“There he is, The Geek! . . . Is he the missing link? Is he man or beast? Some have pronounced him man. But beneath that shaggy mane of hair lies the brain of a beast.” Through sheer arrogance and stupidity, Stan Carlisle (Tyrone Power) devolves from a carnival barker known as “The Great Stanton” into a circus sideshow geek who eats the heads off of live chickens. Joan Blondell portrays “Mademoiselle Zeena.” Classic film noir, which highlights carny outcasts and explores the sleaziness and desperation of carnival life, also stars Coleen Gray, Ian Keith and Helen Walker. Directed by Edmund Goulding (Grand Hotel), Nightmare Alley was based on a novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham (1909-62), who also wrote Monster Midway: An Uninhibited Look at the Glittering World of the Carny (1954). Nightmare Alley would make a good double feature with Alisson Murray’s excellent 2007 documentary, Carny.
Useless Trivia: Gresham led a rather tragic life himself and overdosed on sleeping pills at the Dixie Hotel in New York City in 1962 at the age of 53.