Great Guy


Year 1936

James Cagney as  Johnny Cave
Mae Clarke   as Janet Henry
James Burke as Pat Haley
Robert Gleckler as Cavanaugh
 
Director - John G. Blystone
Screenwriters - James Edward Grant  
  - Henry Johnson
  - Henry McCarty
  - Horace McCoy
  - Harry Ruskin

What annoys me most about this movie is that it had potential. It starts out cookie-cutter enough by having Johnny Cave (James Cagney) take over for his straight as an arrow boss who's been hospitalized because he wouldn't give in to dirty dealings.

But, this isn't a mob movie in the typical sense of the word. It's a corrupt politician type of movie. The protagonist is in charge of the New York City Bureau of Weights and Measures. The what?

Maybe this is for real. Maybe back in 1936 the Bureau of Weights and Measures kept an eye on things to make sure that a gallon of gas was a gallon of gas, a pound of flesh was a pound of flesh, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centuri were small furry creatures from Alpha Centuri. (Douglas Adams should be remembered.)

I've got to say that it made for a nice twist and the movie works best when Johnny Cave is showing people how they can be taken advantage of. It's like a House of Games only not as low keyed.

Watching Cagney work was a pleasure...at least at the beginning. This was his first picture from his own movie company and he gave everything to the role. Sometimes he gave too much. But when he worked the character for the first half of the movie, Cagney was a joy to watch.

Then, the bad people tried to corrupt old Johnny. Despite their best efforts, he didn't cave. (Get it? Johnny Cave? Nevermind.) Everything is still working okay although it gets a bit hokey.

But then, suddenly, the pacing changes. Clues are dropping like liquid sunshine in a desert. The police make up laws as they go along. ("Just because you saw him hit you doesn't mean we can arrest him.") Parties that no one would normally attend now have all of the major players chomping at the bit for admittance. And the last scene...

Slow motion fights that are speeded up do not look like fights. They look like speeded up versions of chimpanzees dancing on a trampoline.

Take a look at the number of screenwriters. Take a look at their names. Two Henry's, a Horace, and a Harry. They're only missing Harry Houdini who should've been involved to make the last half of the movie escape from the film can.

I really liked the first half of the movie and had this one slated for being not too shabby. But then came the six months of plot in six minutes of screen time telescope. The second half of the movie is more readily found under a rock. So, I split the difference.

It's fluff and practically watchable.


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