I am also trying to get the nvidia drivers running. I thought I should mention because my setup is nearly identical to yours:
Ubuntu Edgy 6.10
Alienware Area-51m laptop
My symptoms are a corrupted-looking screen, not a black one. A few questions:
If you type your login and password, do you hear the system log you in?
If you plug an external monitor into the VGA port and then shut down / restart gnome, do you then get a fully functional desktop on the external monitor, but no way of switching that to your laptop screen?
If you try to start gnome with the nvidia drivers and then look at the file /var/log/xorg.log, looking for a bunch of consecutive lines containing "NVIDIA", do you see a list like this?:
(WW) NVIDIA(0): No valid modes for "1024x768"; removing.
(WW) NVIDIA(0): No valid modes for "800x600"; removing.
(WW) NVIDIA(0): No valid modes for "640x480"; removing.
Does it help if you add this line to xorg.conf, in the Screen section? (Mine is just underneath the resolution declarations, like shown)
Identifier "Default Screen"
Device "NVIDIA Corporation NV36 [GeForce FX Go5700]"
. . . [more stuff] . . .
Modes "1680x1050" ... etc ...
Option "UseEDID" "FALSE"
Disabling EDIDs doesn't help me out at all. It does the same thing. I'm still trying to figure out the problem and it doesn't seem like many other people have it. I'm starting to think it's some weird interaction between AlienWare laptops and Ubuntu Edgy. If you have exactly the same symptoms, we should watch each others' posts or move to a new thread or something.