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USA 1943
Directed by
William K. Howard
97 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Johnny Come Lately

A good portion of Johnny Come Lately, adapted by John Van Druten from a novel by Louis Bromfeld, is a well-handled,  enjoyably sentimental drama in the populist style . Cagney, in his first independently-produced (by his brother William) starring role, plays Tom Richards, an itinerant newspaperman who drifts into a small town where he teams up with elderly Vinnie McLeod (Grace George, a friend of Cagney in her only screen appearance), the editor of a two-bit local newspaper that is fighting local corruption in the form of fat cat, town boss (Edward McNamara),

The sentimental side of the story is handled well and with familiar faces like Hattie McDaniel and Margaret Hamilton the film has much offer. Unfortunately it is less skilled in its handling of the corruption side of things, particularly in the latter part of the film where Cagney is called upon to play his more familiar tough-guy persona and the film acquires a jarringly strident tone. The ending is also questionable as the typical resolution, which would see the Cagney character get the girl and the bad guy his desserts, is varied from. In itself this is not a bad thing and perhaps reflects the intentions of the original story however, the two sub-themes which it addresses, the “Romeo and Juliet” dynastic relationship between star-crossed lovers, Jane McLeod and Pete Dougherty, and Tom Richards’ “wandrin’” temperament are not well enough integrated into the script to be a satisfying alternative to the familiar.

The film was nominated for an Oscar for Leigh Harline's score. 





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