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Monday, March 28, 2016

JOHNNY APOLLO (1940)

Just about everyone’s at their best (in front and behind the camera) in this Wall-Street-scion to Gangster pic; if only the storyline didn’t let down the snazzy production. Director Henry Hathaway, at Paramount for most of the ‘30s, was out to dazzle, showing his wares & a surprising penchant for pushing the boundaries of Production Code violence, in his 20th/Fox debut, with a big assist from Arthur Miller’s rich lensing. Physically, the film’s a knockout; so too the cast with Tyrone Power in best form as the spoiled college boy who toughens up quick when Pop goes to jail for embezzlement and only mob guy Lloyd Nolan will give him a job. Dorothy Lamour has the role of a lifetime (plus a great pair of songs) playing Nolan’s sad-eyed moll and falling for Power. Even Charles Grapewin gets a chance to show his stuff as Nolan’s alcoholic lawyer. (Milk & whiskey, please.) But it’s mostly Hathaway who slams this one across with an effortless display of cinematic style & action chops, nearly getting away with the catch-as-catch-can plotting. (Don’t blame him for the happy tag ending. The film's really over on Lamour’s slow walk out of prison. Be brave; hit the STOP Button before they break the bittersweet mood.)

DOUBLE-BILL: You’ll find almost the exact same ending, and nearly the exact some cop-out tag in WIFE VS. SECRETARY/’36 with Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, James Stewart & Myrna Loy.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Hefty Edward Arnold may seem an unlikely physical match as Power’s pop, but Ty’s real dad was (if anything) even larger. (On the other hand, Power’s son, born just after his death, is a ringer for his handsome dad.) Check out Tyrone, Sr. in Raoul Walsh’s THE BIG TRAIL/’30, playing villain to a very young John Wayne.

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