Did they know her? This was the real inspiration behind Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Nightmare Alley’

Guillermo Del Toro he’s back in the director’s chair with Nightmare Alley. This ambitious film project is the one with which the Mexican director closes 2021 and promises to take us again through those mysterious, dark, hypnotic, shocking and incredible lands that only he knows how to assemble into a movie.

And well, maybe this time he does not bring us a supernatural creature to the screen as he usually does, but the filmmaker does not leave aside that terrifying, suspenseful and magnificent aspect that we know him. Perhaps, seen from a ‘more human’ angle, the native of Jalisco brings us closer to precisely the most monstrous part of people.

And he does everything from his interpretation of the novel of the same name, written by the author William Lindsay Gresham towards the end of the 40’s. How much does this story contain and what curiosities do we find in it? Here we tell you a bit.

Foto: 20th Century Studios

‘Nightmare Alley’ by Guillermo Del Toro

The project of Nightmare Alley It had already been cooked for a few years and its production began in 2020 … but hey, you know, the pandemic came to stop everything for a long time. Anyway, things continued their march in the last third of that same year to finish filming and now, to enter fully into post-production.

The result: a psychological thriller with textures of cinema noir (rather, neo noir) that looks clearly promising. And as we said, with the cinematic style of Guillermo Del Toro, the thing looks much more epic still. The ingredients are there to keep us on the edge of the seat.

Did they know her? This was the real inspiration behind Guillermo Del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley'

Foto: Getty Images

But it is not only about that … we must also remember the first level cast that was formed to Nightmare Alley with Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Toni Colette, Richard Jenkins and other renowned figures. Del Toro and the production company Searchlight Pictures (owned by Disney that is dedicated to film projects away from children’s / family terrain) threw the house out of the window.

And what is the tape about? In broad strokes, it presents the history of Stan Carlisle, a man who after abandoning his old life and leaving many secrets in it, gets a job as a carnival clerk. In that place, there are all kinds of denigrated people, many of them alcoholic vagrants who work like the ‘freaks’ at the fair for a few coins to support their vice.

Did they know her? This was the real inspiration behind Guillermo Del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley'

There, Stan also learns an ingenious technique used as a mental and psychic act, which has been specified for his sole use as part of a show. But he, with this new knowledge, decides to escape from the carnival with his beloved and uses this technique to scam the people of Chicago’s high society, making them believe that he can communicate with his deceased relatives. Soon there will be those who doubt his methods, will try to unmask him, and show us the dark turns that life gives.

The book that inspired the film adaptation

The most passionate fans will know, but for those who do not, here is the data: Nightmare Alley of this 2021, it is not the first film adaptation that is made of this story. Back in 1947, he had already made a film of the same name and plot, from the director’s hand. Edmund Goulding y Tyrone Power in the role of Stan, the protagonist.

And it was a total phenomenon at the time because it was considered somewhat daring within the noir / black film mold of the time. Of course, it was perhaps not the expected box office success and the criticism was mostly mixed … but eventually, it did.He was considered a cult classic in his style and both Goulding and Power shone for their direction and acting, respectively. Or at least that consensus is known out there.

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‘Nightmare Alley’ de 1947 dirigida por Edmund Goulding. / Foto: MUBI

Guillermo del Toro will stick to the history of 1946

What is certain is that this first adaptation is also known for not being so close to the plot of the homonymous novel of 1946 (that’s right; the book came out and the movie came out the following year). The most notable difference is that Goulding’s film ended with a more hopeful ending than the original literary work left behind. And that, at the same time, divided opinions both in the public and in the critics.

In this sense, it should be noted that the version of Guillermo Del Toro of Nightmare Alley It promises to be closer to the original material of the novel, especially in aspects related to the darkness of the plot itself, its characters and the tragedy that closes at the end. Of course, it will be up to you to figure out what that closure will be.

Nightmare Alley

Rooney Mara y Bradley Cooper en ‘Nightmare Alley’ / Foto: Kerry Hayes. © 20th Century Studios

The story behind the novel ‘Nightmare Alley’

The tragedy, the ambition, the masks of the people and the most deplorable side of the show, all this is an essential part of the novel Nightmare Alley. And as expected, everything seems to be an accumulation of real experiences, the author’s own imagination and his most heartbreaking experiences.

William Lindsay Gresham He was born in Baltimore in 1909, but raised a good part of his life in New York. Childhood and adolescence were not easy as she faced the divorce of her parents, but the tragedy continued to haunt her life in different ways. Divorces, alcoholism, existential crises and a menu of problems that will crush anyone, to say the least.

Did they know her? This was the real inspiration behind Guillermo Del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley'

Photo: Special

It is based on the humiliation experienced by various circus performers

It is said that he sought support in many ways, taking refuge as best he could in the Christianity, psychoanalysis, aid groups and more … and so he lived it in different ways until his death. But let’s talk about Nightmare Alley and its origin. According to the archives of Wheaton College, towards the end of the 1930s, precisely in 1937, Gresham enlisted as a volunteer and first aid personnel of the Lincoln Brigade that served in the Spanish Civil War. And if it was not enough to see the horrors of war already, what they would tell him at that moment would be just as shocking.

Sources indicate that Gresham met a certain Joseph Daniel Halliday in Valencia and the latter, an old carnival worker, told the author about the circus codes of the fairs and the ‘creatures’ that devoured the heads of chickens and live snakes before the crowds. These so-called ‘geeks’ the ‘phenomena’ That attracted the public, they were nothing more than alcoholic vagabonds who lent themselves to that humiliating and morbid show as long as they were paid a drink to support their vice.

Nightmare Alley

Bradley Cooper y Willem Dafoe en ‘Nightmare Alley’ / Foto: Kerry Hayes 20th Century Studios

With that idea in mind, William Lindsay Gresham He returned to the United States and worked as a writer and author of criminal noir magazines. After combining the strange carnival story that Halliday told him in Spain and his own personal tragedy, from 1939 Gresham dedicated himself to writing Nightmare Alley (or ‘The Alley of Lost Souls), among other novels that elevated him as one of the legendary writers of noir in the literature.

We want to give thanks to the writer of this post for this remarkable material

Did they know her? This was the real inspiration behind Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Nightmare Alley’