Nora Prentiss (1947): Vincent Sherman’s Film Noir, Starring Ann Sheridan and Kent Smith

The prolific Vincent Sherman directed this B-level film noir, starring the appealing actress Ann Sheridan, then under contract to Warner.

He and Nora then move from San Francisco to New York, where Nora continues her singing career.

Our grade: B (*** out of *****)

It was his second collaboration with the actress that year, alongside The Unfaithful.

Kent Smith plays Dr. Richard Talbot, an unhappy man with the dull routine of a professional and his married life. He begins an affair with nightclub singer, Nora Prentiss, who hails from small town in the MidWest.

Unable to go through divorce, he fakes his own death by substituting a dead man’s body.

Talbot begins drinking heavily and becomes increasingly paranoid and reclusive as he learns that his death is under investigation. After a fight with Nora’s nightclub boss, Talbot crashes his car, scarring his face. Not realizing that the man is Talbot, the police arrest him for his own murder.

Guilty about the suffering he has caused his family, and depressed about his grim future, Talbot convinces Prentiss to keep his secret, allowing him to be convicted and executed.

Production values are decent–cinematography is by ace lenser James Wong Howe, and the music is composed by the prolific Franz Waxman, with Chopin thrown into the mix.  But the film as a whole is rather bland, and uninvolving, including the family scenes, in one of which Talbot’s daughter complains that her father had forgotten her birthday.

When Dr. Talbot calls Nora to let her know that he is unable to tell his wife about the affair, she is upset and does not want to see him anymore. “This is the end of the line,” she says, a quintessential line that Stanwyck or Crawford have made much more menacing and convincing in other film noirs.

Sheridan is a likable actress, but not particularly compelling as a femme fatale; she’s better cast as the good girl next door.

Kent Smith has no chemistry with Sheridan or with his wife, Lucy (Rosemary DeCamp), and so elicits little sympathy from us as the erring (and then repenting) husband-father or adulterous lover.

Made on a budget of about $1.5 million, the film was moderately successful at the box-office.

Cast

Anne Sheridan as Nora Prentiss

Kent Smith as Dr. Richard Talbot

Bruce Bennett as Dr. Joel Merria

Robert Alda as Phil Dinardo, Cafe Owner

Rosemary DeCamp as Lucy Talbot

Robert Arthur as Gregory Talbo

Wanda Bendix as Bonita ‘Bunny’ Talbo

Rory Mallinson as Fleming, Talbot’s Lawyer

Credits:

Directed by Vincent Sherman
Produced by William Jacobs
Screenplay by N. Richard Nash, based on story by Paul Webster and Jack Sobell
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Edited by Owen Marks
Warner Bros.
Release date: February 21, 1947
Running time: 111 minutes

Note:

I am grateful to TCM for showing the film on January 30, 2019, enabling me to refresh my original notes.