Engineers with a novel car design outwit entrenched management to bring the car into production. [ Johnny Dark credits: Dir: George Sherman/ Tony Curtis, Piper Laurie, Don Taylor/ 85 min/ Action-Adventure/ Creator as Hero]
“The story is reminiscent of the experience of Ford Motors, which at one point in its history resisted stylistic changes demanded by the consumer, until competition forced it to give in.”
This film gets points for its creator-as-hero theme and for its concise lesson in economics—that manufacturers must respond to the demands of the marketplace.
At first, the stodgy president of “Fielding Motors,” the automobile company in question here, has an arbitrary policy of producing just one model of car. However, investors in the company want more than one model. They’re pushing for management to introduce a more varied line in order to meet the changing needs of consumers.
Coincidentally, a daring young engineer at the company has already designed an (unauthorized) revolutionary new sports car. The president gives him an inch—allowing him to build a prototype of the sports car in the hopes that it will stall an investor rebellion—and the engineer takes a mile. He not only builds the sports car prototype, but also enters it into a competition to prove that it’s a superior design.
At first management is furious. However, as the car exceeds all expectations and begins to attract public attention, they decide to back it. By the end of the film, management has abandoned its policy of producing just one type of car and has adopted the motto, “Give the public what it wants, when it wants it.”
This element of the story is reminiscent of the experience of Ford Motors, which at one point in its history resisted stylistic changes demanded by the consumer, until competition forced it to give in.
In other respects, Johnny Dark is a formula film: car race, love interest, young upstart in opposition to a crotchety member of the older generation, etc. The formula makes it somewhat predictable, but the film has enough of the right spirit to be worth watching. Tony Curtis is likeable in the leading role and is supported by a quality cast in this lighthearted auto drama. Russell Johnson also has a small role as a bespectacled engineer, presaging his future role as “the professor” in Gilligan’s Island.