Friday, 10 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley

Tyrone Power did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Stanton "Stan" Carlisle in Nightmare Alley.

Nightmare Alley is a fairly effective film noir about an ambitious carnival barker, and is a film I'd actually love to see a remake of as I 'd feel there would be quite the potential with this material altered for a modern context.

Tyrone Power has not been a favorite actor of mine, in that I find him to be a very bland leading man almost every film I've seen him in, with the exception of his supporting role in Witness For the Prosecution. The question though was that fluke? Well with Nightmare Alley Tyrone Power might share a great deal with fellow onscreen Jesse James, Brad Pitt. In that perhaps he's a terrible romantic lead hiding quite the capable character actor. Well Power is lead here, but this is not his typical leading turn as the goodhearted pirate, the goodhearted war veteran, the goodhearted aristocrat or the goodhearted Zorro. Here we meet Stan who initially seems potentially like a more traditional Power role, but to be honest with a bit more zip than usual as we see him perform as the carnival barker by introducing a mind reading act. Any such idea though is soon broken as we see Stan attempting to find the secret code used by the "mind reader" and her drunkard partner, and here's where we see another side to Power, the side of Power I like to see quite honestly.

Power is rather interesting in that in those roles where he's a playing charming guy he's not that charming, but here he is yet in a very particular way. Stan goes around seducing two women of the circus and old Stan does it with ease. Power is convincing in this but what so special about is the way he plays the trick on the women really. There is something so nefarious about the way Power does it as he offers such words of warmth and love while his eyes seem as though they are looking for something entirely for his own selfish ends. This is only the warm up act for Stan though as it seems his powers (no pun intended) of persuasion are only are on the grow. This is indicated early on in a scene where he cold reads a local Sheriff to prevent him from shutting down the circus. Power is quite honestly incredible in the scene in a way that his distinct to Power, and that is what makes it so effective. As he goes about telling the Sheriff his inner most thoughts the oddly specific precision of Power's deliver gives it this otherworldly quality as though Stan really doing it all himself, though of course he's not.

Stan's ambition only grows though as he goes off to become a performer along with his sort of forced upon him wife, to act as a higher class "mind reader". Again Power is so good in these scenes by actually playing into what usually is a weakness in his performances which is that certain detachment. Power here though makes such a strong use of it as though Stan in these moments is above all mere mortals. Now this is not an accidental stroke of luck because, as with Witness For the Prosecution, Power off sets these moments with his scenes off stage so to speak. Power does not have anything ethereal about it as he rather bluntly portrays Stan for what he truly is, just a selfish man who wants more, only more. Power here brings the emotion, though of course this emotion is not the most pleasant to be seen. Power reveals a lust in Stan's eyes as he describes his intentions to only become an even greater sort of "showman" to the public, as he reveals a wholly amoral desire in Stan. Power makes no apologizes in this as he speaks of his potential dupes with a considerable disdain.

Something that I really like about this performance is that Power really doesn't grant any silver lining to Stan, other than he's not more evil than he already is. He stays with him even as Stan begins to act as though he can speak to the dead, even using it to try to dupe a skeptic. In the scene where Stan summons the man's dead sister, played by Stan's wife, Power is great as he only acts as the showman pressing for a greater reaction in the man while revealing no hesitations even as the man begins to breakdown mentally. Power even continues this after Stan has been found out for the fraud he is, and does not take use the final scenes of the film to show the "real nice guy beneath the surface". Instead Power shows just a bitter man who can still occasionally pull off a nice trick or two but only to impress his fellow hobos. There's one especially remarkable moment where Stan cold reads a fellow drunkard and Power still shows that Stan has it making it all the crueler as he stops the act while the man is still transfixed. Power brings a real viciousness to his hatred to his own plight, and reflects just how wretched of a state the man is in. This leads Stan to go back to the circus where he accepts the only job that is offered to him, the lowest one in the circus, the geek. Power is exceptional in the scene as he agrees with again his fake smile of a true showman, but this time he's laughing only at himself. The film ends with an unneeded last minute switch, and given the Hays code I'm surprised Stan got such a "happyish" ending even. Nevertheless before the last minute switch we get Stan at his worst as he breaks down in an alcoholic rage and well Power nails the scene. He goes all the way in being a complete wreck just lashing out, and Power is terrific mess. Of course Power also this entire role. This isn't an actor playing into his weaknesses, rather it's an actor apparently playing the type of role he always should have played.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Damn it, Power. Why couldn't you have been powerful in your other performances?
Louis: Rating and thoughts on Blondell and the rest of the cast.

Robert MacFarlane said...

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Welles
4. Numasaki
5. Rains

Luke Higham said...

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Rains
4. Welles
5. Numasaki

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Rains
4. Welles
5. Numasaki
This sounds more like a 5 review than a 4.5 review to be honest.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Rains
4. Welles
5. Numasaki

Anonymous said...

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Rains
4. Welles
5. Numasaki

RatedRStar said...

It is sometimes nice to see the villain win in the end as Louis Bloom would agree =D.

Claude Rains will not be finishing last xD, damn you Robert!!!!

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Rains
4. Numasaki
5. Welles

RatedRStar said...

Nightmare Alley is actually on YouTube so its so easy to find if you need to watch it.

Varun Neermul said...

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Rains
4. Welles
5. Numasaki

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, your Top 10 Bette Davis acting moments.

Varun Neermul said...

Also, your top 10 Greta Garbo acting moments.

Charles Heiston said...

I concur with Tahmeed, this sounds like a five review to me.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: With your early oscar predictions, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara is unfortunately not coming this year. He's shooting a Vietnam/Journalism film with Hanks and Streep instead, which will take less time to produce and will probably be in the mix this year.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: This is off topic, I am sure you would agree 1977 is a very weak year on paper for bonus, I actually think supporting is stronger than lead, its a good thing we have Siskel and Ebert to help us =D if you recently checked out the latest vid that has appeared on the site =D I think I have found a hidden gem.

RatedRStar said...

1977 lead bonus will be the most oddball lineup ever I think since in my lineup which I will put forward, all 5 of the actors have either never appeared on this blog or only been reviewed once =D.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: The Human Factor as well with Attenborough, Gielgud, Williamson and Morley, Siskel and Ebert agreed it was well acted, shame that it is in 1979, such a stacked year.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: I agree with you, I think S. Duvall and Spacek are possible 5s for 3 Women but other than that, 1977's been well covered already.

Charles Heiston said...

RatedRStar: 1977 has been through the wringer already. The hopes i have for 1977 is that Sordi takes the win, and Keital gets an upgrade.

RatedRStar said...

1977 is a very unpredictable year certainly, similar to 1980.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Blondell - 3.5(She's pretty good in her little bit of screentime in projecting sort of the old sheen of a truly great performer at one time undercut by this sort of exasperation of a life misspent.)

Keith - 3.5(He's actually quite moving in his single major scene where he reveals really just how haunted his character is by his personal demons and makes the right impact in that moment.)

Gray - 3(Somewhat limited but her fairly naive approach works well for her part. As unlike Power she's just straight forward and her performance works as a contrast for him.)

Walker - 3.5(Her performance on the other hand works well as a straight reflection of Power's performance though perhaps even more devious given she does not even project a illusion of something else, playing right into the character's attitude as a disdain for basically everyone.)

RatedRStar:

There are certain years where I'll do what I originally did for years like 1934.

Varun:

Davis:

1. What she really thinks - Little Foxes
2. Party Breakdown - All About Eve
3. Final trip to Bed - Dark Victory
4. "But you Can't Blanche" -
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
5. First Scene - Now Voyager
6. A final performance - Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
7. Meeting Eve - All About Eve
8. Figuring it Out - Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte
9. Murder - The Letter
10. Breakdown - Juarez

Although I could make a ten already I really want to see more from Garbo first.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts and rating on Jordan Prentice in In Bruges?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 2010's version of Nightmare Alley.

RatedRStar said...

Louis: I should say I think there are 5 nominees for 1977 and 1980, that are worth a review I feel, its just some of them are slight gambles of course =D.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

(I suppose in terms of things I enjoy in the film he's on the lower end, though that's not saying much given it is one of my favorite films of all time. Prentice though is rather funny in the role by portraying his sheer disbelief and exasperation at Ray's behavior in his sober scenes, then in his high scene he is pretty hilarious in portraying such sheer nonsensical anger in the racist ramblings of a guy with a big chip on his shoulder.)

Anonymous:

Nightmare Alley directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Stanton: Tom Cruise
Zeena: Laura Dern
Molly: Amy Adams
Lilth: Katherine Waterston
Pete: Val Kilmer
Bruno: Dave Bautista

Robert MacFarlane said...

So the Baby Driver trailer dropped, and... I'm not really feeling it. It's not even because of Elgort. It's just... feels off.

Giuseppe Fadda said...

Rating and thoughts on Davis in Juarez?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: You forgot to give a rating to Prentice's work in In Bruges. Also, I can't be the only one who thought that it was Peter Dinklage playing the dwarf the first time I watched it. Then again, had Dinklage taken the role, I reckon he could have done even more with it (Prentice is a 3.5 for me)

Calvin Law said...

Robert: I'm not sure about it either, but I'm still giving it a chance, looks like it'll be fun but there's something missing methinks.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any faith in Elgort giving a good performance in Baby Driver.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: I request the following films for Film Thoughts-

Quo Vadis
Zorba the Greek
The Lion in Winter
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Lawrence of Arabia

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

I have to agree, even Spacey didn't really look all that funny at least from the trailer. My only hope is that it was a poorly edited trailer, after all editing is such a big part of Wright's style, nevertheless it was not a good first foot forward.

Giuseppe:

Davis - 3.5(With Davis it is all the aforementioned breakdown scene where she is quite great. The rest of the film though she's mostly just there. Now she's more than fine in being there though.)

Tahmeed:

He's a 3.5.

RatedRStar said...

Calvin Law: I saw your list, I always do like to see early Oscar predictions, it is always fun to compare to the end of the year to see how badly we got it wrong or how good we did.

I really like the choices actually, some of the films are very curious ones that on paper look like contenders.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top 10 favorite performances by actors and actresses in Oscar bait roles.

JackiBoyz said...

1. Fresnay
2. Power
3. Rains
4. Welles
5. Numasaki

There is always at least 2 or 3 films that are built up as an Oscar contender that do really badly so, Baby Driver isn't really supposed to be an Oscar Contender I dont think but it wont surprise me if it doesn't work.

Charles Heiston said...

Calvin: Your predictions are great, but i'm doubting that Nolan nomination.

Calvin Law said...

Charles and RatedRStar: Thank you! Yeah it's too early to tell, my predictions may well change soon enough.

Louis: before you re-watched Creed for your review of Jordan, what would you have given him as a rating?

Luke Higham said...

Everyone: Your ten funniest scenes of the 2010s so far. And it has to be 1 scene per film.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: Here's 8 in no particular order.

80's tribute band - La La Land
Lemmon Quaaludes 714 - Wolf of WallStreet
Zero comes to visit Gustave - Grand Budapest Hotel
"Too Bad" - Seven Psychopaths
"Mr.Pibb is for assholes" - Hell or High Water
"Not at all" - Silence
"now we run" - Hunt for The Wilderpeople
"That's a lot of blood" - The Nice Guys

Luke Higham said...

Charles: All of those are great, though in terms of pure comedy, I'd mention the drug scene from 21 Jump Street.

Charles Heiston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Heiston said...

Luke: That's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Luke: I don't think the 2010's has been the best for comedies.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: Sure, but there is humour to be found elsewhere.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Difficult to construct given that the definition of "oscar bait" can be a bit arbitrary, and I've actually find it a bit annoying when some people these days refer to any film that isn't a comedy, an animated film or a blockbuster as Oscar bait.

I mean there is the occasional obvious choice like Jack Lemmon in Save the Tiger, but most are a bit more muddled I feel.

Calvin:

A bit lower, but still a good score.

Luke:

I'll concur with all of Charles's choices but here are 10 more.

A mistimed roll - Edge of Tomorrow
Getting rid of a corpse - The Nice Guys
I'm the terminator You're more like Sarah Connor - Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Suicide Note - Edge of Seventeen
She gets mowed down - Seven Psychopaths
Yacht - Wolf of Wall Street
Punches - Grand Budapest Hotel
But you could tell what she wanted - Paterson
Dance Off - Guardians of the Galaxy
Gunshots - The Guard

Calvin Law said...

Luke:

Vegan battle - Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Qualuudes - The Wolf of Wall Street
Shit Just Got Real - Hunt for the Wilderpeople
'Nothing goes over my head' - Guardians of the Galaxy
'Too bad' - Seven Psychopaths
'What cloud?' - Creed
Ending to Shoals of Herring - Inside Llewyn Davis (followed closely by King Midas' idiot brorher)
'20 Dollars' - The Nice Guys
'Throw out your pistol' - The Hateful Eight
'Rhinoceres' - Midnight in Paris

Calvin Law said...

Oh, and I Ran from La La Land and Riddle of the Model from Sing Street.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Luke: Top of my head -

"Vegan Police" from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Qualuudes from Wolf of Wall Street
"Would that it were so simple" from Hail, Caesar!
"Oh fuck it" from Grand Budapest Hotel
The bathroom scene from Bridesmaids
Kylo Ren finding out Rey escaped from The Force Awakens
Good Cop/Bad Cop's interrogation from The LEGO Movie
"Menstruation" from 20th Century Women
"Oh COME ON!" from Cabin in the Woods

and finally...

"I CREATE LIFE! and I destroy it"

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Who's more likely to get a five in future. Johnny Depp or Robert Downey Jr..

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Probably Downey since it seems like Depp is already back to the way he's been. Downey only has Tony Stark on his plate right now, but hey he was great in his last reprise, so if he continues to advance the character, maybe.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Although you're not highly enthusiastic about Will Ferrell, are there any of his other films that you'd be willing to see. Elf's the only one I'd really recommend.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Douglas Fairbanks in The Prisoner of Zenda?

Charles Heiston said...

Nevermind, found it.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Who has more of a chance at a 5 in the future? James Franco or Bradley Cooper?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I think Franco maybe a 5 unofficially for 11.22.63, but film-wise, I'd say Cooper.

Charles Heiston said...

I'd give Franco a 5 for 11,22,63 in a heartbeat. Fantastic performance and show.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Hey I'm open to any film that's good.

Anonymous:

Franco has the far higher height for me with 11.22.63, but Cooper's film work is far stronger overall.