Tyrone Power, cast against type — at his own insistence — gives the performance of his lifetime as handsome scumbag / carnival barker / con-man Stanton Carlisle. He seduces fellow sideshow artiste Mademoiselle Zeena (Joan Blondell) to learn the secret of the once-lucrative mind-reading act she performed with her alcoholic husband (Ian Keith). Carlisle, a “born mentalist”, secures the secret method and sets off with his new carnie wife, Molly (Coleen Grey) to milk the bigtime as a spiritualist in Chicago. As Carlisle’s success grows, it’s only a matter of time before his greed — and twisted involvement with femme fatale psychoanalyst Lilith Ritter (Helen Walker) — bring his world crashing down around him.
Based on William Lindsay Gresham’s book of the same name, scripted by the formidable Jules Furthman (Shanghai Express, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo) and reflecting the preoccupations of its drug and alcohol-abusing, orgy-frequenting director Edmund Goulding, Nightmare Alley uncovers both the dirt and romance of carnival life, and controversially — for those in the business — the tricks and scams of conmen and hustlers. After this picaresque and cathartic film, you will never again misuse the word “geek”. —Eureka Entertainment
Edmund Goulding (20 March 1891 – 24 December 1959) was a British film writer and director. Goulding is best remembered for directing cultured dramas and such as Grand Hotel (1932) with Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, Dark Victory (1939) with Bette Davis, and The Razor’s Edge (1946) with Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power. He also directed the classic film noir Nightmare Alley (1947) with Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell, and the action drama The Dawn Patrol. He was also a successful songwriter, composer, and producer.
Before moving to films, Goulding was an actor, playwright and director on the London stage.
Interviewed about his Goulding biography Edmund Goulding’s Dark Victory (2009), film historian Matthew Kennedy stated:
He not only directed many types of films, but he took on multiple functions on each set. Though he didn’t usually take credit, he co-wrote many scripts, composed incidental music, produced, even consulted on makeup, costumes, and hair styling. His… read more
Possibly the most underrated film noir ever. If Freaks had a con man son, Nightmare Alley would be it. Tyrone Power gets ahead through Jedi mind tricks and pure son of a bitchery from the carnivals to the big time. For as predictable as the story becomes I still love it but the griminess of the first half and how well it was photographed make up for it. Plus the idea of carnie film noir is intriguing in itself.
"The tail-end of summer is an exciting period for Toronto's cult-cinema crowd," writes Neil Karassik in Eye Weekly. "With TIFF
A grim, bizarre, and gripping morality play about the tragedy which results from self-servingly overreaching ambition. The carnival background lends a sordid earthiness and a rich visual atmosphere… read review