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  • At the centre of Rossen's film noir debut feature is Dick Powell's hard bitten Johnny, a casino manager and junior partner in a gambling club who has a selfish streak a mile wide. O'Clock gets up late, always looks after number one, and has enjoyed a twenty year partnership with club owner Pete Marchettis. To him - as he confesses to Nancy - a new roulette wheel is just as attractive as a woman. But there are cracks in his icy façade. He's had an affair with Marchetti's wife and she still wants him back. O'Clock's weakness (if one can see it like that) is the underlying humanity in his makeup, an eventual need for affection in the arms of a woman. Although resolutely cold to Mrs Marchetti, the death of the Hobbs sister and his growing distaste for the cop Blaydon (elegantly conveyed in the discarded-sandwich scene they share close to the start of the film) gradually reveal his emotional feet of clay. In fact Blaydon reflects many of the unpleasant aspects of O'Clock's character, ones which could so easily come to dominate his personality: total greed and emotional coldness. The resolute Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb in an excellent cigar-chomping heavy performance) is hounding them both and, despite his casual coolness, we feel that inside O'Clock is secretly nettled by a feeling of oncoming nemesis.

    In fact, for most of the film, O'Clock has done nothing overtly wrong. He is merely guilty by association with the worst elements, and by his disdain for any emotional display or real involvement with others. Marked, then dogged by fate, caught in a web outside of his control (Blaydon's emotional cruelty, the resultant suicide, then murder, the mix up with the watch), O'Clock's life increasingly assumes a powerlessness typical of film noir.

    This is a film with many of the genre archetypes intact: hard bitten dialogue, a drunken moll, noir 'fetish' items for the camera's gaze (guns, watches/clocks, cigarette cases etc) and a pervading sense of cynicism and corruption. O'Clock's close relationship with his 'flatmate' Charlie (he wakes him up at the beginning of the film for instance) adds a suspicion of homo-eroticism to the plot. In fact one suspects that jealousy perhaps is what really lies at the back of Charlie's eventual betrayal.

    What makes this film somewhat different from others of its type is the cool character of O'Clock: unusually for a noir hero, for a long time he is distanced from the growing predicament. Only as the film proceeds, starting with his angst over the suicide, does a real feeling of paranoia and fate set in.

    Rossen's composition within the frame is effective throughout the film and makes for some memorable set ups, while his handling of a complicated plot assured, belying the fact that it is a first film. Although his work in noir would reach its height in the superb 'Body and Soul' (also with Thomas Gomez), never the less Johnny O'Clock is an excellent example of the genre and well worth viewing. Watch out for a young Jeff Chandler in a minor role.
  • Johnny O'Clock is a film about a man who walks the narrow edge of the fence between the legal and illegal. He's partners with Thomas Gomez in an illegal gambling establishment and they've got a crooked cop in Jim Bannon to do their dirty work insofar as rivals are concerned. Bannon's made several 'legal' killings of rivals which has interested honest cop Inspector Lee J. Cobb who wants very badly to close this particular racket down.

    Dick Powell plays the title character who never quite gets involved in the dirty end of the business leaving that to Gomez. Bannon's girl friend is Nina Foch, a nice young woman who runs the cigarette and candy counter at Powell's swank hotel. When Foch turns up a very suspicious suicide and Bannon goes missing, Powell goes into action.

    The other factor in the story is that Powell and Gomez's wife Ellen Drew were once involved and she'd like to get involved again. Powell ain't buying that trouble though, especially after Evelyn Keyes who is Foch's sister comes to town and she also suspects foul play.

    Powell's character Johnny O'Clock is one of his most cynical, he makes his Philip Marlowe from Murder My Sweet look like Dudley DooRight the Mountie. His cynicism almost costs him because he finds a damning piece of evidence that could lead to the murderer and if would have cooperated with Lee J. Cobb from the gitgo it would have all been solved. But Powell's got other irons in the fire and some conflicting motives. In any event he does a great job in the title role.

    Making his screen debut in a small part as one of the gamblers is Jeff Chandler. His hair is dark, but would shortly turn that premature iron gray that he was so identified with. There is also a very good small part for Mabel Paige who plays a nosy neighbor of Foch's who keeps offering her unwanted observations and opinions to Lee J. Cobb.

    Robert Rossen was one film away from his career film as a director with All The King's Men. Powell was impressed with his work and personally had Harry Cohn get him as director for Johnny O'Clock. Rossen creates a moody and trenchant atmosphere for his players to work in and gets a near perfect noir film out of this material.

    And that's a good reason to not miss Johnny O'Clock when it is broadcast.
  • jotix10021 September 2004
    Robert Rossen enjoyed a distinguished career in Hollywood as a writer and a director. He always showed he had an eye for the language his characters spoke and he also had an eye for detail, as he shows in this movie.

    The main character is Johnny O'Clock, a man that is deemed guilty by the detective that is trying to solve a case. Inspector Koch is so determined that Johnny knows about the mystery, that he pursues him without realizing this man appears guilty, but only by association.

    Johnny is a man that loves the good life. His association to the casino owner Marchettis, will be his downfall. Between these two men is Nelle, who is married to Marchettis, but doesn't want to let go of Johnny, with whom she's had an affair. To make matters worse, Johnny is in the middle of the mysterious murder of Harriet, the hatcheck girl he befriends at the casino.

    The cinematography is excellent. There is a scene where Johnny offers a cigarette to Nancy, the sister of the murdered Harriet, and we see how the light shines in her face that heightens the emotion of the moment.

    Dick Powell, as Johnny is properly dapper and vulnerable. He is a man that has seen it all, yet, he ends up falling for Nancy, in whom he sees a kind soul who loves him. Lee J. Cobb, an actor's actor, plays the Inspector Koch chewing his cigars and asking questions that Johnny doesn't care to answer.

    The female roles are well played by Evelyn Keyes. This was an actress that had such a sophisticated look that is not hard to imagine why the director chose her to play Nancy. Equally excellent was Ellen Drew. She is Nelle, who can't let go of Johnny, at the expense of losing all she has by her marriage to Marchettis. Thomas Gomez is Marchettis, the casino owner. Mr. Gomez was properly oily and sly, as in most of the roles he played in films.

    This movie was a discovery. Although a bit dated, one can see the impact it might have had in its day thanks to Mr. Rossen's brilliant direction and amazing cinematography.
  • Johnny O'Clock has everything under control. He has a partnership in a thriving casino and all his little peccadilloes are at ease in his world. Then things start to go awry, his partnership with Marchettis comes under severe pressure on account of Mrs Marchettis' dalliances, and worst of all, the hat check girl he had a soft spot for has turned up dead. Johnny is feeling the heat, from every corner of his world it seems.

    At the time of writing this, Johnny O' Clock has under ten reviews written on IMDb and barely 200 votes cast, one can only assume that Johnny is badly under seen! Without knowing the issues of accessibility on TV and DVD, it may just be that this little noir treasure has slipped through the net of many a genre observer. Without pushing the boundaries of noir and its devilish off shoots, it's a film with all the necessary noir components in place, a tightly accomplished film that definitely deserves a bigger audience.

    The plot, though very basic in the context of the genre/style it sits in (thus making it easy enough for the casual viewer to enjoy), is a series of double (triple) crosses smothered in a delicate hint of aromatic femme fatale. Throw in crooked and grizzly bear like coppers, get Robert Rossen to make it his directorial debut, and ask Burnett Guffey to photograph it, and you got a lovely helping of noirish stew. All you then ask for is your cast to come up trumps, and thankfully they do.

    Dick Powell plays Johnny O'Clock with the right blend of dapper charm and cool calm toughness, Lee J Cobb (grizzly bear copper), Thomas Gomez (Pete Marchettis) and John Kellogg (the muscle) all play it tough without over egging the pudding. The girls are nicely played by Evelyn Keyes ("99 River Street" & "The Seven Year Itch"), Ellen Drew ("The Man from Colorado") and the delicious Nina Foch ("The Ten Commandments") - with Drew showing definite shades of Hayworth at times - though only shades mind!

    It's not a dark picture and those hoping for a head scratcher will be sorely disappointed, and I would be a liar if I said that I didn't think the ending needed a more dramatic punch. But I'll be damned if this wasn't a most enjoyable experience, twisty and turny without making the head spin for sake's sake, "Johnny O'clock" is well worth your time. Time! Get it? Groan. 7/10
  • This glamorous post-war crime story has a protagonist who carefully walks that fine line between cops and crooks. In fact--that seems to be almost a requirement in the best noir flicks. Dick Powell is Johnny O'Clock, a smooth operator with an eye for getting himself the best of whatever's going around. Is he selfish down to the core, or is there a lingering speck of humanity in there somewhere? O'Clock is a partner in a swank gambling house, and when the hat-check girl is found murdered, he gets involved with crooked cops and more crooked criminals. A great supporting cast and nice 'behind the scenes at the casino' feel add to the fun. Powell played a similar role in Murder My Sweet, but his Phillip Marlowe was more the wise-cracking smart-Alec, while Johnny O'Clock is decidedly more shady. A real treat.
  • One gets the impression from watching JOHNNY O'CLOCK that the whole idea of the film is to give DICK POWELL a tough screen presence--the kind that suited Alan Ladd in his early films. He's a cool man surrounded by a bunch of surly characters out to get him. He's good with a punch and a punch line, but all the while he leaves you feeling this story is too slow-paced and a bit rambling to become a tight thriller such as MURDER, MY SWEET.

    Everyone in the cast does their job nimbly, with LEE J. COBB chewing away at this cigar to make sure he steals every other scene, and ELLEN DREW and EVELYN KEYES doing well in contrasting femme leads. The sets have a noir look with excellent B&W photography, but the trouble is the script which is not compelling enough to draw a viewer into the story about a murdered hatcheck girl (NINA FOCH) and the search for her killer.

    All the elements of film noir are there but Robert Rossen's direction cannot tie them together with a tight enough grip. Nevertheless, worth a watch if you're a fan of this genre.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Dick Powell once again proves that he can play the tough guy roles, just as he did in the classic "Murder My Sweet." This time he is a slick, even egotistical, gambling hall owner. He is icy with most, gentle with others, and I believe he doesn't know himself which he really is. Harriet the hat check girl has a problem, namely Chuck Blayden, a crooked cop, who works for Johnny and his partner, Guido Marchettis played by Thomas Gomez who would go on to win an Oscar for his role in "Ride the Pink Horse," with Robert Montgomery, another film noir classic. When Harriet is found dead, by Inspector Kotch, a cigar smoking Lee J. Cobb, Kotch goes after Johnny assuming he knows more than he is willing to say about her murder and Blayden's disappearance. In steps Evelyn Keyes as Harriet's sister, who eventually falls for Johnny. Ellen Drew is married to the boss, but has had an affair with Johnny, which Guido suspects, but lays back like a snake and waits for one of them to make a mistake. The mistake comes by the way of two watches, one for the husband and one for Johnny. The difference, Johnny's watch is inscribed with "To my darling with never-ending love." When Guido discovers this and Johnny figures out that he has murdered both Harriet and Blayden, the cross is on. Keyes tries to make Johnny understand that money is no good, the only thing that counts is life, and if he goes back to get money from his partner, then he just doesn't get it. He returns anyway, and in the process kills Guido, after he shoots him. Trying to escape, he is confronted by both Keyes and the cop in a stand off. He eventually gives up and love conquers all. There are some great scenes in the movie, Lee J. Cobb is just superb as the cop and Evelyn Keys and Ellen Drew, are both great as the two women in Johnny's life. Don't miss this one, it is great noir.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A mile a minute screenplay roars straight ahead through the wisecracks, sexual innuendo, brittle metaphors and crackling character development where the men are just as sarcastic as the women. In fact, they are more acerbic here, the two sisters (Nina Foch and Evelyn Keyes) too innocent and long-suffering and the other major female character (Ellen Drew) too drunk to even be understood through her slurred words. Drew is obviously modeled after Rita Hayworth's "Gilda" look, especially with her obvious sugar daddy husband (Thomas Gomez) whom she admittedly married for social status. The film sets up its brittle elements with the opening scene introducing the slatternly cop Lee G. Cobb who simply drops his cigar ashes on a hotel reservations desk while a film noir version of Franklin Pangborn's 1930's irritated hotel clerk places an ashtray at his reach. Cobb is looking for professional gambler Dick Powell for questioning in regards to a crooked cop involved in protecting the casino Powell works at for the nefarious Gomez. This leads to several murders (one cleverly disguised as a suicide) and Powell's desperation to not only clear himself of any suspicion, but to protect himself from Gomez's vengeance because of wife Drew's obvious interest in him.

    While Powell is best remembered as a crooner, he really developed some impressive acting skills when he switched his image mid-career into the newly created genre of film noir. "Murder My Sweet" (1944), his first and most famous of these, is certainly a classic, but "Johnny O'Clock" is really his best. He's obviously very comfortable in the skin of this character, advising the pretty Nina Foch about the crooked cop she's seeing, and finally, comforting sister Keyes over Foch's death. When he takes her to the airport after discovering her inside her sister's room, its obvious that she's forgiven him for the initial rough treatment he gave her and that he's opening up to her even though he's involved in some seriously shady activities of his own. Drew's drunken scene is also extremely memorable, as is another sequence where Cobb discovers Foch passed out after breaking into her apartment. The wonderful Mabel Paige has a wonderful bit part as the nosy old lady who tries to get involved in the investigation, and her dialog with Cobb is equally as crackling as the dialog between Powell and Cobb.

    This grabs the viewer by the throat almost from the beginning and doesn't threaten. It just drags you in even more as the intrigue grows to enormous points of no return from which you won't want to escape. You could watch this one over and over and never remember all of the jaded dialog which keeps the screenplay sizzling. This moves to a great sequence at the airport where Powell begins to piece everything together, and then rushes towards its very violent conclusion where nobody really comes out the winner. The direction by Robert Rossen of his own screenplay is thrilling, and you really feel that you've entered into a darkened world of Johnny O'Clock where life doesn't begin until its dark and that no sun would be bright enough to interest these night owls in daylight.
  • I loved the dialog and the endless stream of wise cracks, many said by Dick Powell, who was great at that sort of thing. After watching a lot of film noirs, I think Powell and Sterling Hayden are my two favorites in that genre. Powell was suave, sophisticated, a quick man with a quip and still a tough guy. Hayden exuded raw manliness, a no-nonsense thug whether he was a good guy or a crook.

    That said, the film is only so-so because, like a number of films being viewed today, some 60 years later, they are a bit slow and sometimes too talky. This film begins to bog down halfway through and it gets tough to finish, even if you like the actors in here, which I certainly do.

    Besides Powell, Cobb and the tough guys, there are some really good examples of film noir women in here. My favorite was Ellen Drew as "Nelle Marchettis." I only wish her role had been bigger. Those who like Evelyn Keyes will be more pleased, since her role is bigger. She reminds me a bit of another "tough film noir broad:" Marie Windsor. Then there is Nina Foch as the softer "Harriet Hobson," who sadly leaves the movie in the first half hour.

    Overall, if you like actors and some snappy lines, check this out. I saw it on TCM. To my knowledge, it's not available on disc. If you are looking for an action-crime film, however, go on to something else.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Johnny O'Clock" is a pleasure to watch as it provides a magnificent example of the visual style which is most often associated with the classic film noirs. It uses many of the familiar motifs (e.g. hats, mirrors, clocks, cigarette smoke etc.) in conjunction with some attention grabbing camera-work and inspired use of light and shadow to create the moody environment within which the action takes place.

    This crime thriller which was written for the screen by first time director Robert Rossen, tells the story of a casino manager, Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell), who is confident, conceited and shrewd in his business dealings, but who is also surrounded by treachery and consequently has to be sharp witted to navigate his way through the potential pitfalls and dangers that seem to engulf him on all sides. Despite his astute nature, Johnny does keep a great deal of bad company!

    Chuck Blayden (Jim Bannon) is a corrupt cop whose fiancée is the hat check girl in Johnny's casino. He wants a piece of the action and to do this intends to ingratiate himself with Johnny's senior partner, a gangster called Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez), so that he can oust Johnny from his role in the business and pocket Johnny's share of the profits. Chuck has a track record of being quick to use his gun, so when he warns Johnny not to get in his way or he'll kill him, the threat is definitely not an empty one. Chuck dumps the hat check girl and shortly after, she's found dead in her apartment. After Chuck's dead body is also found in a river, Johnny and Guido become the main suspects for having killed both victims.

    Nancy Hobson (Evelyn Hayes) arrives in New York to find out what happened to her sister Harriet (Nina Foch) who was the hat check girl and Johnny and Nancy enjoy getting to know each other.

    After Guido discovers that his wife Nelle (Ellen Drew) had given Johnny an identical watch to one that she'd given him, he becomes convinced that she and Johnny are having an affair and so sends some of his henchmen to kill his partner. The plot fails, however, and when Johnny goes to Guido's place to dissolve their partnership and collect his share of the money, there is a confrontation between the two men before their dispute is finally resolved.

    Dick Powell gives a strong performance as a tough, no nonsense character who has to deal with Chuck's treachery, being betrayed by Charlie (John Kellogg) who was an ex-con that Johnny had been generous to, jealous Guido making two attempts on his life and Nell's vengeance which led her to tell the police that she'd seen him kill a man in cold blood. Fortunately his blossoming romance with Nancy does, at least, provide him with some prospect of better times in the future.

    Considering the quality of the story, the acting and its stylish look, it's surprising that "Johnny O'Clock" hasn't garnered more acclaim and recognition over the years.
  • A well acted, above average film noir from the late 1940's, "Johnny O'Clock" stars Dick Powell as the title character. His "juvenile" roles in such films as "42nd Street" long behind him, Powell's Johnny is a tough gambling-house operator, who is involved with a mobster named Guido and a crooked cop named Blayden. When Lee J. Cobb as Inspector Koch arrives to investigate the murder of a gambler, the plot thickens. A vulnerable Nina Foch plays a hat-check girl in Johnny's establishment, who is involved with Blayden. However, Blayden disappears, and Foch evidently commits suicide. Convinced of Blayden's involvement, both Koch and Foch's sister, played by Evelyn Keyes, pursue the missing cop. A blood-stained coat fished from the water, an expensive engraved watch, a bright new Mexican coin; the clues surface along with the betrayal and duplicity in Robert Rossen's taut screenplay, which was adapted from a story by Milton Holmes.

    The sharp tough dialog is delivered by pros, with Powell, Cobb, and Keyes especially good. However, lovely Ellen Drew is a standout as Nelle, the alcoholic moll, who is Guido's wife, but harbors a history with and a persistent yen for Johnny; watching her expressions, even when silently in the background, is a lesson in film acting. Film buffs will spot a young Jeff Chandler as Turk, one of Guido's boys, in a small uncredited part. Nicely directed by Robert Rossen, the film features shadowy black and white photography by Burnett Guffey and a good score by George Duning. While not film noir of the first caliber, "Johnny O'CLock" is nevertheless an entertaining entry in the genre, and watching Powell during his tough-guy period is always a pleasure.
  • Well, it's got all the right trimmings -- Dick Powell, Thomas Gomez, Lee J. Cobb with a cigar. Names that sound phony and semi-ethnic -- "Guido Marchettis," "Johnny O'Clock". Released in 1947, black and white. High-class setting with diversions into the seedier parts of an unnamed city. Tough cop, greasy heavy, lying ex-girlfriend, innocent blond new girlfriend, treacherous jealous friend.

    Edgy dialog.

    (Gunshots offscreen) "What's that noise?" "Somebody's got a nasty cough."

    "I've got a bullet in my gut and fire in my brain."

    "You were in the army. What did you learn?" "What I already knew."

    "My man was killed." "Accident?" "Yes -- the war."

    The photography is neat and crisp. Rossen's direction is efficient. He moves the bodies about with ease. But the plot is simply lacking in real drama and doesn't have much in the way of character development. There seem to be several unrelated subplots. A young woman seems to have committed suicide, but maybe it's murder. Her sister arrives in town and falls for Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) but will they marry? A bad cop disappears. But we don't really get to know any of them to care much about them. And everything is pulled together with a few offhand words by Dick Powell just before the end.

    I kind of wanted to like it because I'm fond of noirs and think that Rossen's work elsewhere has sometimes been superb, but this one got by me. People walk around and talk to one another. There are card games and two shootings. Girls smile at men, who dismiss them. It's all on the surface. As the detective says in "Psycho," "If it doesn't jell, it isn't aspic. And this isn't jelling." It's still interesting to watch -- once.
  • Powell's O'Clock has a snappy answer for every occasion. Moreover, he's always in charge, whether it's the cops, women, or his conniving partner. Except for a couple points of interest, however, it's a thoroughly average crime drama, even with the noirish overtones. For me, the problem is with the O'Clock character. It looks like the script was tailored to advance Powell's career from sappy song & dance man of the 30's to hardboiled leading man of the 40's. In short, if he's being menaced here by noir's unseen forces, it's crucially not reflected in his one-dimensional behavior.

    The makeover started with the excellent Murder, My Sweet (1944). But that crime drama had a fine Chandler script and a sometimes befuddled detective Marlowe (Powell). This film, on the other hand, has the trappings of noir (dark venues, a faithless woman), but without the compelling subtleties. For example, O'Clock is too predictable in his superiority. As a result, we're not drawn into the plot challenges. Instead, we merely observe them, certain that O'Clock will triumph over every situation. Thus, what we're told is a sometimes interesting story, but without the added emotion of participating in it.

    Fortunately, there are several engaging characters that color the narrative. Cobb's laconic cop can do more acrobatics with a cigar than any scene stealer I've seen; Drew's faithless wife gets away with more really provocative poses than usual for the time; while, Kellogg's devoted man-servant conveys at one point a rather unexpected overtone. At the same time, it's too bad we don't see more of that priceless old hard case Mabel Paige. On the other hand, Gomez's schemer lacks the kind of wicked edge his key part needs.

    This is not meant to take away from Powell the actor. He was, of course, a fine performer as his overall career shows. This film, however, serves as little more than a vehicle for his tough-guy makeover. The trouble is, it comes at a cost to the picture.
  • As much as more touted actors such as Bogart and Mitchum, Dick Powell helped form the noir cycle, with his assumption -- the first on film -- of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet. He went on to star in such dark and definitive works as The Pitfall and Conflict (not to mention such lesser offerings as Cry Danger and To The Ends Of The Earth). Here, as title character and mid-level gambler/gangster Johnny O'Clock, he sports the thick shell and sub-zero emotional temperature of the noir protagonist, a type he helped to patent. But given a muddled script with noirish shots, situations and symbols thrown in willy-nilly, he fails to convince. Evelyn Keyes, as the sister of a murdered hat-check girl, has (as always) her moments, as does Ellen Drew, as the soused trophy-wife of big mobster Thomas Gomez. Lee J. Cobb puffs his cigar endlesslly, trying to enforce the law. Johnny O'Clock is not quite a bad movie but it's less memorable than many worse-made movies in the cycle. There's just nothing particularly distinctive about it. You feel you've watched it before, at least in bits and pieces, even though chances are (it remains relatively obscure) you haven't.
  • guswhovian15 April 2020
    Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) runs a high-class casino with Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez). When Harriet Hobson (Nina Foch), a hat check girl at the casino, is murdered, police detective Koch (Lee J. Cobb) suspects Johnny. With the help of Hobson's sister Nancy (Evelyn Keyes), Johnny sets out to find the real murderer.

    This was a surprisingly good film noir. Powell is great, and Keyes, who I didn't particularly care for in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, is quite good here. Lee J. Cobb, Thomas Gomez, Ellen Drew and John Kellogg are good as well. The script and cinematography are all good.

    Overall, this was a surprisingly good film. Recommended. First time viewing. 4/5
  • Uriah438 July 2019
    This film begins with a former gambler by the name of "Johnny O'Clock" (Dick Powell) who is a junior partner and manager of a casino in New York being told that another local gambler has recently been killed by a corrupt cop named "Chuck Blayden" (Jim Bannon). He then learns that Chuck is planning to team up with his current partner "Guido Marchettis" (Thomas Gomez) to oust him from his position. The fact that he was formerly intimate with Guido's wife "Nelle Marchettis" (Ellen Drew) certainly doesn't help him in that regard either. Yet despite the fact that he doesn't particular care for Guido he warns him not to trust Chuck. Likewise, when he hears that an employee of his by the name of "Harriet Hobson" (Nina Foch) has been physically abused by Chuck he also has some words with him which only serves to widen the divide between them. So when she is killed and Chuck's body is found in the East River he is considered to be a top suspect by the detective on the case named "Inspector Koch" (Lee J. Cobb). But Inspector Koch isn't the only one who wants answers as Harriet's sister "Nancy Hobson" (Evelyn Keyes) suddenly appears on the scene and has some questions of her own which creates even more problems for everyone concerned. Now rather than reveal any more I will just say that this was a dark and murky film noir which had a good premise but suffered from a certain amount of ambiguity. I also didn't especially care for the ending which could have used a bit more clarity as well. In any case, while not a bad film by any means, it was limited somewhat by the lack of detail just mentioned and I have rated it accordingly. Average.
  • When even an inquisitive neigbour is well cast and does her role well in a scene lasting hardly 2 minutes, a film is usually excellent. The plot, while not extremely strong, is decent, but the cinematography (which is what a noir often relies on) and cast are on the top of their game, especially all the side characters, such as Lee J. Cobb playing the inspector, Thomas Gomez playing the oily businessman, or an incredibly sexy Ellen Drew playing a potential femme fatale. The plot may not be its strongest point, but the depth of the characters is: there is Charlie, bringing in the element of jealousy and possible romantic involvement with the film's hero, there is the insecure but rich Gomez, there is the bonding between two people who pretend to be "tough as nails" but emotionally need security in the film's protagonist couple, and there's the Javert-like inspector, doggedly in pursuit of the hero, who, Valjean-like, starts smelling the nemesis.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In "Johnny O'Clock" Dick Powell has three femme fatales for the price of one. The first is hat check girl Harriet Hobson (Nina Foch), the second Nella Marchettis (Ellen Drew) the gold digger wife of Powell's boss Guido (Thomas Gomez) and finally Nancy Hobson (Evelyn Keyes) the sister of hat check girl Harriet. How the three weave in and out of O'Clock's life forms the basis of this film noir ably directed by Robert Rossen.

    The name Johnny O'Clock is obviously an alias and although we hear Police Detective Koch (Lee J. Cobb) read off a list of Johnny's known aliases, we never learn his true identity.

    Johnny is the high living well-dressed junior partner of gambler Guido Marchellis. He runs the gambler's casino for him all the while professing that he himself is not a gambler. When two of the main characters turn up murdered, Johnny is immediately suspected of the crimes. He is dogged unrelentlessly by Inspector Koch who seems to have it in for Johnny. Through it all Johnny becomes involved with the three aforementioned females at various stages of the investigation.

    This was a different sort of role for Powell. This time around, he is not the hard boiled detective or wise cracking private eye he usually played but a shady sort of character who is out only for himself complete with character flaws and a past. Lee J. Cobb plays the police inspector as only he could, a role he would reprise several times throughout his career.

    Evelyn Keyes, who had just married John Huston, makes an alluring heroine. Nina Foch is suitably innocent as the Johnny's "blind date" and Ellen Drew is sexy and seductive as the real "femme fatale" of the piece. Others in the cast are John Kellogg as Charlie Johnny's "man", Jim Bannon as brutal cop Chuck Blaydon and a young Jeff Chandler as a gambler named "Turk".

    Complete with all of the dark shadows and night scenes, "Johnny O'Clock" makes for an entertaining "film noire" murder mystery.
  • A great cast stars in "Johnny O'Clock," a 1947 noir written and directed by Robert Rossen. It stars Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Lee J. Cobb, Ellen Drew, Thomas Gomez, and Nina Foch.

    Not that many years have passed since Dick Powell was a singing juvenile, but here he is as Johnny O'Clock, a somewhat cold tough guy who has a partnership with Guido Marchettis (Gomez) in a gambling casino. Johnny's a hard guy to figure - with the hat check girl Harriet (Nina Foch), he's helpful and kind, and it's hard to decide which is the real Johnny.

    There's a crooked cop who works for Johnny and Guido named Chuck Blayden (Jim Bannon), who's making trouble for Harriet and there's an Inspector Kotch (Lee J. Cobb) who wants Johnny to answer some questions. Then there's the gorgeous, sexy wife of Marchettis, Nelle (Drew), who's had an affair with Johnny and wants him back. In the midst of all this, Harriet is found dead and it's assumed to be suicide.

    When Harriet's sister (Evelyn Keyes) comes along, there's an instant spark between her and Johnny. But Johnny is in trouble, thanks to a couple of watches, and the disappearance of Blayden.

    For some reason, this films ends up being a disappointment. Despite Rossen's wonderful direction, it's not tight enough, nor is the story strong enough. One sort of has the feeling of being dropped into the middle of something. That doesn't mean there aren't interesting elements. One is the tiniest hint of homosexuality in the character of Charlie (John Kellogg), an ex-con who works for Johnny and lives with him.

    The performances across the board are very good, led by Powell as an attractive, solid tough guy with hints of humanity, and Keyes as a strong but vulnerable woman.

    Still worth seeing.
  • Interesting but ultimately disappointing noir starring Dick Powell as the title character, a casino operator who is up to his neck in trouble when bodies start popping up around him and his boss finds out Johnny is sleeping with his wife. Robert Rossen's directorial debut is a talky picture that looks nice and has some snappy dialogue but, after a strong start, drags and drags. It's basically a B movie plot on an A movie runtime. Powell is great. Fine turns from Lee J. Cobb and Thomas Gomez. Evelyn Keyes is flawless as ever. All the pieces are there for this to be a first-rate movie. It just runs out of steam too early. It's almost like Rossen, who also wrote the screenplay for this, was as cynical and tired as his protagonist so he just gave up midway through writing. Still worth a look because there's a lot of good here. It's just sad that it never rises to its potential.
  • During the 1930s, Dick Powell played in one musical after another--with few chances to do anything else but play a sweet guy who loves to sing. The plots were paper-thin and Powell himself wanted a chance to do something--ANYTHING different. Fortunately, as the 1940s progressed, he got that chance and starred in some amazing film noir pictures. Why did the studios do this? Well, Powell was approaching middle age and wasn't the pretty guy he used to be--and you would never put a pretty guy in a gangster film! Of the tough-guy films he made, my two favorites are "Murder, My Sweet" and "Johnny O'Clock"--mostly because his character was so incredibly jaded and unsentimental--the antithesis of his old persona.

    Soon after "Johnny O'Clock" begins, you know SOMEONE is going to die--and soon. A crooked cop is gunning for Johnny (Powell), a married dame is cozying up to him and his partner (the dame's husband) is one dangerous guy (Thomas Gomez). Into this mix is a cop--a good cop, but a tough one played by Lee J. Cobb. I could say a lot more about the plot--suffice to say, I don't want to ruin it for you and I encourage you to find the film yourself. It is available for free download at and Powell's world-weary characterization makes this film hum. One of the best noir films I can recall having seen even with its minor faults (it lacks the lighting and camera-work you expect in noir and the lady who falls for him does so far too quickly and far too hard to be realistic). Well worth seeing.

    By the way, look for Turk in the film--it's a very young Jeff Chandler before he was a star.
  • arthur_tafero1 August 2018
    Two heavyweights in this film; Dick Powell (Zane Grey Theater) and Lee J Cobb (On the Waterfront- Johnny Friendly). They carry the film easily and Powell is ably assisted by two women characters played by B actresses. The plot is fairly common; gambling house manager gets involved in murders and has to try to even the score. Even though the plot is not terribly original, Rossen, the director, gets the absolute most out of every scene, and Powell gives the lead character a ton of panache to last for the whole film. The cinematography is first-rate, and all the characters in the story are given some depth, not like the usual cardboard characters of most of the noir films of the genre. Highly recommended
  • This movie is a fine example of late forties and early fifties crime dramas with all the lines and sayings one expect from this type of genre. It involves a classy gangster, an illegal operation, a determined cop and several beautiful dames. All the makings of a movie from this generation.

    Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) is second in command of the mob type gambling operation that is run by the big man, Guido. Guido, a rather large man, has taken a beautiful wife, but it seems the wife has eyes for Johnny. Right from the beginning the viewer knew that this was not going to be healthy for Mr O'Clock.

    Anyway after the murder of a corrupt cop, that was working for Guido, and the apparent suicide of the cop's coat-check girlfriend -- a loyal cop, Koch (Lee J Cobb), starts sniffing around the business. He believes that if he can turn the mobster on each other the house of cards will fall. And it is not long before words will follow action.

    The story turned out to be somewhat entertaining. If you can get past Dick Powell's stiff performance and staccato way that Powell learned his lines, then this movie is not bad. One bright note in the movie was Lee J Cobb who did an excellent job of the cop hunting-down the mobsters with his famous cigar always nearby.

    This is an aged film that represents time gone-by. But if you are looking for a classic Noir movie, then this has all the elements.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There's not enough happening in the way of plot to make Robert Rossen's "Johnny O'Clock" a classic of its genre. Suffice to say that it has most of the elements and a few extra touches added in---but it all seems a bit contrived. Dick Powell plays the title role; he's a casino owner with a shady past and a quick delivery (dialog and punches). He's in cahoots with a mobster played by creepy Thomas Gomez and the two fellows keep it civil while the tension begins to build between them. What's never established during most of the film is whether old Johnny is strictly in business for the money or simply rotten to the core like the rest of the characters. Luckily for him, Evelyn Keyes brings out the best of his ambiguous personality and that's enough for Johnny to survive the final shootout and walk away without bleeding to death. The same can't be said for gangster Gomez. He receives about six bullets in the gut and ends up face down on his expensive carpet.

    "Johnny O'Clock" is fast moving and the rapid-fire dialog fits the storyline to a tee. Others in the cast include Lee J. Cobb who plays the local police investigator without cracking a smile until the final reel. He sees through Johnny's tough-guy act and cuts him as much slack as he can allow. Ellen Drew is along as Gomez's moll and viewers will wonder what this beauty sees in that fellow's oversize frame and nasty disposition. Not much as it turns out. Look for Jeff Chandler in a small role as a mobster working for Gomez who spends most of his time at the poker table. In the end, Johnny wins a reprieve and the love of Ms. Keyes. I guess he was pretty lucky after all.
  • writers_reign9 April 2009
    Warning: Spoilers
    Despite assembling all the staples - nightclub/casino setting, cops, crooks and conmen, low-key dialogue, would-be anti-hero - this entry somehow winds up as less than the sum of its parts. Clearly an admirer of Abe Lincoln (you can fool some of the people all of the time ..) Dick Powell had wisely abandoned his 'singing' career by the mid-forties in favour of thrillers verging on noir and although he did well enough in Murder, My Sweet, here he gives the impression - as do the rest of the cast - that he is acting under water. First-time director Robert Rossen was clearly looking ahead to his follow-up film released that same year which is perhaps why this one seems to boast too much body and not enough soul.
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