Wed 28 Apr 2010
NORA PRENTISS. Warner Brothers, 1947. Ann Sheridan, Kent Smith, Bruce Bennett, Robert Alda, Rosemary DeCamp, John Ridgely. Director: Vincent Sherman.
As you can see from the photo to the right, this previously hard-to-find film noir drama has recently been released on DVD as part of the Warner Brothers Archive Collection. Every fan of old movies should be buying these.
Even though they’re essentially print on demand items, the quality is good, and every one that’s purchased will convince the Powers That Be that there’s a small but steady market for them – I wouldn’t count on more – but continued income for Warners will convince Universal and MGM to step up their own programs of releasing old movies in their vaults on DVD.
And sometimes they go on sale, as this one was, and very well may still be, if you’re reading this early enough. It’s also one of the good ones, which you probably knew already before I came along to tell you about it.
I don’t imagine that Ann Sheridan ever made a really bad movie, and if she did, I don’t want to know about it.
She’s the title character in this one, of course, a singer and night club entertainer who has a small traffic accident one evening, and the good Samaritan who comes to her rescue happens to be a doctor (Kent Smith) with a partner and a thriving practice who’s also a happily married man with two teen-aged children.
Well, maybe not so happily married. Doctor Talbot’s a mild-mannered creature of punctuality and habit, and his love life at home has gradually disappeared to less than nothing.
Some mild, good-natured flirting by Nora Prentiss during her first office visit does more than remind him of that, it shakes him up and down and back again.
She finds his reaction amusing at first, but more and more she finds herself taking his intentions seriously. We (the viewer) do not get to see the details of the burgeoning romance, but we certainly know what’s going on.
And if it were not for the prologue, in which we see a man in a jail cell, accused of Dr. Talbott’s murder, we would not know we are in a film noir movie at all, but since we do, we have a different perspective throughout the movie than even the characters themselves do, and into more and more difficulty do they certainly get — in true noir fashion all the way.
Ann Sheridan, she of the lovely face and body and low contralto voice, is obviously the star, but even though she is the “other woman” in this film, it is nearly innocently so. It is Kent Smith who undergoes the drastic twists of fate which this movie provides, in abundance, and on whose shoulders rests the burden of making the viewer feel as though it could actually happen.
I think he succeeds, but Kent Smith, a long-time but strictly second-tier movie and TV star and one you perhaps never heard of, lacks the charisma or sex appeal, to put it bluntly, to pull it off his role in this movie completely.
One wonders, at times, what a real life Nora Prentiss would see in an equally real life Dr. Talbot, best described as I said above as mild-mannered. Distinguished and accomplished, yes, but still rather weak and ineffectual.
Given that small quibble, plus a much more outrageous trial that takes place after the prologue is caught up to, in terms of chronological events, this is nonetheless a noir film that is very much worth watching.
If you have not seen it, and if you’ve read this far in the review, I very strongly recommend that you do.