Alan, is likable as Sheridan's admiring boss.
But this movie is about the total degradation and disintegration of a man who's an upstanding citizen when we meet him. We see him leave his family, forego his career, become a disheveled savage in the identity he's taken on to be with the woman he lusts after, and finally we see him convicted of a murder he did not commit. But he is beyond caring about saving himself and we are left with our mouths agape.
. . . Ann Sheridan, that is. And they didn't call her the "Oomph Girl"
She's worldly (mostly underworld) straight- forward, knows the score, and completely direct. What's more, you believe and trust her . . . nothing underhanded here.
At one point she, as Nora Prentis says, "I may not have been handled with care, but I'm not shop-worn." That about sums her up.
There's no other quite like Sheridan, and she can make a wisecrack in a flash, partly for levity and partly to hold off wolves. Furthermore, it works pretty much all the time.
In "Nora Prentis" Sheridan's perfectly cast as a nightclub singer who walks into an affair with a married man. Kent Smith is fine as her suitor. Vincent Sherman's the competent director, and James Wong Howe's the fine photographer.
We're treated to Ann's beautiful contralto voice (in a lovely ballad, "Who Cares What People Say") and to the rest of Warner Bros. stock company, including Robert Alda.
"Nora Prentis' " characters work because they're endowed with both strong and weak qualities. No one's clearly victim or villain here, just quite ordinary people who get trapped in tragic circumstances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I disagree completely with some of the comments on "Nora Prentiss". I think it is one of Ann Sheridan's and Kent Smith's finest pictures and contains one of their finest performances. It really is sad - a well-off doctor who ruins his entire life (see how he slowly goes downhill throughout the film) for the love of a woman - that's it in a nutshell. I feel so badly for him, and I wish Nora had told the truth to save his life! I always thought Kent Smith a very good actor and in this movie, w/Ann Sheridan, he and she both give excellent performances. Truly film noir with terrific photography by James Wong Howe and excellent direction by an underrated director, Vincent Sherman, who made many very good films.
The forgotten Warner Brothers melodrama "Nora Prentiss" was one of the biggest hits of Ann Sheridan's career. Finely directed by Vincent Sherman who guided Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in several hit films, this is a sad, haunting yet somehow realistic story about a married doctor (a great performance by Kent Smith) who fatefully bumps into a nightclub singer (Sheridan) and soon falls madly in love with her. His illicit love of Sheridan leads to his downfall. Some may find the plot a bit contrived but an excellent script and the superb heartfelt performances of Sheridan and Smith make it work beautifully. THe ending is quite a knockout.
Ann Sheridan gives an effective performance as the title character who has
not had much luck when it comes to love. Unfortunately her luck only gets
Kent Smith's character Dr. Talbot completely turns his life inside out and upside down in order to be with Ann Sheridan. (If there is anyone worth turning your life inside out for, it's Ann Sheridan ;-).
A worthy entry in the Film Noir canon, Nora Prentiss reveals two characters desperate to find happiness...but at what cost?
This film also has one of my favorite lines from a movie poster:
Would You Keep Your Mouth Shut If You Were Nora Prentiss?
Awfully frank thriller about a chance meeting between a doctor working late one night and a singer who gets a bad scrape in a minor accident hooking up into a extra-marital(for the doctor) relationship that heads South in a hurry. Kent Smith, the male lead from Cat People and Curse of the Cat People, plays Dr. Talbot rather nicely I thought. He portrays a man who has worked hard his whole life and sacrificed his "life" for his job and family. Ann Sheridan plays the genuinely nice singer who appeals to the doctor not only because of her beauty but her ability to see him for who and what he is. She does a phenomenal job in what really is a complex role. The rest of the cast is pretty decent. Bruce Bennett may come off miscast as a doctor, but Robert Alda as a night club owner and Rosemary DeCamp as Talbot's wife both excel. While not really a mystery - or a very ingenious one as we know what is going on early on, this picture really depicts what at once seems quite harmless and its transformation into something very harmful. Director Vincent Sherman is more than adequate behind the camera. Some might say this really isn't film noir - I can see some of their points - but this is noir all the way for me: the suggestive black and white cinematography, the voice-over narrator, the man being changed by the "dame," and the ending that is bittersweet. The biggest problem with Nora Prentiss is the title. Ann Sheridan was the box office grab - and this grabbed a lot of tickets - but she is not the star of the movie nor is her character the central character. Kent Smith is the star and a more appropriate title should have been selected. Hmmm...maybe, "The Cheating Surgeon" or "The Doomed Affair." Definitely needs more thought!
**SPOILERS** Straight laced at his practice as a big city, San Francisco, doctor and wonderful family man Richard Talbot, Kent Smith,has never done anything more serious in his life then being late at his doctors office. That was all to change when one evening going to his car he ran into singer Nora Prentiss, Ann Sheridan. Nora has a fainting spell falling on the street and bruising herself. Bringing Nora up to his office Richard after treating her starts to slowly fall madly in love with Nora. That leads to him throwing away his very successful practice his family, wife and two children, and later even his life, which in the movie he loses twice. Where in the end Richard faces the California gas chamber for first degree murder. The movie "Nora Prentiss" is about a mans obsession. That obsession leads him into such depths of depression and depravity that he destroys everything he held near and dear to himself in order to keep the woman, Nora Prentiss, that drove him into this madness and in the end loses her as well. Nora for her part is totally unaware of how far her lover was willing to go to keep her from disappearing out of his life. Spending money like crazy on Nora and using the excuse of working late at the office so that his wife Lucy, Rosemary DeCamp, won't suspect his almost nightly lateness from home Richard is still very reluctant to divorce his wife, on what possible grounds? Then like heaven sent a patient of his Walter Bailey, John Ridgely, who not only fits Richards hight and weight but is even Richard's age,43, pops into his office one night and collapses and dies from a heart attack! Going to call the police to pick up the body Richard get this bright idea to switch identities and thus bury his past, as Dr. Richard Talbot, and start a new life as whoever he chooses with who he feels is the love of his life Nora Prentiss. Nora who was leaving for New York for a job as a singer at the Sea Gull Cafe run by her very close friend and former employer Phil Dinardo,Robert Alda, runs into Richard who excitedly tells Nora that he's divorcing his wife and within weeks when his divorce papers go through they'll be able to get married. Rchard in fact disposed of Bailey's body with his wedding ring on him to make it look like he was the one who was killed. In New York living like a fugitive from the law Richard has Nora becomes a bit annoyed of his constant secrecy and avoidance of people. It soon gets to the point where she's forced to live with Richard in a hotel room and only having her job at Phil's nightclub as the only contact with the outside world. Richard, now calling himself Robert Tompson, for his part constantly keeps up with the news back home in San Francisco and learns that his "death" is being investigated by the police as a murder suspect with evidence found at his office; The cops found a letter of divorce that he partly burned that's interpreted as a blackmail note. Also at the accident scene the police found a can of gasoline with his fingerprints on it. Richard finally lose it when he finds Nora, who by then he already confessed what he did, in her dressing room with Phil! That has him go into a jealous rage and attacks the startled nightclub owner. This causes the police to chase Richard all through the streets of Manhattan ending up in a fiery accident in Central Park with his face badly burned. With Phil not pressing charges and Richard getting a face-over, plastic surgery, it now looks like he and Nora can finally get married and put his life as Doctor Richard Talbot behind him. It's then his being fingerprinted by the police for car theft and those fingerprints matched those back in San Franciso on the can of gasoline come up as a match! This made Richard the number one suspect in his own murder! how's that for ultimate justice. Now with nothing to look forward to with his wife and family as well as Nora out of his life forever Richard, or as he's known now as Robert Thompson, can only sit in his dark prison cell and count the days leading up to his scheduled execution. He can also see what a mess he made of his life by reaching for something that he should have known was well out of his reach Nora Prentiss.
Ann Sheridan is a nightclub singer who gets involved with a
straitlaced, married doctor in "Nora Prentiss" - and the consequences
are interesting indeed. The doctor is played by Kent Smith,
well-remembered by yours truly as the husband of Simone Simon in "Cat
People." Though he never reached big movie stardom, Smith enjoyed a 40+
year career in film, on radio, and TV. In this, he's regimented and by
the book, partly helped by his equally disciplined wife, played by
another favorite of mine, Rosemary DeCamp, a wonderful actress. One
night, Prentiss ends up in his office with a mild injury, and from then
on, the good doctor can't imagine life without her and what he's been
missing. Conflicted about asking his wife for a divorce, one day, an
opportunity drops into his office, and nothing is the same again.
This is an intriguing film, but it takes a little bit too long to get to the point. The ending by '40s standards took me by surprise. Though Sheridan is nothing like Kay Francis, they both are women associated with a certain era - you can't think of Francis without thinking of her in those flowing '30s gowns and outfits - and you can't think of Sheridan without tailored suits and shoulder pads. They went along well with her earthy quality and low speaking voice. The overall effect was of someone who had been around the block but still had her dignity and self-respect. Photographed by James Wong Howe in this film, she looks marvelous. Though IMDb doesn't state if she did her own singing in "Nora Prentiss," if she didn't, the voice matched her speaking voice perfectly and sounded great.
Kent Smith is very good as the pent-up, frustrated doctor. One criticism would be that most of the time, doctors look at bodies clinically and aren't usually embarrassed by the site of a woman's knee, as Smith is in one of the opening scenes. However, he's very effective, as are Robert Alda and the always reliable Bruce Bennett in smaller roles.
This film apparently did a lot for Sheridan's career, which is understandable. Very good movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Scarlet Street is one of my favorite films noir. But seeing Nora
Prentiss again recently for the first time in about 25 years, I am
struck by a couple of aspects of Nora that make it superior to Scarlet,
for this viewer.
For one thing, Dr. Talbot's wife and family are pleasant enough. Maybe a little square. --But the home Talbot forsakes has nothing at all in common with the loveless, bitter home life in which Chris Cross is trapped in Scarlet Street. So by the end of Nora Prentiss, you feel, doubly, the sting of the mistake this films anti-hero has made in leaving the life he had, in doomed pursuit of the other woman. In Scarlet Street, the choice between life as a homeless, haunted drifter, and a life suffered in total subjugation to a shrew and harpy, could be seen as a toss-up.
And for another thing, Ann Sheridan's Nora is not a vicious user, pushed close to cartoon character, as is Joan Bennett's Katherine March. She doesn't have an angle. She seems genuinely capable of loving Dr. Talbot for himself. His attraction to her is completely credible. Chris Cross has to be too naive to fall for callous Katherine March; Dr. Talbot only has to be a normal guy who feels an attraction to women to fall for Nora.
Fritz Lang would top most great directors lists, while Vincent Sherman wouldn't appear on them at all. Still, nobody ever said Sherman couldn't fly. And with James Wong Howe in the copilot seat as Director of Photography, the look and feel of Nora Prentiss are top notch, and occasionally striking. The visuals of the final scene between Nora and Dr. Talbot have an unsettling, horror-like nuance that made me think of Seconds -- another great Wong DP job.
This film hit a nerve with me as a casual viewer, first time I saw it, because serious dramatic films in which disfigurement played a part were all but nonexistent. --Especially so in films from Golden Age Hollywood, which seemed built as a towering facade of hunks and babes. Hollywood was so uncomfortable with this topic that, outside a hand full of horror films (like Tod Brownings' films with Lon Chaney Sr.), it was virtually never addressed, and less so after the silent era. There is some kind of shock in finding a film from 1947 that features this as a critical plot pivot.
9 of 10 stars. It never exactly goes for the grit, as Scarlet Street does. But what it delivers is, nonetheless, a peerless noir portrait of desperation and one's own nature fatally betraying self. For that, you have to consider it worth your while if you are more than a lukewarm devotee of the genre.
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