Johnny Eager is an early film noir from 1941 and is about a recent parole that is working as a taxi driver, so we think. Johnny is played by Robert Taylor and catches the eye of Lisabeth, a student of sociology played by noir femme fatale legend Lana Turner. Lisabeth is the step daughter of the prosecutor that knows Johnny isn’t on the level and wants to put him back in prison. Johnny uses people more than violence to get what he wants and doesn’t mind doing it.
Though Turner is amazing as the jolted lover and Taylor plays the dapper hood well, the stand out in this film is Van Heflin. Heflin plays Jeff, the right hand man of Eager, but he isn’t the usual muscle, he is quite original, and in 1941 there wasn’t many to compare him to yet. Jeff is a well-educated man who uses big words and quotes great literature, his one weakness is he has a problem with alcohol. Jeff is Johnny’s conscience as well in this film, telling him when he is doing wrong by others or making the wrong decisions. To bad Johnny never learns or listens to Jeff, Johnny always thinks he’s the smartest man in the room, but sometimes he isn’t.
Van Heflin won best supporting actor for this portrayal and I can see why. This classic film noir is not widely watched with only 1500 votes on IMDb and a good rating of 7.1 and no Rotten Tomatoes score. This is a good film on its own, but if you’re a noir lover, I think you will really like the plot and Van Heflin and Lana Turner and worth the viewing.