Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Johnny Allegro (1949) at the Noir City Film Festival

A nice Sunday evening crowd turned out tonight at the Noir City Film Festival for a double bill of "Johnny" films from Columbia Pictures.

First up was JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947), which I reviewed in the summer of 2010. This film, which stars Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Lee J. Cobb, and several other excellent actors, is simply beautiful noir. It was a great pleasure to watch this absolutely gorgeous print. I love this film and highly recommend it.

The second film, JOHNNY ALLEGRO, was just 81 minutes, but proved to be a bit of a yawner at the end of a busy weekend of movie viewing. He has his devoted fans, but I'm afraid the charms of George Raft continue to elude me; he's rather wooden and lacking in charisma, and he looks quite a bit older than the 47 years old IMDb indicates he was at the time of filming. (Comments at IMDb peg him as actually being in his mid '50s in this film.) All in all, I wasn't really buying him as the dashing action hero he's supposed to be in this.

Raft plays the title character, a convict escaped from Sing Sing who served with valor during the war and now works as a mild-mannered florist (?!) in a swank Los Angeles hotel. He's enamored of mysterious Glenda (Nina Foch). And then one day Johnny is visited by a federal agent (Will Geer) who's fully aware of Johnny's past, and he wants Johnny to spy on Glenda in return for help dealing with his long-ago prison record...

Though I didn't find the film especially interesting, it did have its compensations. The print was superb, and Nina Foch, always a compelling actress, never looked lovelier. The film also features an appealing performance by folksy Will Geer (THE WALTONS) as a cagey Treasury agent.

I wasn't so wild about sequences on an island owned by sinister Morgan Vallin (George Macready), who -- as Alan Rode pointed out in his introduction -- seems to be straight out of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932). His walls are filled with stuffed animal heads and weaponry, and towards the end he's thrilled by the idea of giving Johnny a head start and chasing him. Sound familiar? Those elements also inspired RUN FOR THE SUN (1956), which more closely hews to the MOST DANGEROUS GAME plot.

I know Macready also has a lot of fans, but I frankly found his sinister routine a little boring in this one.  Maybe I was tired, but my reaction was "Yeah, whatever, so you're a bad guy who hates guns and loves archery."  There's no motivation for him whatsoever, he's simply a creepy crook.

That said, as a fan of Nina Foch I was glad to see the film.  JOHNNY ALLEGRO is worth a look for Foch and Geer; and perhaps those who are Raft and Macready fans, or like the story elements, will find it a little more interesting than I did.

JOHNNY ALLEGRO was directed by Ted Tetzlaff. Tetzlaff's very next picture would be THE WINDOW (1949), seen last Sunday at the festival. In addition to directing, Tetzlaff was also the cinematographer of fine films such as YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942), I MARRIED A WITCH (1942), THE MORE THE MERRIER (1944) and THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (1945).

Joseph Biroc served as the cinematographer on JOHNNY ALLEGRO. The script by Karen DeWolf and Guy Endore was based on a story by James Edward Grant (ANGEL AND THE BADMAN).

JOHNNY ALLEGRO is available on DVD-R in the Columbia Classics/Sony Pictures Choice line sold via the Warner Archive.

3 Comments:

Blogger barrylane said...

You are quite right, Raft was in his fifties at the time of JOhnny Allegro. Not too old, he was just stiff, but that should not diminish as one of the biggest stars in the world during the thirties and early forties. He is at time quaite effective. Spawn of the North, The Glass Key, The Bowery. Some Like It Hot. On a personal note, I had the chance to speak with him once and liked him a lot.

8:41 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Corrections:

Johnny Allegro...diminish him as one of...at times quite effective. I hope these corectives can be worked into the submission.

Thanks.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Barrylane!

I don't have the ability to edit comments but having your correction immediately following clarifies! Thanks much.

Raft was one of my grandmother's favorite actors, along with Clark Gable, so I wished I appreciated him more in this film. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

9:31 AM  

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