6.2/10
347
9 user 14 critic

Too Much Johnson (1938)

A woman has two lovers. When one man finds out about the other, he acts as a villain and chases after the protagonist.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Virginia Nicolson ...
Lenore Faddish (as Anna Stafford)
...
...
Ruth Ford ...
...
Eustace Wyatt ...
Guy Kingsley Poynter ...
Henry MacIntosh (as Guy Kingsley)
George Duthie ...
Purser
...
Keystone Kop
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Berry
Marc Blitzstein ...
Extra
Herbert Drake ...
Keystone Kop
...
Duelist / Keystone Kop
...
Frederick
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Storyline

Posing as wealthy Cuban plantation owner Joseph Johnson, Augustus Billings is having an affair with married Clairette Dathis. Augustus is able to get away just before Clairette's husband, Leon Dathis, comes home. But Leon finds out about the affair. With Augustus' photograph in hand, Leon goes on a search for his wife's lover. The ensuing chase leads to one sight gag close call after another. Eventually, the real Joseph Johnson in Cuba gets unwittingly into the act. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Comedy

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Release Date:

30 August 2014 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Previše Džonsona  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The long-missing silent short has turned up in Italy and been restored for an October premiere. The 35mm nitrate work print was discovered in a warehouse in Pordenone and turned over to the George Eastman House for restoration and preservation. See more »

Connections

Remake of Too Much Johnson (1919) See more »

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User Reviews

 
a brief history of Johnson, and an overview of the TCM airing
2 May 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's always a miracle when a lost film is discovered, or an unreleased one or whichever, and for those looking for the scraps of what Orson Welles left behind and have never been able to see, the most prized missing stuff is... The Magnificent Ambersons, of course! But among the films thought lost to the ashes of time, one of them was Too Much Johnson, an experimental work that Welles made in conjunction with a play by William Gillette. I haven't read the play, but I've read about it, and it basically concerns a man who goes to Cuba, but also has a dalliance of some kind with a woman. And then there's a chase, and wackiness ensues about infidelities and husbands and wives and so on.

Actually, I may be confusing the play with what Welles filmed, which were, according to history, supposed to be bridging-segments during scene changes on stage. Also, Welles wanted to possibly try to convince Hollywood he could direct film - prior to this he'd done one really amateur short, The Hearts of Age, and this was either before or around the time that War of the Worlds happened, which got him his carte-blanch deal anyway - and what better way than to go another step further past his theatrical experiments (Macbeth with voodoo, Julius Caesar in modern dress) and make a true-blue independent film?

The problem in seeing Too Much Johnson today are two-fold at least: 1) Welles never left behind a fully finished cut, even in the form of what the segments would've really looked like edited together for the stage hybrid, and 2) what the Turner Classic Movie channel decided to do (in conjunction I suppose with an Italian restoration from the discovered footage from 2013) is just throw on TV at the end of a Welles 100th birthday celebration... everything. One might get the wrong idea tuning in in the middle of the night (which is when it officially aired) trying to get a potential glimpse at the Boy Wonder a few years before Kane to see what kind of work he was capable of - AND think, without the proper research, that it's a completed feature. It isn't.

What was shown on TCM is a work-print, basically anything that Welles and company shot; multiple takes included, many moments of Joseph Cotten just looking around or something taken a second time like characters on a horse carriage, and the coverage of angles. And, on top of this, the footage is scored with new music by some dude that is rather inappropriate, even for an unfinished product. If one is trying to watch it outside of the confines of stuffy film history, as, you know, an entertainment experience, it's all music that should be meant for some modern thriller (at best), NOT a Keystone Kops style comedy featuring the kind of set pieces that would later be emulated by Scooby Doo and Benny Hill.

Now, this isn't to say it isn't without some interest to watch this or seek it out if you may have also DVR'd it or, by chance, it finds its way online or whatever: Welles clearly shows, years before he met Greg Toland and the legend of the "You can learn everything about filmmaking in a few hours", that he already knew where to put the camera and direct actors. This isn't to say it all works; even the segments where things do cut together cohesively, it all moves super fast and oddly, and most of what's shown is just an extended chase (again, bridging the gaps of the play and experimenting).

But if you are looking at this and want to see some fun material, certainly Cotten in the lead, and women players Arlene Francis, Mary Wickes and Edgar Barrier (complete with giant mustache), plus Welles' wife at the time Virginia Nicholson, deliver on physical comedy, BIG expressions and gestures, and Welles accomplishes a lot of very daring physical feats and action. That he got away with so much - I don't know if they had those things called 'film permits' back in 1938 - is nothing short of remarkable. And considering how jumbled things are put together like this, I was surprised how much I COULD tell was going on.

But, again, all of the context about what this was counts. Watching this is for historical, cinephile-like, Welles-junkie reasons most of all. Compared to what's presented here, It's All True is a whole product. You're basically getting a series of glimpses into what was already apparent about this filmmaker, of his sense of play and imagination and just trying things out (a sequence involving knocking off hats, and how each man comes together to form a gang, is hilarious even in this rough form). If you go into it thinking it's a full feature you'll not merely be mistaken, you'll probably want to turn it off before it ends out of the monotony of multiple shots and jarring takes (plus raw footage that wasn't quite cleaned up).

So, needless to say, at 66 minutes long (!) this may be, ahem, too much Johnson, and whoever chose the music should be ashamed of themselves. But in this world where his unfinished works have attained a legend of their own, it's another piece of the puzzle. Last thing, though you may see a '7 out of 10', I really give no rating to this, as it wouldn't be fair - akin to grading a student film.


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