Henry Hathaway

Johnny Apollo (1940)

Bob Cain (Tyrone Power) and his father Robert Cain, Sr. (Edward Arnold) had been very close for a long time, but when Robert is sent to jail for embezzlement, Bob is very deeply hurt.  Not so much by the jail sentence, but because he thought his father was above doing such things.  Not wanting to be an outcast at school, Bob drops out and starts looking for a job.  But being the son of a notorious embezzler makes it impossible for Bob to find work.  When Bob finds out that Mickey Dwyer (Lloyd Nolan), a far more dangerous criminal than his father, is granted parole, Bob has a change of heart and wants to get Robert out on parole.

Bob tries talking to Robert’s former attorney, but he isn’t willing to help get Robert out of jail.  He then goes to see Dwyer’s attorney Emmet T. Brennan (Charley Grapewin), who tells him he could get Robert paroled, but it would be expensive.  To get the money he needs, Bob does a little work for Dwyer.  Dwyer likes Bob and decides to have him join his gang.  Bob adopts the name Johnny Apollo and becomes Dwyer’s right hand man.  Meanwhile, Robert is taking his prison sentence very well and has become a model prisoner.  When Robert finds out Bob has been working with Dwyer, he denies even having a son.

Before too long, the law catches up with Bob and Dwyer and money isn’t going to get them out of it.  Although she’s Dwyer’s girlfriend, “Lucky” Dubarry (Dorothy Lamour) likes Bob more and convinces Brennan to come up with a plan to send Dwyer up the river while getting Bob off the hook. When Dwyer finds out what’s going on, he kills Brennan and both he and Bob wind up with prison sentences.  The two of them have an escape plan in mind before they even get to their cells, but Lucky doesn’t want to see Bob throw his life away by sticking with Dwyer.  She goes to see Robert and tells him about their escape plan, hoping Robert can talk some sense into his son.

If you’re looking for a good gangster movie but maybe want something different from The Public Enemy or Little CaesarJohnny Apollo might be just what you’re looking for.  Tyrone Power doesn’t have the menacing presence of James Cagney, but he was good at playing the young, disillusioned type.  Until now, I only knew Dorothy Lamour from the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” movies, but I think I like her more as a hardened gangsters moll than I did in the “Road” movies.  Edward Arnold and Lloyd Nolan bring a lot of life to the supporting cast.  Johnny Apollo doesn’t have the grit and action of the 1930s Warner Brothers gangster movies, it’s much more polished than those, but I do think it’s a rather underrated gangster flick.

Niagara (1953)

When Polly and Ray Cutler (Jean Peters and Max Showalter) head to Niagara Falls for their belated honeymoon, all they’re expecting is a relaxing vacation and maybe a little bit of business networking for Ray.  The last thing they expect is to find themselves mixed up in a murder plot.  When they arrive at their cabin, they find the previous occupants, Rose and George Loomis (Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton), haven’t left yet.  Rose explains that her husband isn’t well, so Polly and Ray agree to stay in another cabin instead.

Just before Ray and Polly head out to do some sightseeing, Rose says she’s going to go grocery shopping.  But when the Polly sees Rose kissing another man, the Cutlers write her off as an unfaithful wife, but don’t really dwell on it.  Later, after Rose returns to the cabin, George finds a ticket stub in her coat pocket that proves she didn’t just go shopping like she said and starts to suspect she’s been seeing someone else.  His jealousy reaches a breaking point that night when Rose goes to a social wearing a very tight dress and requests a romantic song be played.  George storms out of the cabin and smashes the record.

The next morning, Rose and George are set to leave for Chicago.  But when Rose says she wants to go to the bus station for tickets, George gets suspicious again and this time for a good reason.  She and her boyfriend Patrick have come up with a scheme to kill him and run away together.  When she goes to a gift shop to meet up with Patrick, George follows her and, thinking they’ve gone to some caves, buys a ticket for the caves.  The plan is for Patrick to follow George into the caves, kill him, and when he’s dead, let her know by having the bell tower play their special song.  So while Patrick goes to take care of George, Rose goes back to the cabin and puts on her act about her husband being missing.  When a body is recovered from the falls, Rose is called to identify it, but faints after seeing it.  The authorities take her fainting to mean the body found was indeed George.  However, Polly soon discovers that Rose and Patrick’s plan didn’t go exactly as planned.

Of all of Marlyn Monroe’s movies, I’ve always thought Niagara was one of her most under-appreciated.  I love Marilyn’s comedies, but she was fabulous as a film noir femme fatale.  It’s too bad she didn’t make more noir films because she was a natural in Niagara.  As good as Marilyn is in it, Joseph Cotton is pretty outstanding as well.  He really nailed it as the mentally unstable, jealous George.  I also can’t neglect to mention Jean Peters and Max Showalter, who were perfect for the naive, innocent couple who got dragged into this whole mess.  They really seemed so completely Midwestern.

There are some scenes in it that are genuinely terrifying.  I’m always on the edge of my seat for that scene on the wooden stairs by the Falls.  It makes me nervous enough just to see people walking on those things normally, but having Joseph Cotton chasing Jean Peters on them?  Yeah, I was pretty horrified, but in just the right way.  All in all, Niagara is a pretty good thriller that doesn’t really get as much recognition as it deserves.