Pulp Fiction Thursday: Nora Prentiss

I saw Nora Prentiss for the first time this week. Until recently, I’d assumed it was a soapy melodrama. Then I heard Eddie Muller talk about it on Noir Alley. That guy again. Eddie is an advocate for Nora Prentiss as a film noir. Eddie might not always be right, but he usually is. He’s right about this fine 1947 film from Warner Brothers.

Ann Sheridan plays the title character. The twist is that Nora is NOT  a femme fatale. The doomed man in the movie, Kent Smith as Dr. Richard Talbot, destroys himself because of his obsession with Sheridan. She’s a saloon singer who works for nice guy Robert Alda. I’m used to Alan’s father playing gangsters, so I was pleased to see him cast against type. Not that Robert Alda minded playing gangsters: he co-starred in the original Broadway production of Guys and Dolls.

The plot of Nora Prentiss requires some suspension of disbelief, but the cast gives it the hard sell and I bought it. Kent Smith’s downward spiral includes faking his own death to be with Nora. He’s too weak to face his wife. Schmuck.

Much to my delight, the movie is mostly set in my other hometown, San Francisco. The crew ventured north from Hollywood for exterior shots. The San Francisco of 1946 looks nothing like The City of my youth let alone in 2023.

The stars have an unusual meet cute on the streets of San Francisco. Neither Karl Malden nor Michael Douglas were there. More on the meet cute in the lobby card segment.

Nora Prentiss was directed by Vincent Sherman with cinematography by the great James Wong Howe. The latter came up with some fabulous atmospherics including this image of a ruined Kent Smith in jail:

One of the things I like most about film noir is that it’s full of strong women, like the women in my life. Ann Sheridan may not play a femme fatale but she’s a temptress who causes Kent Smith to rush headlong to his doom. Now, that’s noir.

Grading Time: I give Nora Prentiss 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B. It’s bound to go up in my estimation upon a second viewing.

It’s time for some movie art. We begin with the quad poster:

Do you know what time it is?

Now that we’ve followed anthropomorphized movie snacks, let’s see some lobby cards.

The first one depicts the meet cute. Sheridan and Smith meet when she’s hit by a car near his office. The injury isn’t serious, but it starts the transformation of a stuffed shirt doctor into an obsessive lover. How noir is that?

The second lobby card shows Ann Sheridan looking winsome in white as she argues with Kent Smith in their New York hotel room. Make that rooms. Because of the production code they had separate rooms.

Here’s a twist to the format, Ann Sheridan in night club canary mode:

That clip ended abruptly. What’s a little abruptness among friends?

It’s trailer time.

The last word goes to Eddie Muller with his Noir Alley intro and outro.