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 »
(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 »
Robert Taylor doesn't ace every scene but he gives a more than credible performance as Johnny Eager, an inventive pragmatic and violent when called for gangster trying to open a legit dog track from behind the scenes. In order to avoid being a parole violator Eager pretends to drive a cab while he masterminds the track deal paying off cops and officials to smooth things. Some officials can't be bought however and a judge (Edward Arnold) with a deep seeded resentment of Eager whom he refers to as "Thief" and humiliates blocks his license. The coldly practical Eager circumvents the problem by compromising the judge's daughter (Lana Turner) but loses his balance on the tightrope he's walking when he falls hard for her dame.
Eager has a crisper look than most noirs and director Mervyn LeRoy deftly handles the storyline and avoids run of the mill by injecting minor but telling incidentals that indicate Johnny's slow transformation. Suspense scenes are well edited and mise en scene is busy and filled with pertinent detail.
While Bogart might seem an apt choice to play Eager I doubt he could have played it with the same nervous authoritative energy or insecurity Taylor does here. Most of all he lacks Taylor's good looks which are crucial to romancing Lana Turner. The glamorous Ms. Turner is at first a little hard to believe as a student studying social work but she does acquit herself well in some powerfully dramatic scenes with Taylor. Paul Stewart, Glenda Farrell and Edward Arnold chip in fine supporting performances while Van Heflin delivers a magnificent one. Heflin as Eager's alcoholic sidekick and pickled conscience is not only effectively moving but also lends a droll sense of wit to the film with his sardonic observations.
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