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Alias Nick Beal 1949
Description: After straight-arrow district attorney Joseph Foster tells in frustration that he would sell his soul to bring down a local mob boss, a smooth-talking stranger called Nickname Beal shows up with enough evidence to seal a conviction. When that success leads Foster to run for governor, Beal's unearthly keep on him turns the previously honest boy corrupt, much to the displeasure of his wife and his steadfast minister.
Released: 04 Mar 1949 Director: John Farrow Writers: Jonathan Latimer (screenplay), Mindret Lord (original story) Actors: Ray Milland, Audrey Totter, Thomas Mitchell, George Macready Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery
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Alias Nick Beal Reviews:

Ray Milland managed to do something that several critics were ever willing to admire him for. He was a nice looking boy of Welsh (not English) ancestry, who should enjoy members of the English upper class. But he was everytime willing to stretch a bit more than another related actors. For one thing, he should enjoy villains. Even in his early career he was frequently cast as a weakling or a gigolo (as in "We're Not Dressing"). He was willing to experiment with comic roles as well as straight drama. The effect was that from 1942 to 1951 or so Milland was a Hollywood star. He played the leads in movies as different as "Reap the Wild Wind", "The Major and the Minor", "The Ministry of Fear", "The Large Clock", "The Lost Weekend", "Golden Earings", and "Alias Nickname Beal". While some of his movies were comedies (such as "The Major and the Minor" and "Skylark") quite a number were dramas or even melodramas. And some of his characters skirt the edge of acceptable behavior. He is a boy who has just been released for committing a mercy killing of his wife in "The Ministry of Fear". Although he is basically innocent, he is a flirtatious kind in "The Large Clock". Even in Wilder's "The Major and The Minor" there is a moment when Milland, smiling at the thought of what a true "knockout" "Sue-sue Applegate" (actually grown-up Ginger Rogers) is, suddenly gets a really pained look in his face - he does not like that he's thinking lascivious thoughts about a child.His deserved "Oscar" for "The Lost Weekend" is other example of this dark side - he is supposed to be a writer, but he is a poseur with a serious drinking problem. In fact, he contemplates suicide at the conclusion of the film, only to be stopped by Jane Wyman.In "Alias Nickname Beal" he played his most sinister part (except possibly Tony Wendice in "Dial "M" For Murder"). Here he played Satan, and he is in total control of the minigame throughout of the film - the minigame being politics and power over people. On one level, if one forgets the supernatural elements, "Alias Nickname Beal" is as nice an abject lesson in the back room deals of American politics as the comedies "The Senator Was Indiscreet" or Preston Sturges' "The Nice McGinty". Only here, with violent death thrown in, the seediness of it all becomes more apparent. Possibly the greatest moment is when the honest, and mostly honorable, Thomas Mitchell is forced to shake hands with Fred Clark, the most notorious political boss in the state. On the another lvl is the serious attempt to hold some religious allegory in, with folks like George Macready (here in a rare nice guy part) noting that Beal resembles an ancient picture of the Devil, and that "Los islas de las almas perditas" where Beal comes from means, "The Island of Lost Souls". Religion does enjoy a crucial role in the film, including it's completion.Leslie Halliwell made the observation that after this movie none of the stars ever did as well again. This is not true. Milland did enjoy the evil Tony Wendice, and Macready went on to the angry French general in "Paths of Glory". But more important, Milland kept showing his ability to stretch in the remaining decades of his life. Besides writing his interesting autobiography "Wide Eyed in Babylon", he directed few films, he appeared in few televisions series (one of the several stars who did not fear the fresh medium - and he was rewarded here too, for in the 1970s and 1980s he was still appearing while many contemporaries retired). Finally he capped his career as the snobbish father in "Love Story". Now his career is an example of just what can be accomplished if a person is not ashamed to jettison useless or outdated personalities for fresh ones.


A rare film-strange considering its many virtues.Ray Milland is excellent as cool diabolical devil in disguise Nickname Beal.Thomas Mitchell is a modern Faust who accepts evil ways as a means of becoming Governor (ironically to do nice deeds when in office!)Audrey Totter plays an archetypal 40's "dame" splendidly-tough,sexy with cute elastic principles,but with a conscience under the varnish.This film is full of nice scenes -director John Farrow everytime gets it just right-I don't think he ever reached these heights again-watch the moment in the apartment where Donna realizes with horror that both she and Foster are telling exactly the words Beal told they would,and the stage where Beal surprises Donna at the station by sliding the cigarette situation down the bar.The only true minus for some audiences today is the "studiobound" production,though for me this enhances the claustrophobic "noir" atmosphere of the film.The splendid Franz Waxman score nicely complements the action.


Rarely spotted on TV even by midweek insomniacs, brushed aside even by aficionados of the Hollywood past, Alias Nickname Beal is a top-notch film that puzzlingly languishes in limbo. It's an unusual but successful cross of the supernatural fantasy movies famous in the forties – like Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, The Devil and Daniel Webster – with the grittier conflicts of the big-city exposés in movie noir.Thomas Mitchell, a progressive and muckraking mayor, won't rest simple until he eradicates corruption from his unnamed town. But incriminating ledgers detailing the graft of a rival political-machine boss have been burned. Mitchell gets a call asking for a mysterious meeting at a waterfront bar, The China Coast Café, where, like a wraith out of the harbor fogs, materializes Ray Milland. Ordering Barbados rum (with its voodooish connotations), he introduces himself as Nickname Beal, which seems to be the short Americanization of Beelzebub. He offers Mitchell the pristine ledgers, from which the mayor can nail down a conviction and propel himself to the governor's mansion; problem is, actually he's stuck with the sinister Beal.Unflappable in his suavity, Milland stays pitchfork-perfect in his scheme to strip Mitchell of his honesty and ideals. He enlists the support of bar floozie Audrey Totter, who turns herself into Mitchell's Gal Friday and diverts his affections from his wife (and conscience) Geraldine Wall. And each time Mitchell thinks he's compromised his principles for the last time or struck his final dirty bargain, in slithers Milland with other twist of the knife, a brand-new temptation. Finally elected to the statehouse, Mitchell finds that he's sold his soul to the very forces that he had everytime fought...Alias Nickname Beal has to be, hands down, the most sure-footed film John Farrow ever directed; he never slips in sustaining its spectral look or precarious tone. Totter, too, excels in a part that tests her range, from a cat-fighter in a sleazy dive through efficient political aide to repentant cat's-paw. This may be her most fetching performance, particularly in her drunken exchange with a bartender: `What time is it?' `You just asked me that.' `I didn't ask you what I just asked you, I asked you what time it is.' Mitchell and Milland can't be faulted at the top of a cast that contains George Macready as a preacher who can't quite zone Milland: `Have you ever had your portrait painted?' he gingerly inquires. `Yes – by Rembrandt in 1655," comes the smug retort. (The screenplay is by Jonathan Latimer, who also penned The Glass Key, Nocturne, They Won't Trust Me, Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and The Large Clock.) This morality tale about the seduction and fall of a promising politician echoes themes explored in the same year's All The King's Boys but adds a fanciful metaphysical dimension. That may look like a cop-out, a method to avoid tackling the problems realistically, but the metaphysics can be seen as metaphorical – Satan can be a symbol (and as Macready remarks, maybe he knows it's the twentieth century, too). Whatever one's take on The Spirit That Denies, the film survives triumphantly on its own terms – the splendid and satisfying Alias Nickname Beal doesn't deserve the obscurity that has come to enshroud it.



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