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Wall Street broker Robert Cain, Sr., is jailed for embezzling. His college graduate son Bob then turns to crime to raise money for his father's release. As assistant to mobster Mickey Dwyer, then falls for Dwyer's girl Lucky. He winds up in the same prison as his father. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rift 'twixt generations fuels sentimental, pre-noir crime tale
Tyrone Power plays privileged young man Bob Cain, Jr., who adopts the nom de guerre Johnny Apollo when he takes to a life of crime. (Incidentally, this movie thus kicks off a string of at least a dozen crime stories of the 40s and 50s named Johnny Something-Or-Other: Eager, O'Clock, Stool Pigeon....) Power chooses crime to spite his father (Edward Arnold) by emulating his dog-eat-dog ethics, for financial tycoon Arnold has been sent to prison for embezzlement, causing a rift between the generations.
After Power's initial snit over Dad's letting him down, his attempts to secure him an early parole lead, though `connected' shantoozie Dorothy Lamour, to the underworld. The muscles he developed rowing crew in the Ivy League stand him in good stead as muscle in the mob, for soon he becomes a trusted lieutenant in Lloyd Nolan's crime family (plausibility is not the movie's long suit). But Pop (who has reclaimed his spiritual center in the Big House by welding boilers) disowns his namesake when he learns of his new line of work. In due time, of course, Power ends up behind those bars as well. But that's far from the end of the tale....
The plot of Johnny Apollo, a major production, takes a few turns too many but manages to keep a just-passable amount of credibility. Though Power, in the lead, stays less than persuasive as a menacing mobster he's too much of a pretty-boy, and lacks the acting resources to turn himself into a pretty-boy psychopath the rest of the cast compensates. Predictably, Arnold is good, as is, in the role of a mob mouthpiece with a weakness for Scotch-and-milk, Charlie Grapewin (whose first film credit falls in the last year of the 19th Century!); the two seem to be vying for title of America's sweetheart, old-codger division. Best of all is Lamour, with her sad eyes and fetching pout, who leaves an impression here of a skilled actress, more than she managed in all the Hope-Crosby `Road' pictures put together.
Direction is by Henry Hathaway, an uneven craftsman who nonetheless rose to the occasion for a handful of movies; this can be counted among his stronger efforts, along with The Dark Corner, Kiss of Death, Fourteen Hours and Niagara. But Johnny Apollo cleaves more closely to the crime melodramas of the previous decade than to the unsentimental and ambiguous style soon to come. But, in it, one can nonetheless sense particularly in its heavily shaded photography the birth pangs of film noir, struggling to come into the world.
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