Saturday, July 18, 2009

Next time, try e-harmony

Granted, they didn't have sophisticated services like e-harmony or back in the 1940s. Even so, common sense should have told Kent Smith to stay away from Nora Prentiss, which airs overnight, at 4:00 AM ET Sunday on TCM.

Smith plays Dr. Richard Talbot, a San Franciscan who's relatively happily married, with two children. That is, until nightclub singer Prentiss (Ann Sheridan) has a minor collision outside of Dr. Talbot's office. He, being a good doctor, comes to her aid, providing the medical assistance she needs. But, this being a Hollywood movie, you just know he's going to fall in love with her. This love affair is naturally problematic for Dr. Talbot, since he's supposed to be a decent married man. In fact, Talbot is spending so much time with Prentiss that he's neglecting his family to the point that his wife is thinking of getting a divorce.

But, Dr. Talbot comes up with a bright idea. Or, more accurately, he has a bright idea fall right in front of him -- literally. One of his patients, a man with a heart problem, comes into his office just as Talbot is about to close up and, fortuitously, after everybody else has left the building. The patient then proceeds to have a heart attack and drop dead right in front of the doctor. Dr. Talbot then sees this as an opportunity: since he and the dead guy are about the same height and build, he decides to stick the dead guy in his car, push the car off a cliff and fake his own death, so that he can assume a new identity and run off with Nora Prentiss. Ingenious.

Then again, as in Payment Deferred, maybe it's not so ingenious. After Prentiss and Talbot run off to New York, he realizes that he can't practice medicine, since he doesn't have a license in his new name. Worse, there are people in New York who knew him in his old life, and who think they recognize him when they see him and Nora together in New York. Not only that, but poor Dr. Talbot starts developing a serious case of paranoia as he's forced to hide in his apartment hotel while Nora resumes her career as a nightclub singer -- working for the same man she worked for back in San Francisco!

Nora Prentiss is a very engaging, if dark, story. The cast isn't quite to the level of fame as appeared in some of the more well-known noirs, but that doesn't take anything away from the movie. It doesn't seem to have been released to DVD, so you're going to have to catch the TCM showing.

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