George Raft : Not Your Average Johnny Part 1…. Johnny Angel (1945)
From RKO comes this George Raft pot boiler featuring Claire Trevor along for the mystery involving murder, deceit, a ghost ship and Hoagy Carmichael.
Emerging from a fog bank Captain George Raft’s ship comes across an abandoned freighter. Scenes of a struggle are littered about and in the captain’s room Raft picks up a smashed picture of an elderly man and himself. So the mystery begins.
We’re in for a fast moving tale when Raft’s ship makes port. The abandoned freighter was captained by his Father. They both work for a shipping line run by weak minded Marvin Miller who has a high maintenance wife played by the lovely Trevor. She of course has a past with our leading man who knows she’s nothing but bad news.
Raft wants his pound of flesh and finds out that a stowaway was aboard ship. It’s Signe Hasso and it’s her that is going to lead Raft through the back alleys and fist fights as he seeks to uncover the mystery surrounding his Dad’s death and the removal of cargo at sea that just might turn out to be gold bullion. There’s a lot of money at stake for whoever has the most devious mind to possess it.
Hasso is going to tell her story to Raft allowing director Edwin L. Marin to use the flashback as a plot device. It seems there was a mysterious passenger responsible for killing George’s Dad and double crossing his own partners. Now Raft needs to solve just who is behind the seafaring mystery.
Hoagy Carmichael does justice to taxi drivers everywhere. He always has an eye open and knows what’s going on around the docks as he directs Raft to the next stop time and again to solve the mystery and get his vigilante justice. It wouldn’t seem right not to have Hoagy serenade both Raft, Hasso and us so he continually hums a few bars of Memphis in June and even gets the opportunity to pound it out on the piano keys in a flop house.
With Margaret Wycherly and Lowell Gilmore turning up there are plenty of red herrings in this Noirish Raft entry. Wycherly overseas the shipping lines from within and Gilmore owns a nightclub that is frequented by Trevor.
Claire and George make for an unstable relationship on screen as she still lusts after the tough mug. There was a time “When I threw myself at you you’d put on a catchers mitt.” Now she accuses him of being cagey and when her hubby finds out she still carries a torch for our Johnny of the day he may try to get tough with our leading man.
This passable entry in the Raft catalogue is like many of his other titles. Watchable but just not memorable. It’s the typical Raft one note performance but that’s what I’ve come to expect it so it doesn’t deter my enjoyment of these films he did on the B circuit.
While watching I couldn’t help but think if it had been a Bogart A production the script would have been tightened up over the first half hour when things move to easily and a Vincent Sherman would have been behind the camera or perhaps even a Raoul Walsh. Hasso would have been replaced by Alexis Smith or dare I say Bergman.
Aside from daydreaming about recasting I didn’t mind this Raft feature where he gets the opportunity to play tough and deliver a few macho remarks aimed at keeping his screen image in tact. If I really could have changed anything it would have been a more solid ending with justice better served.