Sunday, November 17, 2013

Johnny Apollo

Doing a search of the blog posts on my hard drive, it looks as though another movie I have yet to do a full-length blog-post on is Johnny Apollo. It's coming up on TCM tonight at 10:00 PM.

Tyrone Power stars as Robert Cain Jr., the son of wealthy businessman Robert Cain Sr. (Edward Arnold). Cain Jr. is a student at Harvard, presumably being groomed to join Dad's business, which is a stock brokerage. However, the son's happy world is about to come crashing down upon him. Well, Dad's is about to, as well, because Dad is being indicted and convicted of embezzlement. There's no more money for college, so it's off to find a job in the real world. However, no honest business seems to want a Robert Cain in their workforce. At least, not any of the businesses that hire people out of Harvard; one supposes the younger Cain could have gone into blue-collar work. So Cain changes his name and gets a job -- which he's able to hold until it's discovered that his real name is Robert Cain. This time, the boss says that he would have been willing to hire him if only he had used his real name. Yeah right.

Without any good prospects, young Robert goes to see lawyer Emmett Brennan (Charley Grapewin) to see if the lawyer can obtain parole for his father. After all, the guy succeeded in gettting another guy who was sentenced at the same time as Dad out on parole. That guy is Mickey Dwyer (Lloyd Nolan), who runs the gang that has a monopoly more or less on the underworld. Robert Jr. needs money to get a parole for Dad, and honest labor seems a closed door to him, so he decides to join Dwyer's gang. Also there is "Lucky" Dubarry (Dorothy Lamour), a street-smart woman who nkows more than Cain.

What a bright idea. Robert, now going by the name Johnny Apollo, proves himself to be quite good at the rackets. But these of course are crimes, and we know from Code movies that crime does not pay. Further complicating matters is that Lucky has fallen for Cain/Johnny Apollo -- considering that Lucky was Dwyer's moll, this is a problem. Eventually the law catches up with the Dwyer gang, and the two men get sent to prison. Dad discovers that his son has joined the rackets, and is not one bit happy with it. You see, he spent his time being an impossibly model prisoner, or the sort that you wonder whether they exist in real life. How can Johnny Apollo atone for his crimes, and regain his father's love?

Johnny Apollo isn't a bad movie. Tyrone Power had never played a character like this before, previously having done some period pieces like Lloyd's of London and some light comedies like Love Is News. Perhaps the meatiest work he had done was in The Rains Came the previous year, and even that is a costume drama. Power does reasonably well here, although somebody like Clark Gable over at MGM or Humphrey Bogart at Warner Bros. would have found the material right up their alley (even though they would both have been much too old for the part). Edward Arnold is fairly good as well, even if his character is a bit unrealistic. Lloyd Nolan is interestingly cast, since he played a lot of good guys at Fox; Johnny Apollo came before most of those however. If there's a problem with the movie, it's that the script is problematic, especially once the younger Robert Cain gets sent to prison. Still, Johnny Apollo rises above the script problems and is more than worth a watch.

Johnny Apollo is available from the TCM Shop as part of a Tyrone Power box set; I'm not certain if it's available as a stand-alone.

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