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Nora Prentiss (1947)

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Mr. Arkadin
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Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » July 18th, 2009, 1:24 pm

Shows late tonight, but is well worth the lost Z's. Ann Sheridan made few forays into the noir world and this movie is very different from the standard crime film. To top things off, it's still out of print!

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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby moira finnie » July 18th, 2009, 7:32 pm

Hi Ark,
I can't believe I've actually been permitted by the gods of damaged computers to post twice in one day here!

I really like Nora Prentiss, especially when James Wong Howe goes overboard filming foggy San Francisco and creates a suffocatingly claustrophobic feel in the office, the hotel room, and the prison cell. I admire Ann Sheridan so much. You can feel the warmth of her salty personality in every role, but not as much in this film. I do like the way that she usually injects some humor into the darkness here--as in the scene when she is quite direct with the doc while she's arranging her stockings.

I really prefer her in They Drive By Night, City for Conquest, Torrid Zone, and the glorious Juke Girl! Though Annie could break my heart when she turned on the waterworks, she may also have been one of the best comic actress at Warners, (if only Bette Davis didn't get first pick of every role back then). I'm a total pushover for her wisecracking style. Others imitated her, but she had such a way about her.

My real reasons for enjoying this movie so much are the quiet discontentment that Kent Smith brings to his role of a guy who destroys himself to escape his fate of having a rather dull medical practice, a loving, if a bit smug, wife (the under-utilized Rosemary DeCamp) and two rather annoying teenagers. Smith's performance is bleak yet perfectly in tune with the character, who never seems to know a moment of peace about his life--the one he left, or the one he tried to steal. I also think that this is one of those noirs that show how to use flashbacks effectively.

Great, soaring Franz Waxman score too!

Though you mentioned that Nora Prentiss was out of print, I believe I'd read recently that the Warner Archive had made it or will shortly make it available on DVD, no? Perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part? Thanks for the heads up.
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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » July 18th, 2009, 11:51 pm

Hi Moira, I'd agree that Kent is the guy to watch in this film. Your terms in describing Sheridan are many of the reasons I'm a fan of her work. Warmth, character, toughness, and that infectious laugh! Sheridan was a strong woman at a time when such things were not conventional, but she never lost the tender side of her character. I think the only role where she plays a really bad girl is They Made Me a Criminal (1939) which will actually be showing soon. As I pointed out in another thread, we have glimpses here and there of what she was capable of, but it seems she was either typecast, or audiences expected to see her in certain roles and she played to the crowd.

As you noted however, although the film is titled Nora Prentiss, it's really the story of Dr. Richard Talbot's downfall. Probably the most unusual thing abut this noir, is that there is no real crime here and although Sheridan's Nora would seem to be a femme fatale from movie poster jargon, she's actually anything but. Kent Smith never got much credit as an actor, but he does a nice job here as a man caught between duty and desire. In a genre where many characters delude themselves about morality, Talbot is one of the few that faces up to his situation and seeks redemption with action that is within his grasp (although sitting on the hot seat is a bit much to save your family name).

I guess what I enjoy about the film is the fact that it's not full of action, but paces itself as we slowly follow a good man's descent. The unhurried nature makes the characters (and their situations) more believable and while I wouldn't consider Nora Prentiss a top tier noir, it is a very unique and satisfying film.

As for Warner Archive, yes they have made it available, but because it's in the Archive, I doubt it will ever see a proper DVD release. As a result, they can charge twenty dollars for DVD-R that as a DVD film--should cost much less (although it seems they are having a sale because of the economy right now). Personally, I'd rather just record the film at a bit lower resolution than pay highway robbery prices (BTW, I think Juke Girl is also on the Archive).

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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby mrsl » July 19th, 2009, 9:37 am

I think you know that Ann Sheridan is one of my top 5 favorites and I prefer her in those 'They Drive by Night' movies more than Nora Prentiss because I don't feel her studio used her properly. She could and should have been so much bigger than she was. She had it all, looks, talent, and ability to make you laugh and cry. Shortly after she retired from films and went to TV, she was the best thing about The Opposite Sex, the sadly, musical/colorful re-make of The Women. She upheld the attitude of the original with her wit and facial expressions. She was the leader of the 'Thelma Ritter, Eve Arden rat pack', and it would have been so nice to keep her around in the movies a little longer because she was one of the ones who aged so beautifully and gracefully.

I know you all liked Kent Smith in this, but I feel like he was just repeating several other parts he had played in the past and to be in the future. He always seemed to be the smarmy, suck-up, who chose the snivelers way out. I don't mean the end, I mean the part where the idea came to him of how to continue (I don't want to ruin it for those who taped it). The one I would have liked to see more of was Robert Alda, so much more attractive than his son. Alan is cute, but Dad was handsome. He's another one who didn't get much action from his studio. I think he might have been able to handle a few leading roles, but he was always either the gangster, or the 'buddy', or one of the men in the platoon in war movies.

Nora Prentiss is definitely an engrossing movie and although I've seen it three times now, I can handle it again. It's a 'should be' watched film.

Anne
Anne


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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » July 19th, 2009, 9:53 am

I would have loved to see her play darker characters and, no doubt she was capable (Juke Girl hints at this, as does They Made Me a Criminal), but I think pubic perception was similar to Cary Grant in the sense that audiences did not want to see her that way. One film I would like to see come to DVD, is her great performance with John Garfield in Castle on the Hudson (1940).

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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » July 20th, 2009, 7:12 am

The key to this film is possibly Bailey (the heart patient) and his statement:

"It's a big city and there's nobody to know whether you're alive or dead--and very few people to care."


While the obvious reason is the fact that it makes Talbot's identity switch possible, there is also the aspect that Bailey death is heart related, linking him to Talbot and his affair of the heart, which causes his downfall and demise.

The statement itself is a staple of the noir canon, but it also connects both characters who die because of the negligence of people around them. With Talbot, it's his wife who he immediately turns to after meeting Nora and is brushed aside. As Talbot becomes infatuated, his work suffers, causing the near death of one patient and ultimately the moral responsibility of Bailey's death.

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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby CineMaven » July 20th, 2009, 4:10 pm

For those of you who choose not to join the minefield and cow patties over at TCM City...I am reprinting my comments here, and will add responses to your comments later.

* Why do these movie wives act like cold fish and then are surprised when their husbands lose interest and get attracted to another woman.

* I love the montage of their affair progressing. Who knew Kent had it in him. I liked that they didn't make Sheridan a gold-digging you-know-what.

* Geez Louise, the desperation he must have felt when Sheridan leaves him. And then in walks the ubiquitous John Ridgely.

* She puts a lot of emotion into that second song she sings. I love her close-ups. Tears, emotion-choked voice.

* And back at the hotel...Kent’s not eating...pacing around..drinking. It reminds me of Carmen Jones when Dandridge is out hotfooting it around town and Belafonte has to stay cooped up in a hotel less the MPs find him. Kent even starts to look like the Geek Tyrone Power looked like in “Nightmare Alley.” Kent's downward spiral is a sad fall from grace to see. And that doesn’t help keep a girl.

* Great car crash.

* The fashion here is reminiscent of "The Arnelo Affair."

* I believe (the great) Rosemary DeCamp recognized her husband at his murder trial. I thought his makeup was incredible for 1947. How is this fate better than just coming out and telling his wife he wants a divorce?? That shot of him behind those bars is truly disturbing.

* I loved Alan Alda waiting in the wings. Good looking and he cared for her.

* And that music at the end was great as she walked down the courthouse steps knowing she was leaving her love in the hands of fate. The dirge-like melancholy of the music was beautiful.

* Kent Smith acquits himself nicely though I’ve never been a big fan of his pudgy marshmallowly-ness in films. Ann Sheridan, well she just has my attention throughout. Actually she has my attention in anything she does.
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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby mrsl » July 20th, 2009, 7:06 pm

cinemaven:

I have nothing to add to your comments because they are all on the mark. The only thing is, that was Alan Aldas' father Robert in the wings.

Anne
Anne


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* * * * * * * * What is past is prologue. * * * * * * * *

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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby CineMaven » July 20th, 2009, 7:07 pm

Mr. Arkadin...that’s a great still of Ann Sheridan by the fireplace. Great sweater set in the cabin (great!) and I love her copper hair spilling and cascading past her shoulders in this movie; no baby fat...she’s a little older, has a bit more chiseled a look and she is very becoming throughout this movie. As I see her kneeling before the fireplace I think of her kneeling at the ashes of dreams of husband home and hearth gone up in smoke.

"I'd agree that Kent is the guy to watch in this film. Your terms in describing Sheridan are many of the reasons I'm a fan of her work. Warmth, character, toughness, and that infectious laugh! Sheridan was a strong woman at a time when such things were not conventional, but she never lost the tender side of her character.” - Mr. Arkadin.

Though not really a big fan of his, I thought he acquitted hmself nicely in this drama. As for the Annie’s characteristics, I’d love to jump on the bandwagon on that score. That laugh...though in this film she didn’t have much to laugh at, being cooped up and imprisoned. Love needs to breathe.

”I can't believe I've actually been permitted by the gods of damaged computers to post twice in one day here!” - Moira.

Uh-oh...what did you do in your past life to be punished like that.

”I really prefer her in ‘They Drive By Night’, ‘City for Conquest’, ‘Torrid Zone’, and the glorious ‘Juke Girl'! Though Annie could break my heart when she turned on the waterworks, she may also have been one of the best comic actress at Warners, (if only Bette Davis didn't get first pick of every role back then). I'm a total pushover for her wisecracking style. Others imitated her, but she had such a way about her.” - Moira.

She was great as Lorraine in ”THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER” really playing the Diva with a capital Beeeech! I loved those movies you cited as well (especially “...Drive By Night”. But she was a nice girl in “...By Night” where Ida Lupino magnificently chewed up the scenery. She plays another nice girl fending off dance partner Quinn in “...Conquest” and with the homoerotic subtextual hijinks between Cagney and O’Brien in “Torrid Zone” (why did O’Brien try sooooo hard to keep Annie from Cagney, I’ve never understood) it was tough to get her ”14-karat Oomph’ really appreciated. NORA PRENTISS” is really a showcase for her. Remember when she leaves Kent and she’s singing at the club? Vincent Sherman just gives her that scene; camera stays on her tear-stained face. I believe she puts that song over. One...maybe two cutaways to Robert Alda while Annie’s singing, but it’s all her. I presume her voice was not dubbed, right? Nice dulcet tones, leaning towards contralto. (Forgive me if I haven’t used the proper musical verbiage).

What did Peter Frampton sing...“Ooh, Baby I Love Your Way.”

”As you noted however, although the film is titled Nora Prentiss, it's really the story of Dr. Richard Talbot's downfall. Probably the most unusual thing abut this noir, is that there is no real crime here and although Sheridan's Nora would seem to be a femme fatale from movie poster jargon, she's actually anything but.” - Mr. Arkadin.

At first glance, I would not say that “Nora Prentiss” is a noir. But Kent was certainly a man trapped and spiralling down a devastating path. He has much in common with our boy from ”DETOUR”. Neon lights, rain-soaked streets, a truly deadly femme fatale and murder keep this film from being truly noir, but it was pretty dark.

I found it really surprising that they didn’t paint Ann as a vixenish gold-diggin’ homewrecker. That would have been the typical plot point in the 40's. We see her say that she, admittedly, started things off by teasing him. But then she really falls for him. She’s been hurt and was putting her heart out there one more time.


MRSL:"I think you know that Ann Sheridan is one of my top 5 favorites and I prefer her in those 'They Drive by Night' movies more than 'Nora Prentiss' because I don't feel her studio used her properly. She could and should have been so much bigger than she was. She had it all, looks, talent, and ability to make you laugh and cry...She was the leader of the 'Thelma Ritter, Eve Arden rat pack', and it would have been so nice to keep her around in the movies a little longer because she was one of the ones who aged so beautifully and gracefully.”

So true mrsl. We all often say "the studio didn’t know what to do with their stars. She should have been a bigger star." But I’m really starting to think that there was just such an abundance of celebrities back then that there was not enough product for all the talent they had.

The leader of the pack (IMHO) is really Eve Arden. But didn’t Annie and Eve work together? There you could see them side-by-side in: ”The Dough Girls” (I think even the statuesque Alexis Smith shows up here too) and ”The Unfaithful.”

You know, I wonder if Ann Sheridan would have been a bigger star if she spelled her name ANNE SHERIDAN. Glad I saw "Nora Prentiss" again.
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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby Mr. Arkadin » July 20th, 2009, 9:24 pm

CM, I'd be really interested to know your thoughts on The Unfaithful (1947) as someone who is such an expert on The Letter (1940). While I'd definitely concede that Letter is the superior movie, they are so completely different in character motivations it's hard to think of them as the same story except in the roughest sense. For me, this was another example of studios not wanting to make Sheridan a villain--something I think she could have done quite well.

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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby CineMaven » July 22nd, 2009, 5:16 pm

"I have nothing to add to your comments because they are all on the mark. The only thing is, that was Alan Alda's father Robert in the wings.

Anne"



Yes MrsL, Robert's the handsome Dad. I mis-wrote. I was so long-winded, I wrote the wrong name. Thank you!
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Re: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Postby CineMaven » July 22nd, 2009, 5:24 pm

"CM, I'd be really interested to know your thoughts on The Unfaithful (1947) as someone who is such an expert on The Letter (1940). While I'd definitely concede that Letter is the superior movie, they are so completely different in character motivations it's hard to think of them as the same story except in the roughest sense. For me, this was another example of studios not wanting to make Sheridan a villain--something I think she could have done quite well." - Mr. Arkadin.

I'd love to do that. I've got to see the film again. I know I have it on tape, but my library is a wreck. Ann as a villain...oh yeah, I think that'd be a sexy proposition. She was kind of over-the-top bitchy in "The Man Who Came to Dinner." Guess I was in shock that Zachary Scott played such a nice guy in "The Unfaithful" and what's the fun in that.

My Dad (who was a kid in the 30's & 40's) said that Sheridan's face was very immobile. ("Her face never showed any emotion," he said). He might be sort of right about that but it doesn't take away from the fact that...

I LOVE ANN SHERIDAN.
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