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 <email@example.com>
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 (1942), 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 »
John 'Johnny' Eager:
Oh, now don't turn ordinary on me. I get tired of ordinary dames. And I don't want to get tired of you.
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(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 »
"Johnny Eager" was the one and only movie film god and goddess Robert Taylor and Lana Turner made together, which is very puzzling--their single pairing raked in the dough at the box office, and the fact that they were both under long-term contract to the same studio, MGM, made it such that no pesky and expensive loan-outs from other studios would be necessary (in fact, Taylor has the distinction of being MGM's longest contract star, with Turner not far behind) . But however lamentable that is, much consolation can be garnered from the fact that their lone film is a very memorable and excellent one, with a solid storyline, good direction, great casting and flawless performances by all. In a marvelously inspired decision, Robert Taylor was cast in the title role as Johnny Eager, Gangster--quite a departure, to say the least, from his previously romantic matinee idol roles which established him as a star. At first glance the perfectly handsome, gentlemanly Taylor would seem woefully miscast, but proves otherwise--he holds his perfect features with such an air of menace and calculation and acts every inch the tough guy, both of which are completely convincing. One never gets the sense that he is "trying" to be a heavy, he simply is. In fact, "Johnny Eager" would be the start of a new phase in Taylor's career where, like actors such as Dick Powell and fellow MGM star Robert Montgomery, he would cut loose from his light, "nice guy" leading man roles and emerge with a much darker, harder-edged "flawed hero" if not "bad man" persona. In this film he does so terrifically as the cynical, selfish, big time recently parolled hood who's only priorities are money and avoiding a return to the big house. He faces problems with each when he is unable to get a license from any judge to open up his greyhound racing racket, and when the daughter of the prosecutor who sent him away falls for him. But the cunning and ruthless Johnny Eager sees how he can use the girl and her father to meet his own ends and cleverly concocts a devious, heartless scheme to do so--but things don't turn out as expected when the unexpected happens and he genuinely falls for her.
And how could any man not? Lana Turner plays the part of the prosecutor-judge's daughter, sociology student Lisbeth Bard, who has the power to make any bad man rue his rotten ways--she is captivating with her luscious, luxe blond beauty (which in her physical prime was such that she often is considered by "critics," whoever they may be, as one of cinema's greatest beauties, and justifiably so. In fact, in the relatively recent "Femme Fatale," Rebecca Romijn-Stamos was made up to look like Lana) and warm sensuality blended with a slightly cool sultriness. She simply shimmers and sparkles, glitters and gleams like a white diamond. Her rapport and sexual chemistry with Taylor is so palpable and electrifying that I consider him one of her best leading men, alongiside only John Garfield in "The Postman Always Rings Twice". In fact, during filming the two had an affair and their powerful attraction translates onto film. Though Turner was, with good reason, known more for her riveting looks, glamorous sex appeal and strong screen presence rather than her acting ability, in this film she turns in a truly depthful, sincere, multi-faceted performance, running the gamut from cool, assessing fascination to frantic, desperate angst, which probably had a lot to do with the fact that she was directed by Mervyn LeRoy, her trusted mentor back from her starlet days at Warner Bros., who "brought" her with him when he moved over to MGM. The dynamic Edward Arnold is good as usual as Lisbeth's lawyer father, who is alternately sinister and sympathetic because of his willingness to do anything to protect his beloved daughter, whether it be from Johnny Eager or from jail time, even if it means forsaking his honesty and breaking the law which he has promised to uphold. Despite the sterling performances of these actors, it is Van Heflin who steals the show (and won the AA for Best Supporting Actor) in his star turn as Johnny's best and only friend Jeff Hartnett, and a strange one at that--a maudlin, conscious-ridden, cerebral alcoholic, the type who seems like he would be the last person fit for the criminal world. But despite this, he sticks with Johnny, and the viewer (or at least I did) truly gets the sense that there is a homoerotic bond, at least on Heflin's part.
This is good stuff and I highly recommend it. If you are into film noirs, then this is a must see.
p.s. Someone flippantly dismissed Turner as a sort of 2nd rate Veronica Lake--that is definitely not true, for it can be argued that Turner became a star around or even before Lake did and despite their sultry, stunning blond looks and charisma, the two had distinct personas of their own and were not "interchangeable." Although one could never go so far as to say Lake was mysterious, she was somewhat inscrutable and "cool-er", something Turner was not. And while Lake definitely did have sufficient star quality, Lana had much more of it, and what's more, she also had a strong audience rapport--something that enabled her to remain a star even when her looks started to fade and despite the shock over the Stompanato Scandal. Lake was a star mostly on the basis of her hairdo, and when it went out of vogue or she changed it, interest in her waned. I say this as a fan of both of these marvelous ladies.
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