Nightmare Alley (1947)

Tyrone Power learns what it takes to make a guy a geek in this atypical film noir. Although most noted for his elegant good looks in lighter fare, he fought to get Twentieth Century-Fox to adapt William Lindsay Gresham’s novel for the screen, even buying the movie rights himself. Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck finally gave in. After all, Power was one of his biggest box-office stars. The story of an unscrupulous carny who rides a mind-reading act to fame and fortune only to fall through too much greed was a little strong for postwar audiences and was the rare Power film that didn’t make a lot of money. In later years, however, NIGHTMARE ALLEY has come to be appreciated as one of the most ambitious works of film noir. Director Edmund Goulding kept the action on the dark side with the help of cinematographer Lee Garmes, and shepherded Power, whom he had previously directed in The Razor’s Edge (1946), to arguably his best performance. He’s matched by the women he tries to use, world-weary fortune teller Joan Blondell, innocent bride Coleen Gray, icy-cold psychiatrist Helen Walker, and in a smaller role as a gullible society woman, stage great Julia Dean. They all make NIGHTMARE ALLEY a memorable walk on the wild side.

(d. Edmund Goulding, 110m, 35mm)