Friday, November 6, 2015

Johnny Angel (1945)

*** out of 5

"I worshipped you - isn't that funny?  I loved you so much.  You could have done anything with me, made me anything.  So you made me a murderer."

George Raft heads the cast of this film, as a boat captain searching for the murderers who killed his boat captain father, took his cargo of gold, and left the boat sea. However, Raft's character functions less as a noir anti-hero here,  and much more as the dogged investigator type.   Claire Trevor's character is in full Femme Fatale mode, but there is never a sense that Raft is taken in by here wiles.
Marvin Miller, who plays the somewhat childish ship line owner "Gusty" Gustafson is the real noir character, and owns the single best scene in the film.  If a story like this one were made a couple years later, this character might have been positioned as the lead, the man who is led into darkness for love of a woman.

Signe Hasso stars as Raft's real love interest in the film-  the "good girl" character, who, as a stowaway seeking passage to America, is witness in the central crime, and as a result, spends much of the film being hunted by everyone, good and bad.

There are a number of interesting supporting characters that color and enrich the film, from Hoagie Carmichael, as seemingly the only taxi driver in New Orleans, to J Farrell MacDonald who is show as George' Raft's father in a flashback, to Margaret Wycherly who plays the former nurse to Gusty, who now runs much of the business end of his business, as well as exercising a controlling interest in his love-life.

Here we see noir still not entirely ready to commit to the darkness found later in the cycle, but certainly all the elements of good noir are fully evident in this film, which is a great story.The script is full of great noir dialogue, the Leigh Harline music is moody and evocative, and the characters are all fairly pretty jaded in their outlook on life. But as a noir, the "come on now, the rain's over," quick fix wrap-up, and reversed positioning of investigator and noir "loser" characters in importance to the plot keep this from being a top tier example of the genre.

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