Here's a glossy world of crime wrapped in white fox and expensive leather where one sinks into deep armchairs and drinks imported Scotch. This is the crooked cafe society world of callow, sexy Taylor who abuses callow, sexy Turner. They're made for each other, see? Each acts in a highly
stylized mode of tragic glamour that is most evident in the swooning vortex of their love scenes. Casting them together was inspired--they give each other extra resonance and depth.
Taylor is the rottenly handsome title character, hiding the tenderness of his pretty face behind a gigolo's pencil mustache. At the opening, he misleads viewers. He wears a cab driver's hat and reports to his fatherly parole officer, O'Neil, explaining how diligently he drives his hack, and stays
on the straight and narrow. O'Neil introduces the slick Taylor to two earnest, pretty sociology students, Turner and Diana Lewis. Turner thinks he's anything but what he pretends to be. Her instincts are right, even though her heart takes her in another direction. Taylor dutifully gets into his
cab after meeting with O'Neil and charming Lewis and Turner. Then he drives to an unopened dog track, reports to the front desk, goes into the inner offices without seeking approval, then into even posher living quarters where he discards his cab driver's outfit and dons expensive tie and
suitcoat. As he begins barking orders to his minions, it becomes apparent that Taylor is not only back in the rackets but that he's running them.
Later that night, Taylor exposes his real nature and status when he confronts Nelson in his nightclub, making threats about what will happen to the club owner if he fails to do as he is told. This is witnessed by Turner whom he escorts home to father Arnold, the same prosecuting attorney who sent
him to prison. Arnold explodes when he sees Taylor with Turner, threatening to return him to prison if he ever sees them together again. Taylor backs off but hatches a plan to take revenge on Arnold, seduce Turner, and guarantee the opening of his dog track without interference from the
authorities. He inveigles Turner to his lavish apartment where he stages an attack by a vicious hoodlum, Stewart. Stewart is about to kill Taylor, or so it seems to Turner, and she grabs a convenient gun and ostensibly kills Stewart.
JOHNNY EAGER is an lavish candy box film in which Taylor wholly abandons his male ingenue image and becomes a believable bad guy whose sliver of human compassion causes his undoing; its one of his best early roles. Although there's a synthetic element to JOHNNY EAGER, the crime melodrama aspect is
so well handled by LeRoy and the chemistry between Taylor and the luscious 21-year-old Turner so strong that it's wholly satisfying. Taylor and Turner made only this film together and more's the pity. Their penthouse balcony scene is definitive Hollywood passion, all glossy open lips, eye lash
shadows and whispered urgency--the latter a Turner specialty.
Throughout, Heflin is the presence that gives depth to the film as the drunken conscience of cold-hearted Taylor. The homoerotic content of the film is unusual for staid MGM. Heflin acts like Taylor's domesticated, kept house pet and he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his effort.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Here's a glossy world of crime wrapped in white fox and expensive leather where one sinks into deep armchairs and drinks imported Scotch. This is the crooked cafe society world of callow, sexy Taylor who abuses callow, sexy Turner. They're made for each ot… (more)