The strange career of "Johnny Apollo" at the Roxy is one that could only have been born in the brain of a busy screen writer, who reads only the headlines in the newspapers, but for some odd reason the way it works out on celluloid is surprisingly good. For, after all, why shouldn't a millionaire college boy, a popular stroke, or something, for one of the great universities, be able to hold his own in the underworld where (to paraphase a British poet) "there ain't no bloomin' code, and a man can use a little class on the side"? The spectacle of Tyrone Power turning gangster for philosophical reasons (he is the son of a convicted Wall Street broker whose fashionable friends forsake him) will be a familiar one to those who saw "Jesse James," in which he took up highway robbery through opposition to that industrial octopus, the railroad.
Certainly there is no denying that Mr. Zanuck and his auctorial and directoral cohorts have taken this perhaps at first blush unpromising idea and turned it into a crackling melodrama, in which the only slow moments arrive when Dorothy Lamour sings sad songs in a get-up which demi-mondaines discarded back in the Seventies. Otherwise it is one prolonged symphony of socks in the jaw, subpoenas in night clubs, jail breaks and one flash of a penitentiary newspaper with a gossip column heading which we shall never forget: "Stir-Tistics." The man responsible for this happy journalistic invention must also have had a hand in the screen play, which abounds with cute twists and modernized devices for making an ancient melodrama palatable. And when the invention fails there is toujours Lamour.
The picture has other virtues than its productional importance, virtures which include a welcome stream-lined prison set. Primarily, we should list the excellent journeyman direction of Henry Hathaway; the acting of Mr. Power, who maintains a nice balance between Harvard and the Tenderloin, and a felicitous stroke of casting which has placed Edward Arnold, the tergiversating tycoon, and Lionel Atwill, his strictly Groton lawyer, opposite each other in a duel of commanding presences. Lloyd Nolan is the mobster with whom Tyrone decides to tie up, after he leaves school, in a snobbish huff at the sources of his father's wealth, and Charley Grapewin, a really learned gentleman, with a taste for Shakespeare and law books as well as for Scotch comically mixed with milk, is refreshingly novel as the criminal mouthpiece. On the whole, "Johnny Apollo" is no classic Belvedere, but he is a very amusing gentleman-gangster.
JOHNNY APOLLO; screen play by Philip Dunne and Rowland Brown; based on a story by Samuel G. Engel and Hal Long; directed by Henry Hathaway; produced by Darryl F. Zanuck for Twentieth Century-Fox. At the Roxy.
Bob Cain . . . . . Tyrone Power
"Lucky" Dubarry . . . . . Dorothy Lamour
Robert Cain Sr . . . . . Edward Arnold
Mickey Dwyer . . . . . Lloyd Nolan
Judge Emmett T. Brennan . . . . . Charley Grapewin
Jim McLaughlin . . . . . Lionel Atwill
Bates . . . . . Marc Lawrence
Dr. Brown . . . . . Jonathan Hale
Piano Player . . . . . Harry Rosenthal
District Attorney . . . . . Russell Hicks
Cellmate . . . . . Fuzzy Knight
Assistant District Attorney . . . . . Charles Lane
Warden . . . . . Selmar Jackson
Judges . . . . . Charles Trowbridge, John Hamilton