TCM Pick for July: Film Noir

Deciding on this month’s TCM film noir pick of the month put me in quite a quandary, y’all. On Thursday, July 12th, TCM is airing, within scant hours of each other, two of my favorite noirs – Nora Prentiss and The Damned Don’t Cry.

Both films are most deserving of a high recommendation – and with my personal fave Joan Crawford starring in the latter, it initially appeared that The Damned Don’t Cry had an indisputable and unbeatable advantage. However, after much deliberation, and following some last minute deals in the back room, I am pleased to give this month’s nod to Nora Prentiss, starring Ann Sheridan and Kent Smith.  

You can just imagine why the good doctor was so reluctant to let Nora go.

The plot:

Married family man Dr. Richard Talbot (Smith), unhappy with his staid and structured existence, falls for the nightclub singer of the film’s title. Their back street affair works for a while, but when Richard’s preoccupation with Nora causes him to forget his daughter’s 16th birthday and nearly kill a man during surgery, it’s obvious that something has to give. Unfortunately for Richard, Nora’s solution is to end their affair and leave town – and that’s not a solution that sits well with the doc. He’ll do anything to keep Nora – and that’s when this noir kicks into high gear!

Favorite scene:

I like the scene where Richard and Nora first meet. She has been hit by a car and he takes her to his office for treatment. The scene serves as an ideal showcase for introducing the vast differences between these characters – and supporting the notion that “opposites attract.”  Nora makes fun of the doctor’s rigid persona – it turns out that she lives right across the street from his office, and is able to set her clock by his carefully timed comings and goings. Despite her minor injuries, Nora’s street-smart sassiness shines through – when the doctor allows a brief visit from a cop and the driver of the car that hit her, Nora notices the men gazing at her bruised leg and drolly remarks, “I’ve been examined already.”

Favorite quote:

Once again, I have two favorites:

“It would take more than a drink to improve my outlook, but it helps.” Nora Prentiss (Ann Sheridan)

and

“You might as well get this straight, doc. I may not have been handled with care, but I’m not shopworn.” Nora Prentiss (Ann Sheridan)

Other stuff:

The Damned Don’t Cry has more in common with Nora Prentiss than merely being my runner-up as noir pick of the month:  both movies co-starred Kent Smith and both were directed by Vincent Sherman.

Vincent Sherman, seen here with Ann Sheridan on the Nora Prentiss set.

Vincent Sherman helmed several other noirs, including The Unfaithful (1947), again starring Ann Sheridan; Affair in Trinidad (1952); and The Garment Jungle (1957). Sherman was born Abram Orovitz in Vienna, Georgia, and changed his name when he joined the Group Theater in the hopes of starting an acting career. After appearing in few movies in the early 1930s (including Counsellor at Law with John Barrymore), Sherman turned his talents to directing.

Richard Talbot’s daughter, Bonita, was played by Wanda Hendrix. Nora Prentiss was only her second film. Later that year she starred opposite Robert Montgomery in another noir, Ride the Pink Horse.

The doctor’s wife (Rosemary DeCamp) was named Lucy Talbot – the same name as the wife (Karen Morley) of the philandering doctor in Dinner at Eight (1933).

Robert Alda played nightclub owner Phil Dinardo.

Also in the cast is Alan Alda’s father Robert, who played the owner of the nightclub where Nora worked. Incidentally, Robert Alda was born Alphonso Giuseppe Giovanni Robert D’Abruzzo. His professional surname was derived from the first two letters in his first name (Alphonso) and last name (D’Abruzzo). He won a Tony Award in 1951 for his performance in Guys and Dolls.The screenplay for Nora Prentiss was written by N. Richard Nash, who also penned the script for The Rainmaker (1956).  He was married to actress Janice Rule for six months, from May to November 1955. (Rule later married actor Ben Gazzara; this union lasted considerably longer – more than 20 years.)

Nora Prentiss received widely varying reviews upon its release – William R. Weaver of Motion Picture Herald stated that “the skill with which the story is unfolded gives it fascination,” while the ever-caustic Bosley Crowther of the New York Times labeled it “major picture-making at its worst.”

Hey – don’t pay any attention to what Bosley Crowther says. (He’s like Mikey — he hates everything!) Mark your calendars right now and watch Nora Prentiss on TCM July 12th.  You only owe it to yourself.

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~ by shadowsandsatin on July 7, 2012.

10 Responses to “TCM Pick for July: Film Noir”

  1. You might enjoy this piece on the music from Nora Prentiss..love this movie!

  2. […] you only watch one noir in july, Karen at shadows & satin tells you which […]

  3. Thanks for your recommendation. I’m setting our PVR right now…

  4. Have not seen this. Will have to check it out. Thanks for the tip.

  5. I enjoyed your post! I liked things about NORA PRENTISS but had trouble with its unrelenting darkness. Funny to say that when I like most film noir, which isn’t exactly sunshiney, but I guess I had trouble with the leading man and his ruinous choices. I enjoyed reading a more enthused take on the movie. Maybe it will hit me differently next time.

    On the other hand I adored THE DAMNED DON’T CRY when I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago. Thought it was a great movie! Especially Steve Cochran. 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    • Thanks, Laura! And, surprisingly, I totally agree with you about the rather unpleasant darkness of Nora Prentiss. It certainly is not a fun experience. I think I picked it over The Damned Don’t Cry (which I love so much primarily due to Joan Crawford’s whole kick-ass persona) because fewer people have seen it, and because the story is so unique — and also because the ending is pure, perfect noir. I’ll admit, though, that it’s definitely not one of those noirs that I love to watch over and over! LOL

  6. Nice Review, Karen. I watched this for the first time last year and really liked it. While I appreciate a cold-as-ice femme fatale as much as the next guy, I loved that Ann Sheridan’s Nora was a level-headed, essentially decent woman whose tragic hold on the main character only intensified after she did the right thing and tried to break things off. And unlike some fatal fems, I could totally see what the good doctor saw in her. I loved the scene in the cabin (the picture in your review). Sheridan is so beautiful, smart, and sexy in that scene.

    • Thanks, Adam — and thanks for your insights about Nora. I hadn’t thought about how Richard falls into the typical noir traps, without any fatal femme encouragement from Nora. And I agree about the cabin scene — I really liked her character in this film. She wasn’t perfect, but she was so appealing.

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