Nightmare Alley

1947 | Film-Noir | TV-PG
When drifter Stanton Carlisle (Tyrone Power) gets involved with a traveling carnival, it leads to a quick rise and fall. Hired on as a barker, Carlisle quickly takes note of "The Geek," a performer who bites the heads off of chickens for the measly pay of a drink of rotgut and a place to sleep. Carlisle befriends an alcoholic mentalist (Ian Keith) who shows him how easy it is to con an audience. When the man dies (from accidentally imbibing wood alcohol), Stanton moves in on the man's widow (Joan Blondell), who teaches him all of the tricks he'd need to become a mentalist on his own. He leaves her for a beautiful but dim carnival performer, and the couple leaves the circus to start a nightclub act. Quickly tiring of "show business," Carlisle dumps his beautiful girlfriend and quits the act to be with a gorgeous psychiatrist (Helen Walker), who is intelligent if not trustworthy. The two begin the business of conning wealthy folks into paying to contact dead relatives. Business is booming, and they are approached by a millionaire who wants to speak with his deceased daughter and is willing to pay a small fortune. In the midst of the act, the psychiatrist breaks down, unable to continue bilking the clearly emotional millionaire, and exposes Carlisle as a fraud. Ruined, Stanton Carlisle begs the psychiatrist to help him get back on his feet. She refuses, and he returns to the traveling carnival. When he arrives, however, he is informed that the only job that's open is that of "The Geek." In a scene that's become somewhat infamous, Carlisle accepts the position, saying "Mister, I was born for it." Though not a commercial success at the time of its release, this adaptation of William Lindsay Graham's book is considered a classic by many film appreciators.
Featuring: Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, Helen Walker, Taylor Holmes, Mike Mazurki, Ian Keith