It is not often in any James Cagney film that anyone else manages to steal more than a few scenes. Cagney did get top billing in JOHNNY COME LATELY, but he does not even make an entrance until way past the first reel. When the film begins, Grace George, who plays newspaper publisher Vinnie McLeod, is seen as the dramatic center. Her newspaper is going broke, mostly because of a local corrupt politician who is angry over the muckracking editorials of her paper. Along comes an erudite tramp Tom (Cagney), who promptly gets arrested for vagrancy but is saved from the chain gang by Miss McLeod who offers him a job as a reporter. At this point, I was not sure whether the film was headed for the land of romance (Marjorie Lord plays Miss McLeod's niece who breaks up with her boyfriend) or the gritty and sordid world of realpolitik journalism, sort of a pre-WW2 ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. Part of the problem that director William K. Howard failed to resolve is that he could not set a consistent tone with which the audience would feel comfortable. Further, Howard hints at a romance between Lord and Cagney that fizzles out, leaving Cagney without much to do except go after the town bad guy. Still, Cagney manages to infuse JOHNNY COME LATELY with the vitality that his fans had come to expect. There is even a badly choreographed fist fight between him and Lord's boyfriend that ought never have happened, but director Howard obviously felt the need for the two to duke it out. Since Cagney was limited to muckraking, he shared center stage with a bravura performance by Marjorie Main, who plays brothel owner Mary McGregor, who whoops it up and rouses the town against the evil politician. For those who have a sharp eye for second tier actors, keep an eye out for Arthur Hunnicut, who later starred with Miss Main in the Ma and Pa Kettle film series. There is also Hattie McDaniel, who as Aida the maid, is again the brusque Mammy from her GONE WITH THE WIND days. JOHNNY COME LATELY is far from Cagney's best, but it is a tribute to his talents that he can make a grade B film seem far more interesting than it would have been without him.