JOHNNY APOLLO did serviceable if unmemorable duty in 1940 by plugging Tyrone Power into a fanciful crime drama to bracket his period adventures The Mark Of Zorro and Brigham Young. Henry Hathaway directed, and the star is flanked by solid supporting actors. Everyone works with what they were given. *
Millionaire stockbroker ‘Robert “Pop” Cain’ (Edward Arnold) is convicted of embezzlement; his spoiled college son ‘Robert Jr.’ (Power) disowns him. When the elder stoically heads off to the slam, Bob, tarred via namesake, can’t get a job. Changing his name to ‘Johnny Apollo’ he becomes underling to gangster ‘Mickey Dwyer’ (Lloyd Nolan), and in a convoluted turn of the script, ends up in prison with his father. Can blood ties confound poisonous pals?
The script written by Philip Dunne and Rowland Browne sort of bridges the 30’s gangster items with the 40’s emergence of film noir. It makes sense only within the reality of its own pretend universe, though it does have a choice perceptive exchange—-CONVICT: “I steal an empty slot machine and get 10 years, and this guy steals a million and gets 5. Figure that out, will yuh?” REPORTER: “That’s why you got the 10 —to figure it out.”
Unlikely to a fault, it moves along well enough, and the cast is more than able. Dorothy Lamour is the dame interest, nightclub singer ‘Lucky DuBarry’. A few exteriors were shot at Sing Sing Penitentiary. Ranking 54th for the year, grosses came to $2,900,000.
With Charley Grapewin, Lionel Atwill, Marc Lawrence, Russell Hicks, Fuzzy Knight, Charles Lane, Selmer Jackson, Charles Trowbridge, Anthony Caruso (debut), Stanley Andrews, James Flavin, Milburn Stone—and an ice pick in a steam bath. 94 minutes.
* This was the first of five times the hard-driving Hathaway would direct the easygoing yet thoroughly professional Power, witness Brigham Young, The Black Rose, Rawhide and Diplomatic Courier. At 25, Lamour was showcased in five ’40 pictures, including Road To Singapore, the first of her seven ‘Road’ pix with Hope & Crosby.