George Raft : Not Your Average Johnny Part 2….Johnny Allegro (1949)
George Raft as Johnny Allegro the local Florist? I had my doubts and sure enough there is a hidden past to his character also known as Johnny Rock.
Equal parts gangster film to play off the Raft persona, a touch of Hitchcock’s Suspicion and finally The Most Dangerous Game turns this Columbia pictures effort into a thoroughly enjoyable Raft outing.
When Raft is put on the spot by Nina Foch in the swank lobby of a hotel where he has his florist shop he plays along with street smarts to help her shake a detective shadowing her. This puts his alias identity on the spot and it isn’t long before treasury department detective Will Geer confronts him. Like every action hero in the years to come, Raft has a past where he turned from gangster to war hero and back again. In other words, he’s a real pro with a firearm. Geer gives us the goods on his heroic record letting us know that George isn’t all bad.
Raft turns agent for Geer to make amends for his rap sheet and on the phony set up of a murder helps Foch make a getaway. She takes him with her by plane to a secluded island getaway. It’s here that heroic George will meet George Macready. Turns out he’s married to Foch and quite possibly mixed up with some war criminals giving it that sense of espionage. Counterfeiting is the main plot point as far as Geer and his team of agents are concerned.
Like the Bergman-Grant-Rains trio we have married Foch in love with Raft and her hubby Macready makes for a sore loser. He quickly points out to Raft, “Just looking at you makes me think of alley fights and tommy guns.” Once a gangster always a gangster. Raft never could seem to escape his cinematic roots and this quote really strikes the nail on the head.
Macready isn’t too trusting and continually toys with Raft going so far as demonstrating his prowess with a bow and arrow. Turns out he fancies himself a big game hunter and if you know the story of the most dangerous game you can see where this is heading. “It’s exhilarating hunting man,” we’ll be hearing Macready point out before the final reel.
Raft knows the whole set ups gonna leave a bad taste but with Foch and her feminine charm reminding him to, “Stop fighting it Johnny. You know you want to hold me.” there isn’t much he can do other than see the mission through to a fairly exciting finish.
This Ted Tetzlaff directed flick proved to be more enjoyable than I had anticipated. By this time Raft’s era of a box office star was pretty much over but he could still play it tough when called upon. The bonus this time out is Macready as the conflicted villain. He’s smooth as usual and not to be trusted. Makes for a good suit and tie bad guy.
For the trivia buffs, I mentioned Johnny Allegro borrows a bit of it’s story line from Suspicion. Our director Tetzlaff served as cinematographer on the Hitchcock classic. In the same year as this Raft release he would also film A Dangerous Profession. Another Raft effort joining George with another faded Warner Brothers star from the thirties, Pat O’Brien.
Leading lady Nina Foch had an incredibly long career working in film and television right up until her death in 2008. Will Geer for me was always the Grandfather on The Waltons reruns that we watched in our home growing up and I never really have shaken that association.
Overall Johnny Allegro proved to be the better of the two Johnny’s where George Raft is concerned.