Nightmare Alley

Synopsis: The ambitious Stanton "Stan" Carlisle works in a sideshow as carny and assistant of the mentalist Zeena Krumbein, who is married with the alcoholic Pete. The couple had developed a secret code to pretend to read minds and was successful in the show business before Pete starts drinking. Stan stays with them expecting to learn their code and leave the carnival to be a successful mentalist. Stan also flirts with the gorgeous Molly that lives in the carnival with the strong Bruno. Zeena and The Savage, an alcoholic man that eats live chickens that the audiences believe that is a savage, are the greatest attractions of the sideshow. When Stan gives booze to Pete and he dies, Stan finds that Pete had drunk methyl alcohol and not his booze, but he feels guilty for the death of him. Zeena teaches the code to him and Molly helps Stan to learn them. After an incident, Stan is forced to marry Molly and he decides to move to Chicago with her to become a sensation in a night club. One day, he meets
Genre: Drama, Film-Noir
Director(s): Edmund Goulding
Production: 20th Century Fox
Rotten Tomatoes:
110 min

Hey, lookie, lookie, lookie.!

This way for the monster.!

Right through here.!

Step right this way, folks.!

The show is about to begin.!

Right this way.!

Here we are.!

Folks, I must ask you to remember

that this exhibit is being presented...

solely in the interest

of education and science.

Now, this creature...

There he is! The geek!

He has puzzled the foremost scientists

of Europe and America.

Is he the missing link?

Is he man or beast?

Some have pronounced him man.

But beneath that shaggy mane of hair,

lies the brain of a beast.


If he should sink his teeth into my arm, nothing

on this round, green earth could save me.

Now, folks, it's feeding time.


He's on fire!

Now, folks, you haven't seen anything yet.

Step in closer, please.

The greatest demonstration of fire manipulation

the world has ever seen!

Hey. Come here.

Kind of a surprise to see you hanging

around that act, young man.


Hasn't got a skirt in it.

- Geek guy fascinates me.

- You aren't the only one.

That's why we got him in the show.

How do you get to be a geek?

Is that the only one?

- I mean, is a guy born that way?

- Let me tell you something, kid.

When you've been around this carny longer,

you'll learn to quit asking questions.

- Come on, Pete.

- He gonna be able to work?

Pete's okay. I've got him sobered up.

- What's the matter, Stan?

- Nothing.

What's the boss

been razzing you about?

I was just asking him about that guy

that does the geek business.

- That's always a sore point in a carnival.

- Why?

The geek is one of our biggest draws...

but a lot of performers

won't work a show that carries one.

I can't understand how anybody

could get so low.

It can happen.

- I wanna thank you, Zeena.

- Me?

- Uh-huh.

- What for?

For being so nice to me,

helping me with my spiel and everything.

- Well, I think you've got something, Stan.

- Honest?

- You like this racket, don't you?

- Oh, lady, I was made for it.

I had all kinds of jobs

before this one came along...

but none of'em

were anything but jobs.

But this gets me.

I like it. All of it.

The crowds, the noise,

the idea of keeping on the move.

You see those yokels out there,

it gives you sort of a superior feeling...

as if you were in the know

and they were on the outside looking in.

Kinda hard to explain,

but I like it.

I like you too, Zeena.

Hey, look! Hey, look! Hey, look!

Step right this way!

Move in closer, ladies and gentlemen,

and let me introduce Zeena...

the miracle woman of the ages.

She sees, she knows, she tells you

all the innermost secrets of your past...

your present and your future.

- Mademoiselle Zeena!

- Step right up, folks, and don't be bashful.

If any of you wants

to ask me a personal question...

Mr. Stanton will now pass among you

with little cards and envelopes.

- Lend me your hand there.

- Write your question on the card!

- I need a pencil.

- Pass those out. There we are, ladies.

Don't crowd.

There's plenty here for everyone.

Careful not to let anyone else see what you write,

because that's your business.

I don't want anybody asking me

about anyone else's business.

One for you, young lady.

When you have written your questions,

sign your initials or write your name...

as a token of good faith.

Write what's in your heart,

and when you write about it, think about it.

Madam? Yes, madam. Your questions

will be held in strictest confidence.

No one will know but yourself

and Mademoiselle Zeena.

Ah, I see that Mr. Stanton has

a good handful of questions.

So if he'll bring 'em right up on the stage,

we'll have some readings.

Thank you, sir.

Wait a minute. Here's mine.

- Mister, here's my question!

- I'd like to ask you about my mother.

Will that lady raise her hand, please?

Come on, Pete. Here.

Madam, your mother's had a lot

of hard work in her life.

Come on.

Take these. Here.

- Another drink, huh?

- Hurry up. Show's on.

There's something in there

I don't see quite clearly yet.

If you'll see me after this demonstration,

maybe I can tell you more.

I'll ask Mr. Stanton to drop the questions

into the bowl.

There they go.

I don't touch them.

Now, people have asked me

if I have spirit aid in doing what I do.

I always tell them the only spirits I control

are the ones in this bottle.

Spirits of alcohol!

I'll pour a little on the questions...

and ask Mr. Stanton to light a match

and drop it in the bowl.

Thank you, Mr. Stanton. Now you see them

burning, and that's the last of them.

Anybody who's afraid

that somebody else is going to read it...

or that I would

handle this question...

can just forget

that I ever touched them.

Your question is now recorded nowhere

except in the ether.

Your answer is there too,

and I will find it for you.

I get an impression.

It's a little cloudy, still,

but it's getting clearer.

I get the initials "J.E.G."

I believe it's a gentleman.

Is that right?

Will the person who has

those initials raise his hand!

Right here, missy!

Thank you, Mr., uh... Giles.

The name is Giles, isn't it?

Yes, ma'am, that's his name.

That's his name. Giles.

Giles, yes.


Wait. I see green trees and a rolling field.

It's plowed land, fenced in.

- That's your place.!

- Yes, ma'am, that's my place.

Oh, is that for me?

- It's a wagon.

- Goodness.! That's what you asked about.!

- Zeena's going good.

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Jules Furthman

Jules Furthman (March 5, 1888 – September 22, 1966) was a magazine and newspaper writer before working as a screenwriter. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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