NIGHTMARE ALLEY
1948, 20th Century Fox, 110 min, USA, Dir: Edmund Goulding

An ambitious carnival barker (Tyrone Power) moves from a mind-reading act with carny veteran Zeena (Joan Blondell) to performing the same act in an upscale nightclub with his new, ex-carny wife (Coleen Gray). He consequently becomes involved in scamming a wealthy man with the help of a duplicitous psychiatrist (Helen Walker). Widely regarded today as a classic noir thriller, NIGHTMARE ALLEY was Power's own project and gave the actor his best role. He was up to the task, delivering the greatest performance of his career. Unfortunately, his boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, panicked when he saw the leading man he had so carefully made into a superstar playing a low-life. He gave the film no publicity, never pushed the film or actors for any awards and quickly withdrew it from circulation. The film was ahead of its time – its grit and cynicism are perfect for today's audience.


THE CINCINNATI KID
1965, Warner Bros., 102 min, USA, Dir: Norman Jewison

Steve McQueen is perfectly cast as an ambitious young gambler poised to triumph over master poker player Edward G. Robinson at a high-stakes game in Depression-era New Orleans. Adapted from the Richard Jessup novel by Ring Lardner, Jr. and Terry Southern, this suspenseful character study features a supporting cast of greats including Ann-Margret, Tuesday Weld, Rip Torn, Karl Malden, Joan Blondell and Cab Calloway.


FOOTLIGHT PARADE
1933, Warner Bros., 104 min, USA, Dir: Lloyd Bacon

When the Depression forces a director (James Cagney) off the stage, he tries the screen, creating musical “prologues” to be staged in movie theaters before films; to land a big contract, he must mount three massive production numbers in a single night. Cagney is magnetic in a performance arguably superior to his Oscar-winning YANKEE DOODLE DANDY turn, and Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are equally entertaining in supporting roles. This fast-paced pre-Code dazzler was named to the National Film Registry, thanks at least in part to Busby Berkeley’s spectacular dance sequences.


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