This curious film is one of the James Cagney films I like the best. For a Cagney film it's slow. I think Cagney was nostalgic for the period in time when he was growing up and Johnny Come Lately captures that slower pace of life people enjoyed before World War I.
Cagney plays Tom Richards who was a newspaperman before the life of the open road suddenly appealed to him. We first meet him, seedy and unshaven, sitting on a bench in the town square reading the Pickwick Papers. The town is in the grip of Boss Daugherty played by Edward McNamara. Daugherty has whittled whatever opposition he faced down to Vinnie McLeod who is a widow and owns a badly in debt town newspaper. Daugherty got the mortgage and he's about to close in the best tradition of 19th century villainy. Vinnie meets Richards and brings him to her home. One of her charitable traditions is to give passing hobos a decent meal and Cagney gets one and in turn learns about the town politics. By the end of the film all's right and Cagney moves on, having changed a whole number of lives in the process.
Vinnie McLeod is played by Grace George, a prominent stage actress who makes her one and only movie here. She's very good and other supporting players who acquit themselves well are Hattie McDaniel, Marjorie Lord, Robert Barrat and most of all Marjorie Main playing Gashouse Mary.
This film was obviously a labor of love for James Cagney and it shows.
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