Tuesday, March 10

Oh Johnny

Have you ever been aware of how many movie titles are Johnny Something?  No?  Well, then you must have a life.  I, on the other hand, have been intrigued by how many times that name has been used in a title.  I would guess more than any other name.  Why is that?  Wouldn't Tommy or Jimmy or Bobby have worked just as well?  So many were bad boys, too, and had screwy last names.  It takes moxie for a studio to give a title the full name of a character because, unless it was based on a book, they aren't great crowd drawers.  Start thinking (if you haven't already) of the Johnny titles you know and then click below.

Johnny Allegro (1949) starred George Raft and Nina Foch and focuses on a supposedly ordinary citizen who is recruited by the Treasury Department to help hunt down a criminal and the man, in turn, becomes the hunted.  It was probably made to confuse people with the next film, actually made four years earlier, also with Raft.  Hollywood knows no bounds to get you to buy a ticket. 

Johnny Angel (1945) was a good film noir although any Raft film would have been better with another actor.  He and Signe Hasso's fathers have been mysteriously killed and they joined forces to find the killer.  Claire Trevor shines as the bad girl as she always did. 

Johnny Apollo (1940) was filmed as Dance with the Devil but changed to reflect the name of Tyrone Power's character.  He played a rare bad guy who becomes a criminal to get the dough for his Wall Street father's prison release.  I never much cottoned to Dorothy Lamour but here she is as the female lead.

Johnny Belinda (1948) is one of the most famous Johnny movies because it won Jane Wyman an Oscar as a deaf-mute rape victim.  The title refers to the name of her child.  A fabulous supporting cast included Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorehead, Jan Sterling and Stephen McNally.

Johnny Dangerously (1984) concerns another Johnny who becomes a criminal to help out a parent, only this time a sick mother.  Sounds like they copied the Power movie.  Michael Keaton and Maureen Stapleton starred in the comedy caper.

Johnny Dark (1954) was the fourth and final film to costar Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie.  It was one of those that the Universal folks made during their lunch hours... by-the-numbers and utterly forgettable.  He was a cocky race car driver and she helps him realize his dreams.  It's never on TV... for good reason.

Johnny Eager (1941) was immensely popular in its day with two of MGM's brightest and most beautiful young stars, Robert Taylor and Lana Turner (pictured above).  She is a district attorney's spoiled daughter who falls for the punk her father is trying to put away.  Van Heflin won an Oscar while Edward Arnold proves why he was one of the best character actors of his day.

Johnny English (2003) teamed two of the most improbable costars, Rowan Atkinson and John Malkovich, but it worked in its silly way.  Johnny is one of Britain's dumbest spies and Malkovich is out to prove it.  It was successful enough to warrant a sequel and a run on the telly.

Johnny Guitar (1954) is my favorite Johnny movie of them all.  Filmed as a B-western to help fluff up Joan Crawford's sagging career, it got a closer look over the years and gained a 4-star status in most polls.  With Nicholas Ray in the director's chair, this western has butch written all over it.

Johnny Handsome (1989) and you're thinking with Mickey Rourke in the title role, it must be a comedy, huh?  Well, it's as serious as a heart attack about a deformed robber who is double-crossed, imprisoned, facially-altered and rehabilitated.  Ellen Barkin and Morgan Freeman are around to help create the mood. 

Johnny Mnemonic (1995) was an action sci-fi thriller concerning a courier with a data package planted inside his head and the Yakuza is out to relieve him of it.  I didn't see it but I recall it as under-performing somehow despite the presence of Keanu Reeves and Dolph Lundgren. 

Johnny O'clock (1947)... oh where do they come up with these names?  He co-manages a casino where a hatcheck girl dies mysteriously.  He and the girl's sister team up to stay ahead of the cops in solving the case.  Dick Powell, a film noir star of the first order, is ably helped by others who've worked in the genre... Evelyn Keyes, Ellen Drew, Lee J. Cobb and Thomas Gomez.

Johnny Reno (1966) is a lawman who is trying to keep his prisoner in jail and away from a hungry lynch mob.  Fear not if you've never heard of it.  In the 60s, producer A.C. Lyles made a series of cheapie b/w westerns and populated them with stars of yesteryear, in this case Dana Andrews, Jane Russell, Lon Chaney Jr., Lyle Bettger, John Agar and Tom Drake.

Johnny Skidmarks (1998) is one you missed about seedy people doing, as expected, seedy things.  The story revolves around  blackmailers who have the tables turned on them when they get murdered one by one.  Peter Gallagher, Frances McDormand and John Lithgow star in the creepy piece.

Johnny Suede (1991) or as some may call it, early Brad Pitt.  He made it right after Thelma and Louise.  You may have even seen it since you were still wiping away the drool from T&L.  He played a young musician who dreams of making it big like his idol, Ricky Nelson.  I think if you're a Pitt fan and missed this one, you should check it out. 

Johnny Tremaine (1957) is Disney's entry into the Johnny sweepstakes.  It concerns a young man who is drawn into the Revolutionary War.  (Think of the later and much better The Patriot with Heath Ledger.)  Johnny was played by Hal Stalmaster, a Disney TV star for a short while, and this is the only movie he ever made.  Why is that?

Johnny Trouble (1957) means two Johnny T movies in the same year.  Wasn't it confusing?  Here Ethel Barrymore plays a house mother at a college who has determined that a freshman with the same name as her long-missing grandson is, in fact, him.  I recall it as a touching piece but wonder if it's available.  Fun to see a very young Stuart Whitman, Carolyn Jones and Edd Byrnes.

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