Johny Eager review by Tom Blain

For those of you out there that have the pleasure of knowing me (and it is a pleasure), you know that I love talking classic movies. A good chunk of you probably get sick of it and I know some of you out there think that just because a movie is black and white film noir, its instantly on my fav list. Not that case young grasshopper.

Along comes Johny Eager, shown during a day of film noir Oscar winners (it won for best supporting actor and was nominated for nothing more) on Turner Classic Movies. I had seen pieces (mostly from the noir spoof Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid; a personal favorite) before, it was considered noir, so I gave it a chance. What else would I do on an Easter Sunday at home with the parents?

Here is the story. Johny Eager (Robert Taylor) is an ex-con on parole. He seems like a complete reform success. He has a job driving a cab. He tells his parole officer convincingly the life of crime is no longer for him. But we soon find when Johny dumps the cabby outfit he is really running a dog racetrack, skimming plenty o Benjamins of the top. Enter the dame. Lisabeth Bard has eyes for Johny whether he is back to being a criminal or whether he is straight. As a twist, Lisabeths father is the District Attorney and wants nothing to do with Johny and would rather see him dead than cavorting with his lovely daughter. Eager ends up using the two to take more power over his race track back from the city.

There are a few twists and turns in the plot and the story is somewhat intriguing but not enough. The two main actors, Taylor and Turner, were apparently MGMs sexiest power house talents. They were labeled TNT (Taylor N Turner for the slow ones out there) by the studio and were apparently a larger pull at the box office. Both are, however, TERRIBLE actors. Lana Turner is an example of someone who was chosen for her looks to appear on the silver screen, and taught how to act or rather overact later. Her emotions and reactions seem to be generic and unoriginal, and she delivers the lines in such a fake way that it removes you completely from any sort of association with the film. Robert Taylor seems to play some sort of hard noir stereotype. He delivers his lines with force and conviction even when they shouldnt be. All of his dialogue seems to be at a speedy, unnatural and unfettered pace.

For me the most enjoyable parts were when I identified scenes that were spliced into Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid. My dad and I actually laughed because we remembered the Steve Martin lines that would have followed (and because it included dog poo which is really funny). In all fairness, the actor that won Best Supporting Actor for this film (Van Heflen; hes your ice cream man baby, stop him when he passes by), did a good job. But despite that the ending is somewhat predictable, and therefore anticlimactic. The main acting is so God-awful that you probably wont want to finish the movie. Its movies like Johny Eager that develop stereotypes (see Johny Dangerously for direct spoofs of the stereotypes) of old films being dated and hard to watch, and that is too bad because for every Johny Eager, there are several Third Mans or Maltese Falcons that are very enjoyable even 50 years after they were first viewed.




3 out of 10 Jackasses
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