23 May 2009 | MartinHafer
Difficult to believe but highly entertaining.
Sometimes it's best with some films to turn off your brain and just enjoy. You can't think through the plot too much or your head might just explode! This is exactly the sort of film JOHNNY APOLLO is--very entertaining and fun but also with a plot that strains credibility way beyond the breaking point.
The film begins with Edward Arnold being arrested for stock fraud. Suddenly, his millions are gone and his son (Tyrone Power) must leave school and fend for himself. In a very odd scene between the two before Arnold is sent to prison, Tyrone expresses disappointment in his father and Arnold responds by disowning him! Considering everything that Arnold had done, his sanctimonious response was perplexing. Despite being disowned, Power did still care about his father. However, he was also shocked to see that Dad's reputation ruined his chance to get a job--as everyone held this against him. Then, after changing his name, his only employer fired him because he DIDN'T acknowledge Arnold as his father! Sometimes you just can't win.
Now, without a job AND wanting to earn enough money to hire a shyster lawyer to file an appeal (as responsible ones won't), Tyrone approaches a drunken lawyer who has a history of playing fast and loose with the truth. In the process, he comes to know a notorious hood (Lloyd Nolan) and is soon hired--and he's now on the fast track to be able to afford the lawyer and to "grease the right palms" to get Arnold sprung from jail. Oddly, however, they never really show or talk about Power doing anything especially illegal!
Soon after beginning work with Nolan, Power has a reconciliation with Dad when he visits the prison. However, when Arnold learns that his son is working for the underworld, he vows, once again, to have nothing to do with Power. Again, this makes little sense. The first time, he disowns him for not being for accepting of his evil ways and now that Power, too, is a crook the father can't accept him once again! There's a lot more to the plot than this and Power even eventually is imprisoned in the same place as his dad!
Along for the ride is Dorothy Lamour as a lounge singer with a heart of gold and Charlie Grapewin (in one of his best roles) as the crooked attorney. All in all the acting (especially Nolan and Arnold) is very good and the film has so many plot elements and twists that it is a decent example of early Film Noir. Entertaining and impossibly improbable--plus it really is a bit hard to believe Power as a mobster.