7.8/10
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105 user 67 critic

Nightmare Alley (1947)

Passed | | Drama, Film-Noir | 28 October 1947 (USA)
The rise and fall of Stanton Carlisle, a mentalist whose lies and deceit prove to be his downfall.

Director:

Edmund Goulding

Writers:

Jules Furthman (screenplay), William Lindsay Gresham (novel)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Tyrone Power ... Stanton 'Stan' Carlisle
Joan Blondell ... Zeena Krumbein
Coleen Gray ... Molly
Helen Walker ... Lilith Ritter
Taylor Holmes ... Ezra Grindle
Mike Mazurki ... Bruno
Ian Keith ... Pete Krumbein
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Storyline

The ambitious Stanton "Stan" Carlisle works in a sideshow as carny and assistant of the mentalist Zeena Krumbein, who is married with the alcoholic Pete. The couple had developed a secret code to pretend to read minds and was successful in the show business before Pete starts drinking. Stan stays with them expecting to learn their code and leave the carnival to be a successful mentalist. Stan also flirts with the gorgeous Molly that lives in the carnival with the strong Bruno. Zeena and The Savage, an alcoholic man that eats live chickens that the audiences believe that is a savage, are the greatest attractions of the sideshow. When Stan gives booze to Pete and he dies, Stan finds that Pete had drunk methyl alcohol and not his booze, but he feels guilty for the death of him. Zeena teaches the code to him and Molly helps Stan to learn them. After an incident, Stan is forced to marry Molly and he decides to move to Chicago with her to become a sensation in a night club. One day, he ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

He was all things to all men ... but only one thing to all women!

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 October 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Scharlatan See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The telephone numbers of the Helen Walker character, Consulting Psychologist Lilith Ritter, are STAte 9862 (for her Office in the Lakeshore Building) and ROGrs Pk 8685 (for her Residence in the Belmont Apartments), both adjacent to the Lake Michigan waterfront on the near north side of Chicago. See more »

Goofs

The recording machine that creates a major plot point is a Wilcox-Gay disc cutter that could record at 78 or 33 rpm on a maximum disk size of ten inches. It cut at a fixed 96 lines per inch. Unfortunatly those specs limited recording time to about 3 minutes at 78 rpm and only a bit more at 33. A real professional would have used something like a Presto which cut 12 inch discs or a broadcasting machine like a Scully that could cut 16 inch disks. Even the FBI used disk cutters in pairs so one could begin recording when the others had used up all its blank disk surface. A much more likely device would have been a wire recorder which despite its limited fidelity could record speech for an hour. These units were not cheap but Dr. Ritter was obviously wealthy. Her Wilcox-Gay recorder had a retail price at that time of about $100.00 and was among the lowest priced recorders sold. See more »

Quotes

Carny #1: How can a guy sink so low?
Carny #2: He reached too high...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in American Cinema: Film Noir (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

Sobre las olas (Over the Waves)
(uncredited)
Music by Juventino Rosas
Played during the opening carnival scene
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Brooding and interesting drama set against a background of sideshow and upscale night club
7 July 2009 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

This riveting melodrama of corruption and ambition deals Stan(Tyrone Power) who along with phony fortune-teller named Zeena(Joan Blondell) and her drunk husband Pete(Ian Hunter) working the crowd to read mind. Later Stan conniving a scheming psychiatrist consulting(Helen Walker).

This is a magnificent noir drama of greed packs excellent performances specially by starring role Tyrone Power.Casting is frankly outstanding, giving extraordinaries acting, as Joan Blondell as the tarots expert, the alcoholic Ian Hunter, the robust Mike Mazurski, gorgeous Colleen Gray and the mean psychiatrist Helen Walker, among them. It exposes and denounces the flamboyant illusionists, fake spiritualists and discredited impostors spreading through America at the time . Critics applauded this interesting black drama of carnival life but lukewarm reception by public. Based on strange and controversial novel by William Lindsay obsessed by dark issues and who also committed suicide such as director. Tyrone Power in his most unusual character as the fake mentalist, an amoral and ambitious role who predicts past and future.This was the Power's best part ever.

This broody and thought-provoking picture is splendidly directed by Edmung Goulding(1891 London-1959 US ending his days committing suicide). He begun as boy actor and emigrated to America after service in WWI , became one of Hollywood's finest discoverer of the talents of its leading actress, as Joan Crawford in ¨Grand Hotel¨ and Bette Davis in ¨The great lie, The old maid and Dark victory¨ in which their relationship reached full flower. In the 40s Goulding tried something different and during his stay at Twentieth Century-Fox directed two Tyrone Power vehicles, ¨Razor's Edge¨and ¨Nightmare alley¨. But he didn't attain his wishes of winning a best director Oscar, though ¨The Razor's edge¨achieved nomination in the best film category. However ¨Nighmare alley¨, his best movie, didn't win prizes , neither nomination in spite of being a masterpiece and probably one of the most atypical from its time. Rating : top-notch classic, a must see and indispensable watching.


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