Cast & Crew
Edwin L. Marin
When sea captain Johnny Angel finds the vessel piloted by his father abandoned and adrift in the fog, he senses that his father has perished. After towing the ship to port in New Orleans, Johnny visits his employer, George "Gusty" Gustafson, the owner of the Gustafson Steamship Line. There Johnny questions Gusty, a milquetoast caught between the demands of Miss Drumm, his former nursemaid who now functions as his overbearing secretary, and his wife Lilah, a hard-boiled gold digger. When Gusty pleads ignorance about Captain Angel's fate, Johnny returns to the ship in search of clues and finds a woman's shoe and a French newspaper. After a dockhand informs him that a woman left the ship, Johnny meets Celestial O'Brien, an enigmatic cab driver, who takes him to the French Quarter to search for the missing woman. At a bar there, Johnny meets a French woman and, suspecting that she is the woman from the boat, begins to question her. Becoming frightened by Johnny's aggressiveness, the woman, Paulette Gerard, runs upstairs to her room. Johnny follows her and slips the shoe on her foot. When the bouncer appears at the door and orders Johnny to leave the two men begin to struggle. Paulette grabs her suitcase and flees, leaving behind a page from the phonebook with the address of the Jewell Box Café circled. Following Paulette there, Johnny finds Lilah Gustafson seated at a table with Sam Jewell, the suave owner of the café. After Sam excuses himself, Lilah, who was Johnny's former sweetheart, tries to rekindle their romance. When Johnny shows no interest in her, Lilah leaves, and Johnny then sees Paulette walking down the sidewalk. As she approaches the café, an unseen gunman begins to shoot at her, and Paulette takes refuge in a deserted shop. Johnny runs to her aid, but is knocked unconscious by her assailant. He is revived by the police and Sam, but Paulette is nowhere to be found. Unknown to Johnny, Celestial has taken her to safety at a boardinghouse owned by his cousin Hugh. The next morning, Celestial drives Johnny to see Paulette and after she bursts into tears, Johnny feels sorry for her and takes her for a walk in the country. As they stroll, Paulette confirms that Captain Angel is dead and recounts the following story: Angel's ship is transporting five billion dollars in gold bullion from Casablanca to New Orleans. The bullion, entrusted to Paulette's father, was stolen and her father murdered and framed for the theft. To clear his name, Paulette begs Captain Angel, an old family friend, to grant her passage to America. When the ship reaches the Gulf of Mexico, three crew members, abetted by an unidentified stowaway, mutiny and murder the crew. Hiding in her stateroom, Paulette overhears the muntineers say that Paul Jewell, Sam's brother, plans to transport the gold ashore aboard his boat, The Dolphin . Pursued by the mutineers, Paulette pretends to jump overboard and then hides in a lifeboat. As she watches, the men load the gold onto Jewell's boat, and when they speed away, the stowaway shoots his accomplices. As Paulette completes her tale, Johnny realizes that he has fallen in love with her and warns her to stay out of sight until he can uncover the murderer and The Dolphin . Johnny's search is cut short, however, when Gusty orders him to ship out. When Gusty refuses to change Johnny's assignment, a sympathetic Miss Drumm arranges for his cargo to be transferred to another ship, thus freeing Johnny to continue his quest. That night, Johnny meets Lilah for dinner, and pretending to be jealous of Sam, questions her about The Dolphin . To prove her love to Johnny, Lilah offers him a fortune in gold, but before she is able to divulge the details, Gusty and Miss Drumm enter the restaurant and Johnny arranges to meet her later that night at a bar. There Lilah assures Johnny that Gusty has gone out of town on business and invites him to her house. At the house, as Lilah demands evidence of Johnny's love, Gusty enters the room and angrily fires him. Meanwhile, two of Sam's thugs locate Paulette and escort her to Sam's office. There Sam questions Paulette about Captain Angel's death, and Celestial, who had witnessed her entering the Jewell Box, informs Johnny of her peril. Back at the club, Paulette blurts out the news of Paul Jewell's demise, and as Sam begins to menace her, Johnny bursts in and comes to the rescue. Meanwhile, at the Gustafson house, the humiliated Gusty begs Lilah to come to bed and, after secreting a dagger in her sleeve, she joins him. The next morning, Lilah appears on the deck of Johnny's ship and offers to drive him to the deserted island that harbors The Dolphin and her cargo of gold. Suspecting that Sam is Lilah's accomplice, Johnny anticipates finding him waiting in ambush. Instead, he finds Gusty, staggering from knife wounds inflicted by Lilah, and carrying a gun in his hand. After accusing Lilah of betrayal, Gusty confesses that he was the stowaway, having acquiesced to murder and robbery to satiate his wife's desires. As Gusty trains his gun on Lilah, Miss Drumm enters the room and shoots him. With his father's murder solved, Johnny returns to Paulette, and after he comforts her, the two embrace.
Edwin L. Marin
J. Farrell Macdonald
Rosemary La Planche
O. M. Steiger
Marcel De La Brosse
Albert S. D'agostino
Jack J. Gross
William L. Pereira
James G. Stewart
Vernon L. Walker
Paul Francis Webster
Harry J. Wild
Furthermore, in the year before Johnny Angel's release, Raft made national headlines by his involvement in an infamous private craps game at the home of Leo "the Lip" Durocher, the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and close friend of Raft's. Raft was accused of cheating someone out of $18,000 by using loaded dice. While not convicted of a crime, Raft was tried by the press and convicted by the public and scorned as a real gangster.
Years later, Raft commented on his unsavory image and problems in Hollywood: "I was born in a gang neighborhood [the Hell's Kitchen area of New York], brought up with gangsters and given a movie career by friends in the underworld. That is something no one can change, and I owe much to the many men who stayed with me when the going was rough. That's more than I can say for the unfaithful world of the motion picture industry." While that may be true, Raft was, through all this, racking up a number of lackluster films, a far cry from the breezy successes of his 1930s Paramount films, though even there he never became a full-fledged star. A mediocre actor, it didn't help that Raft was a notoriously bad selector of film roles, having turned down both High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon (both 1941).
Still, Johnny Angel is not a bad film, just a routine melodrama with effective film noir atmospherics and striking cinematography by Harry Wild. Raft plays a ship's captain searching New Orleans for clues to the murder of his father, also a captain whose ship was hijacked of its gold shipment and found adrift and abandoned.
Also in the cast is Claire Trevor, a key noir actress who distinguished herself by playing both heroines and femmes fatales in her noir work. She had just made Murder, My Sweet (1944) and was still to appear in Crack-Up (1946) and Raw Deal (1948), among others. Hoagy Carmichael singing "Memphis in June" at the piano is a real highlight.
Producer: Jack J. Gross, William L. Pereira
Director: Edwin L. Marin
Screenplay: Charles G. Booth (novel), Steve Fisher, Frank Gruber
Cinematography: Harry J. Wild
Film Editing: Les Millbrook
Art Direction: Albert S. D¿Agostino, Jack Okey
Music: Leigh Harline, Paul Francis Webster
Cast: George Raft (Johnny Angel), Claire Trevor (Lilah Gustafson), Signe Hasso (Paulette Girard), Lowell Gilmore (Sam Jewell), Hoagy Carmichael (Celestial O¿Brien), Marvin Miller (George Gustafson).
BW-79m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold
According to a pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter, Ray Enright was initially slated to direct this film. A news item in Hollywood Reporter notes that RKO borrowed Signe Hasso from M-G-M to appear in this film. An item in Los Angeles Examiner adds that although RKO originally brought Hasso over from Sweden in the early 1940s and had her under contract for two years, she never appeared in a single RKO film under that contract. According to Hollywood Reporter, Eric Feldary tested for a leading role in this film. This picture marked William Pereira's debut as a producer.