Johnny Eager (1942)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Robert Taylor toughened up his image considerably with this gangster movie, which was unusual both in its plot and origins, having come from MGM, which was generally not known for its crime movies. Taylor plays a parolee who is pretending to follow the straight-and-narrow as a hardworking cabbie, but is really the mastermind behind a dog-racing track being built with mob money. Eager works every angle, has a gang that's generally in line, and also has a loyal right-hand man in Jeff Hartnett (Van Heflin, who won an Oscar), his educated assistant, who drinks too much and waxes poetic when he isn't looking after Johnny's interests (and sometimes when he is, too). Eager has only one problem, special prosecutor John Benson Farrell (Edward Arnold) -- who was also the attorney instrumental in sending Eager up -- who has gotten an injunction against the track's opening. But the hood sees an opening when he accidentally crosses paths with a young sociology student, Lisbeth Bard (Lana Turner), who is drawn to him romantically, and then finds out that she's Farrell's step-daughter. After romancing her for a few months, he sets her up in a scam, making her believe that she killed one of Eager's men (Paul Stewart). He "generously" gets her away from the scene and then informs Farrell of what has happened, pointing out that he holds the evidence against Lisbeth. Farrell has no choice but to withdraw the injunction, and the track opens, but problems ensue when rival mobsters decide to try and cut in on Eager and his racket, and he finds out that Lisbeth is so guilt-ridden over her "crime," that she's destroying herself mentally. Eager can't figure out why she feels the way she does or what to do about it, or even if he should do anything to help her, but with Jeff's help, he discovers a nobler side to his nature. Realizing that she really does love him, and knowing it's not possible for the two of them to be together, he goes out in a blaze of glory -- laced with a special irony built into the plot -- solving Lisbeth's problem and also curing her of her love for him, and settling a score or two in the process.
Classics , Drama
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Robert Taylor
as Johnny Eager
Lana Turner
as Lisbeth 'Liz' Bard
Van Heflin
as Jeff Hartnett
Edward Arnold
as Farrell
Patricia Dane
as Garnet
Barry Nelson
as Rankin
Cy Kendall
as Halligan
Don Costello
as Billiken
Lou Lubin
as Benjy
Robin Raymond
as Matilda Fowler
Cliff Danielson
as Floyd Markham
Leona Maricle
as Miss Mines
Byron Shores
as Joe Agridowski
Sheldon Bennett
as Headwaiter
Pat West
as Hanger-on
Jack Carr
as Cupid
Art Miles
as Lt. Allen
Mike Pat Donovan
as Switchman
Janet Shaw
as Girls in Verne's Office
Gohr Van Vleck
as Frenchman
Joe Whitehead
as Ruffing
John Dilson
as Pawnbroker
Charles Thomas
as Bus Conductor
Arthur Belasco
as Card Player
Larry Clifford
as Card Player
Harrison Greene
as Card Player
James C. Morton
as Card Player
Alex Pollard
as Butler
Emory Parnell
as Traffic Cop
Jack Carr
as Cupid
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Critic Reviews for Johnny Eager

All Critics (2) | Top Critics (1)

Mervyn LeRoy's picture is more a melodrama than a crime-gangster due to star Robert Taylor and the studio behind it (MGM), but it's worth seeing for Van Heflin's Oscar performance as the cynical alcoholic given to philosophical observations.

Full Review… | September 29, 2009
Top Critic

Nothing can save this syrupy crime melodrama from its eagerness to please as a romantic sudser.

Full Review… | December 26, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Johnny Eager


An entertaining yarn for film noir fans. It has multiple subplots throughout the entire film. Van Heflin is great to watch as the drunk confidante of Robert Taylor's character. He has the best lines along with Taylor. The plot begins with Johnny as a cab driver checking in with his parole officer. Two young college students run into Johnny as he comes out of his visit and the parole officer ends up introducing them later at an unplanned visit where Taylor and Turner start heating up the screen. Johnny is trying to start up a race track gig with other figures from the underworld, but no judge approves the opening of the track. Johnny comes across as a cold blooded gangster boss that stays focused on the business side with no understanding of suckers that make decisions with no profit in return. Turner starts to get in his head. The final shootout scene is one of the most memorable gangster endings with smoke rising from the manholes, a city train passing above the city, store lights on and a view of New York's bridge in the background. Johnny was the man that could have climbed the mountain, but couldn't find the right one to start.

gerardo rodriguez
gerardo rodriguez

a surprisingly good film with one of the most beautiful screen couples i've seen in lana turner and robert taylor. these two aren't noted for their acting skills but they manage all right, especially taylor playing a dashing but amoral thug. what makes the film work however is the startling performance of van heflin as johnny eager's best friend, an alcoholic intellectual type who is pretty obviously in love with johnny. he's the pivotal character bringing the flat performances of the two leads to life and making eager's redemption in the last act believable. one of the best and most sympathetic portrayals of a gay character in classic hollywood and heflin well deserved his only academy award

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


Tough little actioner, Lana never more beautiful. Van Heflin excellent in support. Worthwhile

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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