TAKING A WALK ON THE FILMIC SIDE, TRANSITING THE VINTAGE ROADS.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Robert Taylor & Lana Turner: Electric Chemistry in Johnny Eager
“If this were serious drama one might complain that what makes Johnny Eager tick remains a mystery, that lovely students of sociology aren’t apt to embark on discussion with a parolee on Cyrano de Bergerac’s apostrophe to a kiss. But as pure melodrama Johnny Eager moves at a turbulent tempo. Mr. Taylor and Miss Turner strike sparks in their distraught love affair. Van Heflin provides a sardonic portrait of Johnny’s Boswell, full of long words and fancy quotations.” -Theodore Strauss, New York Times (1942)
Johnny Eager (1941) directed by Mervyn LeRoy - Full Movie -
Lisbeth, tortured by guilt over her "murderous" act, is on the edge of a nervous breakdown when Johnny finally comes to see her, and when he realizes what she's prepared to sacrifice because she loves him, something finally clicks inside of him. He confesses to her that the murder was a fake -- the gun was loaded with blanks, she didn't kill anyone, the man she shot is fine and walking around as if nothing happened. But she thinks he's just trying to ease her conscience, so he sets out to prove it to her.
Despite the hurried feeling of the last ten minutes or so, this is a well-crafted story with some very nice plot touches along the way. There is a recurring motif with an honest cop, Badge No. 711, who is troublesome to Johnny's gambling rackets. Lisbeth's reference to Cyrano early on in the film serves as a kind of thematic backdrop -- just as Cyrano denied his love to spare Roxanne, Johnny pushes Lisbeth away because he knows he's no good for her. Performances are all top-notch, from the leads on down to Connie Gilchrist and Robin Raymond in one brief scene as Johnny's aunt and young cousin. The only weak link might be Robert Sterling as the hapless cuckolded fiancé, but his role doesn't give him much to do but stand around and look like a martyr.
Lana Turner is breathtaking to look at, and her acting ability never fails to catch me off-guard. Robert Taylor is a commanding presence as Johnny and Edward Arnold does his typical rich-white-conservative guy -- if you've seen him in any other movie, you've probably seen him play the same role. But it's Van Heflin who marches off with the acting honors (and the Academy statuette) as the tortured, philosophical lush.
Director Mervyn LeRoy draws on his experience with gritty crime dramas such as Little Caesar and I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang, and infuses it with typical MGM gloss. It's a cleaner, less dangerous-looking underworld, but what it loses in violent realism, it makes up for in an intellectual bent that Warner Bros. couldn't match. Source: www.milkplus.blogspot.com
Robert Taylor: Lana Turner and Robert Taylor starred together in “Johnny Eager” (1941) and Cheryl Crane (Lana's daughter) said their chemistry was electric: “these two beautiful people got carried away during the filming.” This was one of the few times Lana ever got involved with a co-star, Crane said. However, Taylor was married to Barbara Stanwyck at this time so Lana tried to resist, but they “fell into a heavy flirtation.” Stanwyck heard about it and headed down to the set to tell Lana hands off. Taylor told Lana he was going to leave Stanwyck for her and Lana backed off completely after that, Crane said. Source: cometooverhollywood.com