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.
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!
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.”
Once again, I have two favorites:
“It would take more than a drink to improve my outlook, but it helps.” Nora Prentiss (Ann Sheridan)
“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)
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 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).
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.