Monday, December 13, 2021

William Lindsay Gresham's 'Nightmare Alley'

This Friday Searchlight Pictures releases a new film adaptation of Nightmare Alley starring Bradley Cooper. What's this have to do with Houdini? If you don't know, I'll tell you after the trailer.

Nightmare Alley was a bestselling novel written by William Lindsay Gresham in 1946. Gresham also penned Houdini The Man Who Walked Through Walls in 1959. In fact, Nightmare Alley is mentioned on the cover of the first U.S. hardcover edition (below).

Is this enough of a Houdini connection to see the movie? I don't know, but it looks pretty good!


  1. In the novel, there are different "inside" magic bits. In the note about Ed Saint's M.O. for tipping scales without touching them, it is used, (but only aluded to) in the novel as well. The novel and movie, (especially the book) were known enough to be noted to sell it's author's latest book.

  2. It was made into a great noir classic, in 1947 with Tyrone Power. (on youtube) but they have said this is NOT a remake of the 1947 movie, but directly adapted from Gresham's novel, that went in directions 1947 movies couldn't do. (the U.S. Postal Inspection Service said it was pornography and banned overseas distribution of the book) Be interesting where they take it and how the 2 movies compare and contrast.

  3. Having now seen (and enjoyed) Nightmare Alley, I'm struck by how similar a main plot point is to Houdini's The Zanetti Mystery. I mean REALLY similar. Could this Houdini story have been where Gresham got the idea?