Frankie and Johnnie (1936) Poster

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great cast in a disappointing film
c532c7 August 2003
Ideal players are unfortunately wasted in Republic's low-budget, low-octane drama. Helen Morgan, that tragic chantoosie, would seem ideally cast as Frankie, but the tired script gives her nothing to do except look a bit trampy, which she does very well. Likewise, slick, superficial Chester Morris embodies the two-timing Johnny of the song perfectly... or he would if he had any worthwhile dialogue. In her last Film Lilyan Tashman is wasted as Nellie Bly. Once or twice, the movie seems about to capture the simplicity of a tawdry ballad, but never quite gets there. A pity all around.
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Terrific little film
jppu3 March 2008
Frankie and Johnnie brilliantly captures the sleazy atmosphere of Riverboat life in St. Louis, 1870. The art direction, cinematography, and costuming must be applauded especially taking into consideration that Republic was certainly not MGM.

The dialog and the direction keep things moving to it's final twist. (I was shocked!! Maybe others wouldn't be.)

For those who are of the politically correct brand, you guys will not like the fried chicken eating wedding sequence with Frankie's comment being, "They (black people) are so simple... so happy... they are not afraid of themselves." I guess one could look at it as a backhanded complement. But even I, who is far from buying into political correctness, had to squirm in my seat. I suppose it is that scene that will keep this otherwise nice film from getting a DVD release. What a shame we are so squeamish. (I'm not, but some are.) But the film takes place in 1870, it was made in 1934. People actually thought like that back then. It proves we've come along way with a long way to go perhaps, but what a measuring stick it is.

Then there's Chester Morris as Johnnie who should have been a big A list star. This film proves what a great actor he was. He could teach a thing or three to the people passing for actors today.

If for no other reason, this movie is worth watching for the legendary singer/actress Helen Morgan in a rare starring role, the other being her incredible tour-de-force in Applause (1929). She may have not have been my first choice for this part, but she does manage to pull it off and she puts her own spin on it. She does have great depth as an actress. It's shame she didn't do more leads. Unfortunately, she only sings two songs, but they are two good ones.

All in all, it's a really good and different type of movie. Highly recommended if you are a fan either of the stars or just want to see a good story well told by good filmmakers and actors and are sick and tired of the garbage coming out of Hollywood here in 2008.
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