Friday, June 12, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Nora Prentiss (1947)

Respectable San Francisco doctor Richard Talbot (Kent Smith) leads a rather humdrum life. He has a successful practice with another doctor (Bruce Bennett), and he has a wife, Lucy (Rosemary DeCamp), who is simultaneously devoted and distant. Richard and Lucy also have two nice children (Robert Arthur, Wanda Hendrix). Talbot's routine may not be exciting, but it's a good life...and he's willing to go to extraordinary lengths to chuck it all for the love of NORA PRENTISS (Ann Sheridan).

NORA PRENTISS is a verrrry dark but fascinating movie. I confess I had trouble sticking with it at first because Dr. Talbot's life turns into such a complete and utter train wreck. It's not a lot of fun watching a man's life come apart at the seams.

On the other hand, the further I got into the film, the more I found to like: Sheridan (gorgeously gowned by Travilla) singing the torch song "Who Cares What People Say?"; a really interesting, nuanced performance by DeCamp, which is the antithesis of her warmhearted Red Cross employee in 1945's PRIDE OF THE MARINES; Bennett, albeit in too few scenes, starting to unravel his partner's mysterious life; Robert Alda as a nightclub owner carrying a torch for Nora; and the brooding black and white photography by the great James Wong Howe. Howe's last shot in the San Francisco fog is very, very cool in terms of both visuals and last-minute plot development.

Sheridan is excellent in the title role as a woman who loves deeply but has questionable morals. Smith is convincing portraying the staid doctor's midlife crisis and slide. Neither character is particularly sympathetic, but their story is worth watching.

The cast also includes John Ridgely, Helen Brown, James Flavin, and Douglas Kennedy.

NORA PRENTISS was directed by Vincent Sherman. The running time is 111 minutes. The film has a score by Franx Waxman; IMDb also gives music credit to Paul Dessau.

You can read more about NORA PRENTISS in a post by Steve-O at Noir of the Week; if you want to avoid plot spoilers, you may wish to read it after watching the film, as the story has some unusual twists and turns.

NORA PRENTISS is not yet available on video or DVD. You can see it on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs July 18, 2009.

The trailer can be seen here.

July 2009 Update: NORA PRENTISS is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.

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