Johnny Apollo was Darryl F. Zanuck's attempt probably at Tyrone Power's request to give him some more challenging material. Up to this time Power's films were mostly either costume period dramas or screen comedies. For the first time Ty is in modern dress and in a drama.
Power fits the title role of Johnny Apollo rather well. The name is a spur of the moment creation for Robert Cain, Jr. who would be called a trust fund baby today. His widower father Edward Arnold's indictment for some white collar securities violations has put Power's rather well ordered and soft universe to a sudden end.
Power tries to play it straight, but can't make a go of it. Circumstances put him and gangster Lloyd Nolan together. And Power discovers he's got a talent for the rackets. He also attracts the attention of Nolan's girl friend Dorothy Lamour.
Johnny Apollo is a good film with crackerjack performances by the cast that Henry Hathaway directed. It's probably best compared to MGM's Johnny Eager where Louis B. Mayer was also trying to broaden their studio's heartthrob Robert Taylor's appeal. Johnny Eager is the better film, but no one in Johnny Apollo need be ashamed of anything.
Best performances in the film are from Nolan as gangster Mickey Dwyer. Nolan was never bad in any film he was ever in. Second best is alcoholic mob attorney Charley Grapewin.
Dorothy Lamour was brought over from Paramount for this film, playing a part that Alice Faye or Betty Grable might normally have been assigned to. She gets two of her best movie songs to sing, This Is The Beginning Of The End by Mack Gordon and Your Kiss by Frank Loesser and Lionel Newman.
Johnny Apollo is a fine gangster film from a studio that normally did not do that particular genre. At least at this time.
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