It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Movie Challenge…. Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1944)
After getting through this Monogram feature assigned to me by Kristina of Speakeasy I was almost expecting William Shatner to pop up at the fade out and ask the camera, “Is that weird or what?”
The Mad Movie Challenge is for those who are unaccustomed to the monthly feature when Kristina and I assign the other a film we haven’t gotten to just yet.
For this Monogram title we have the heavenly accent and pouty face of Simone Simon as a young woman traveling by train to the big city to take up work in an airplane factory while the men are off fighting the war. It’s at about the three minute mark that I know I’m in for a piece of bizarre cinema. From the pages of a book rises a miniature gremlin who is going to reek havoc on the superstitious Simon for the next seven weeks.
Much like the classic The More The Merrier we find our leading lady experiencing a housing shortage and desperately looking for a room. With fate intervening she happens upon a young man just heading to boot camp who agrees to let her have his apartment. The problem is that he’s been very generous at handing out extra keys to other men in the service.
“Johnny doesn’t live here anymore.”
Simone is heard to utter this phrase repeatedly as one sailor on the town after another come drifting into the apartment at all hours of the day. This leads the nosey “old maid” next door to keeping one eye glued to the crack in her door to observe the coming and going at all hours of the day. The obvious implication being prostitution. She’ll be heard to say to “It’s outrageous! It’s scandalous!” After the film ended I thought looking back that perhaps she was talking about the film itself after a preview screening.
Now despite this being a film challenge I must admit that sooner or later I would have gotten around to seeing it for one reason and one alone. It’s a pre-stardom appearance by an actor I frequently cover and refer to as “The Mitch.” Robert Mitchum turns up as a Chief Petty Officer who purchases a key from a sailor so he’ll have a place to romance his wife for 48 hours while on leave.
This leads to complications when two of the other key holders believe that Simone is their girl and see Mitchum going up to the apartment with champagne bottles in hand. Time for Mitch to throw some punches and KO the crew before they are all hauled off to court where the prostitution charges are very evident yet with the “code” on screenplays being enforced the script dances around the obvious.
The ending of the movie is just as bizarre as the other goings on that play much like a bunch of vignettes strung together to make a 77 minute movie from director Joe May.
When I say bizarre I am mainly referring to the actor in a weird white getup playing a pixie(ish) gremlin. He constantly turns up in some corner of the screen bringing bad luck to Simone. The reason being she spilt a salt shaker at the start of the film. The actor under the white mask is one, Jerry Maren.
To explain the accent of lovely Simone it’s pointed out that she is from Quebec, Canada. Why not, Jean Claude Van Damme did the same thing in John Woo’s Hard Target. Simone was actually born in France and thanks to producer Val Lewton has found everlasting fame as the lead in 1942’s Cat People.
Fans of Our Gang comedies will have no doubt in recognizing the voice of Billy Laughlin. AKA Froggy from the popular series of shorts. Even he has a key in order to use the bathtub of Simone’s new apartment.
I find myself connecting the dots quite often when watching films and two other “A” productions spring to mind after removing this disc from the player. The Apartment from Billy Wilder where Jack Lemmon had a room with more than one key and a 1958 flick actually titled The Key. In this one Sophia Loren has the room and William Holden winds up involved with the cinematic beauty.
No classic here and one I probably won’t revisit but thanks to a nudge from Kristina I can add a checkmark to the list of early Mitchum titles I hadn’t gotten around to yet.
As for Kristina, I assigned her a satirical western with three of my favorite actors. One of which is another I draw attention to out here frequently, Mr. Warren Oates. So with a gremlin’s touch just click here to be magically transported to Kristina’s Speakeasy and see what she has in store for you lovers of film.