Turner Classic Movies hosted an evening of films starring French actress Simone Simon, and one of the films turned out to be a delightful surprise: JOHNNY DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, an engaging and energetic spin on the wartime housing shortage.
This movie was a terrific little comedy, with a very fresh and creative presentation -- including a mischievous gremlin -- snappy dialogue, an excellent cast, a charmingly different performance by Simone Simon, and a whale of an ending that had me laughing out loud. There's even an extra bit of magic with the use of the song "Stardust" on the soundtrack as background music in a couple of key scenes. I was a bit surprised that a film of this caliber came from the low-budget Monogram Pictures. I found it grand fun. The print shown on TCM, incidentally, was excellent.
Simon plays Kathie Aumont, a girl from Quebec who arrives in Washington, D.C., to work in a defense plant. She plans to room with her friend Sally (Gladys Blake), but Sally has married George (Grady Sutton) after a whirlwind courtship, and three's a crowd.
After a long day of apartment hunting, Kathie has a chance meeting with Johnny Moore (William Terry) and talks him into subletting her his apartment while he's in the service. Johnny forgets to mention that a number of his friends have keys to the apartment that they use when they're in town, and Kathie quickly discovers the apartment is the equivalent of Grand Central Station. Her visitors include handsome sailor Mike Burke (James Ellison) and another sailor, Jeff (Robert Mitchum), who's "rented" the key for a rendezvous with his wife.
Johnny and Mike both quickly fall in love with Kathie, and they get the wrong impression when they see Jeff visit the apartment, since Johnny hadn't given him a key. A brawl ensues, and they all end up in front of a judge. The courtroom scene is a classic, and there's a humdinger of a surprise ending. Kathie can't decide between Johnny and Mike, because she loves them both, and then we flash forward five years to learn who Kathie finally married.
Simon's pouty innocence is rather unique, and her character is also a quick thinker when it comes to snappy comebacks. I got a particular kick out of her courtroom scene, and the judge enjoys it too.
Terry, Ellison, and Mitchum are all enjoyable as the film's trio of leading men, and the rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, including Minna Gombell and Chester Clute as Kathie's landlords, Alan Dinehart as the befuddled judge, Chick Chandler as Jack, and Charles Williams as the court reporter (who has a very funny line). George Chandler, Mary Field, and Milton Kibbee are other familiar faces in the large cast. Jerry Maren, one of the Lollipop Kids in THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), portrays the gremlin.
The movie was directed by Joe May. It runs 79 minutes. The film was also shown theatrically under the title AND SO THEY WERE MARRIED.
Handsome Robert Mitchum was nearing stardom when he appeared in this film. A bit of trivia: Simon's character, Kathie, has the same relatively unusual spelling as Jane Greer's character in Mitchum's later film, OUT OF THE PAST (1947).
JOHNNY DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE does not appear to have had a release on DVD or VHS. I'd never heard of it before it turned up on TCM, and it was an unexpected treat. Hopefully it will be shown on TCM again before too long!
March 2012: This film is now out on DVD-R from the Warner Archive.