On October 9, 1947, 20th-Fox announced the film noir adaptation of Nightmare Alley directed by Edmund Goulding, starring Tyrone Power and Joan Blondell, at its New York premiere. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review, titled “Nightmare Alley’ One of the Year’s Best Shocks – Notes on Bizarre Realism in Bizarre Drama,” is below:
A shockingly successful work that stands out as a novel, William Lindsay Gresham’s unusual story of an “eccentric”, Nightmare Alley, which appeared on screen as a study in real-life horror can be captured as one of the best pictures of the year. Fascinating, exciting and suspenseful, it’s a gritty, relentless account of one man’s degeneracy.
There’s nothing exciting about the book, and the script just compromises on a matter of taste. The story remains difficult, bitter and ironic. And because it’s dirty and gross, there’s a terrible fascination to watch it – an appeal that has always been a hallmark of these dramas about the outer fringes of this society. Using this psychological factor alone as a yardstick, one can predict a favorable box office reaction for the film. The public’s sensitivity to weirdness and curiosity has been proven over the years.
However, this carnival story is not a mere horror show. It is mature in its subject matter and equally mature in its presentation. It gives Tyrone Power the best performance of his career – a job that is sure to land him in Academy Award nominations next year and right now that will cause the kind of constructive commentary. build a business. Of the two important divisions of the motion picture effort, box office and art, Nightmare Alley It was a resounding and well-deserved success.
The production by George Jessel puts him on the list of Hollywood’s top innovators. His closeness to the show business in all its stages lends a genuine ring to the story’s carnival background, underscoring its believability.
For director Edmund Goulding, painting was a departure from his usual assignment and he made the most of it – diving into the film’s crux with wide, sharp movement. Two prognostic-related scenes from an ancient deck of playing cards are masterpieces of time and subdued hysteria.
“Geeks” of Nightmare Alley is the pitiful creature of the carnival world – a wild-eyed amphibian fish that’s half human, half animal. His world is the pit where he stomps and rushes for yokels amid a pile of bones and animal carcasses. His reward is one bottle per day. The way a man becomes a “geek” is the driving force of the plot with Power being cast as a waggle-barker who ruthlessly climbs to the top after he steals the psycho act from a faded carnival queen. After a taste of success, he uses his talent to trick the public into attaching spiritual values to his hoax. His outspoken wife considers this act sacrificial and exposes him.
His mental and physical recovery was swift. The next offer he got a job was to play the role of a “geek”. That this stage of the story isn’t built with the same meticulousness as a story detailing a celebrity’s rise to fame is a unique shortcoming of the script.
Tyrone Power makes every moment count in this convincing portrayal of a heel who, in many scenes, his own personal charm in the interest of solid characterization. Joan Blondell, cast as a colorful carnival thinker, reveals herself to be a dramatic actress of considerable power. The simplicity of Coleen Gray’s style makes her portrait of his wife a poignant and moving performance. Helen Walker takes on a job under arrest as the fake psychologist who abets Power’s grand scheme.
The supporting cast has interesting performances, including Taylor Holmes and Mike Mazurki. Particularly good is Ian Keith, who dominates the opening as the husband of Blondell, a once-celebrity turned hopeless drunk.
Lee Garmes’ photography, with its imaginative composition, maintains an eerie mood. Atmosphere of Equality is art direction by Lyle Wheeler and J.Russell Spencer [and] Cyril Mockridge’s score, under the direction of Alfred Newman, is an outstanding contribution. Barbara McLean often does her excellent editorial work. – Employee Review, first published October 9, 1947.