Johnny Angel is an interesting little 1945 RKO film noir.
Johnny Angel (George Raft) is a sea captain, like his father. When he finds his father’s ship, the Emmaline Quincy, drifting at sea in the Gulf of Mexico, with its cargo intact but the crew (including his father) nowhere to be found, he is determined to find out what has happened.
He puts a salvage crew aboard the Emmaline Quincy. After it docks in New Orleans a mysterious French girl is seen leaving the ship - this girl is Johnny’s only clue to the mystery. First he has to find her, then having found her he has to keep her alive. Neither task will be easy.
Lilah is two-timing Gusty with night-club owner and gangster Sam Jewell (Lowell Gilmore) but she also has her sights set on Johnny. Lilah likes men but she also likes money. She can’t decide which she likes most.
This movie is a relatively rare example of a film noir with a flashback and voice-over narration from the point of view of a female character.
Steve Fisher’s screenplay hits most of the right noir notes. Edwin L. Marin was a competent director and a year later would direct George Raft in another excellent film noir, Nocturne. Marin captures the noir mood effectively in Johnny Angel, with some help from cinematographer Harry J. Wild (who also worked on Nocturne and in fact shot many notable noir films).
The rest of the cast is very strong. Claire Trevor does her femme fatale bit as the wife of the owner of the shopping line – she is very much in love with his money, with him not so much. It’s the sort of thing she always did extremely well.
The nautical background and the New Orleans settings give the film a distinctive and attractive flavour, and it’s a fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining movie. It’s one of those lesser known noirs that is well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.