Ruthless hood Johnny Eager is pretending to his parole officer that he has chucked the rackets and is now a full-time taxi driver. In fact, he's as deep in as he ever was and desperately needs official permission to open his new dog track. When he meets up with Lisbeth Bard, he finds he not only has a stunning new girlfriend but a possible way to get his permit. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In one of the bedrooms in Johnny's apartment at the track is a large painting, done in the art deco style, of a reclining blonde woman. Coincidentally, this same painting is featured briefly but prominently in Eyes in the Night, released the same year and also starring Edward Arnold, referred to in that film by Marty as "a blonde tomato." See more »
In the scene where Johnny is asking Benjy about the cop that won't let him put in slot machines, Benjy hands him a note with the cop's badge number (#711) on it which he unfolds before handing to Johnny. Then we see Johnny unfolding it again. See more »
(Also known as "Melancholy Baby" and "My Melancholy Baby")
Music by Ernie Burnett
Played during the opening and closing credits
Played as dance music by the band at Tony Luce's place
Played as background music often See more »
Just as Sydney Greenstreet is unforgettable in "The Maltese Falcon", Van Heflin's role in Johnny Eager is memorable. Heflin won an Academy Award for this role that would be a dream role for any serious actor. The role provides superb lines, wide emotional range and an unusual character for a Forties movie. A weeping Heflin would be arresting to even a casual viewer. Several years later, Heflin played a somewhat similar but rugged and drunk Musketeer with a broken marriage in "The Three Musketeers." The casting of "Johnny Eager" is the secret to its success.
Robert Taylor made a name as the good looking good guy in the movies, but he is even better when he plays the bad guy in a handful of films. This is one such example. The strength of this role is his ability to transform from a likable good guy into a steely, gangster with an eye-brow movement and a subtle variation in his voice. Yet amongst the several negative roles ("Conspirator", "Undercurrent", "Ride, Vaqeuro", "The Night Walker"), Taylor in "Johnny Eager" is able to present the versatile actor he was.
The lovely Lana Turner is overshadowed by Taylor and Heflin, not just by the script but their individual performances. Usually Turner overshadows her male colleagues.
The film would never have stood out but for the script (Grant and Mahin) and the direction (LeRoy). The opening sequence and the ending sequence are well crafted and can stand alongside the best of film noir. I am surprised that this work gets often overlooked in discussions about the best examples of the genre. I found the film richly entertaining and well-made.
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