Johnny Apollo (1940)
Good Pre-Noir From Fox
2 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Another reviewer used the label 'pre-noir' and I think it is a fitting description. 'Noir' is an elusive term and means different things to different viewers, but "Johnny Apollo" doesn't fill the bill in any case. No aura of menace, no expressionist lighting effects, no ambiguity of purpose in the hero's intent, to name a few qualifications. But those are some of my own prerequisites.

Having said that, "Johnny Apollo" is a good pre-war crime drama with an attractive cast and an excellent script. The film works on its own terms and the players are so competent you can almost overlook the hastily-contrived ending which strains the viewers credulity. Edward Arnold, Dorothy Lamour and Tyrone Power are first-rate, although Arnold is the workhorse here and Power was a questionable choice for the title role, try as he might, and he did try. But as with Gary Cooper in "City Streets", Power is not a gangster. There are lots of familiar character actors and Dorothy Lamour gets to sing a few songs in her husky voice, and "Beginning Of The End" is a gorgeous song hardly heard at all these days.

But what was the big rush to end the picture? As it was, there was an awful lot to swallow with multiple plot holes and loose ends. And the light-hearted last scene didn't fit. I still give it a rating of 7, as I just went with it as an enjoyable example of pre-WWII escapist entertainment.
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