Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Johnny Apollo (1940)

Tyrone Power is JOHNNY APOLLO, a young man from a wealthy background who joins forces with a mobster after his father is convicted of embezzlement.

Johnny's real name is Robert Cain Jr., and when Bob's father (Edward Arnold) goes to jail, the disillusioned younger Cain discovers he can't get a job because of the infamous family name.

Bob changes his name to Johnny Apollo and goes to work for mobster Mickey Dwyer (Lloyd Nolan), starting down the path to a life of crime. Only Mickey's girl Lucky (Dorothy Lamour), who's sweet on Johnny, and an alcoholic lawyer (Charley Grapewin) might be able to save him.

This is a solid film which has an interesting but fairly dismal storyline. The plot is also a bit muddled, as the elder Cain's reactions towards his son don't always make dramatic sense. That said, the cast is what makes this one worth seeing. Power, Arnold, and Nolan were among the very best in the film business, and they are all excellent, as are Lamour and Grapewin. Nolan in particular livens up his scenes as the hood who isn't as nice a guy as he might seem at first meeting.

The film also has typically classy Fox production values, including beautiful black and white cinematography by Arthur Miller. Some of the shots made me consider whether this film might be considered early film noir, a genre which some say began the next year with Fox's I WAKE UP SCREAMING.

The movie runs 94 minutes. The supporting cast includes Lionel Atwill, Charles Lane, Charles Trowbridge, Marc Lawrence, Russell Hicks, Bess Flowers, and Louis Jean Heydt.

Johnny Apollo was directed by Henry Hathaway from a script by Philip Dunne and Rowland Brown.

This film is part of the Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection, which might just be my all-time favorite boxed set.

Reviews of other films in this set: GIRLS' DORMITORY (1936), LOVE IS NEWS (1937), SECOND HONEYMOON (1937), CAFE METROPOLE (1937), DAY-TIME WIFE (1939), THAT WONDERFUL URGE (1948), THE LUCK OF THE IRISH (1948), and I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU (1951). I have just one film in the set left to see, THIS ABOVE ALL (1942).

JOHNNY APOLLO has also been released on VHS.


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