Johnny O’Clock (1947)

Directed by Robert Rossen
Written by Robert Rossen; original story by Milton Holmes
J.E.M. Productions
First viewing/YouTube


Chuck Blayden: You get in my way and I’ll kill you.

Johnny O’Clock: You took the words right out of my mouth.

You can’t go too far wrong with a title like Johnny O’Clock.

Johnny O’Clock (Dick Powell) is an elegantly-dressed, tough gangster who has managed to keep his nose clean for years.  He is a partner in an illegal gambling operation with muscle man Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez).  Although he has nothing on Johnny, Police Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb) keeps hounding him for the whereabouts of crooked cop Chuck Blaydon who is taking pay-outs from the mob.

Meanwhile, Johnny has befriended Blaydon’s pathetic girlfriend Harriet Hobson (Nina Foch).  She wants to make up with her man but he is having none of it.  Johnny is also being pursued by Marchettis’s wife Nelle (Ellen Drew), with whom he previously had a relationship.  He now wants nothing to do with the married woman but she won’t leave him alone.

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The plot is fairly Byzantine from here on out.  The next major development is that Harriet is found as a presumed suicide.  This sparks a visit from her sister Nancy (Evelyn Keyes). Nancy and Johnny quickly become an item.  A bunch more stuff happens but this is more enjoyable for the dialogue than for the plot.

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I’m a Dick Powell fan, especially in his noir incarnation and this did not disappoint.  He might rank next to Bogie in his ability to utter stylized hard-boiled dialogue with just the right mixture of deadpan and humor.  The ladies don’t quite match his aplomb.  It’s an entertaining outing though.



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