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  • mik-1913 July 2004
    'Manhattan Melodrama' may not have the stylistic finish to it to make it a great message movie about contemporary 30s issues, but it does go a long way towards that end, and is never less than engaging.

    Clark Gable is the happy-go-lucky gangster Blackie who is being tried for murder by his boyhood best friend Jim, William Powell, a D.A. who has made it to governor of New York because of a murder done by Blackie, unbeknownst to Jim. On top of it all they both love the same woman, Myrna Loy.

    Despite its melodramatic but never overwrought style 'Manhattan Melodrama' has sufficient weight and substance to make itself heard 70 years after the fact. It cuts no convenient corners in the description of the governor's sad plight of having to decide whether his friend should live or die, and it paints a wonderful and believable picture of Loy's character who does what she deems best. Powell delivers a multi-layered performance that has to count amongst his best, and Gable is irrepressible and delightfully amoral as the bad guy we're all rooting for.

    Recommended, but please don't judge it by the first 20 minutes which are rather slow-moving, but still entertaining.
  • Clark Gable and William Powell are boyhood friends who end up on opposite sides of the law in "Manhattan Melodrama," also starring Myrna Loy. Loy is lovely here, as usual, but she doesn't really have much of a role. The film focuses on Gable and Powell. In the first scenes of the film, we see that they are orphaned and taken in by a man who has lost his son in the same fire that killed the boys' friends and family.

    When we see them in present day, Gable is running an illegal gambling joint, leaning on people for money they owe, and dating the Loy character. Powell is in politics. After Loy spends some time with Powell, she decides she'd rather be with him, and eventually they marry, and Powell moves from DA to governor. Gable becomes increasingly ruthless, though the two remain devoted friends.

    There are some melodramatic sections in the film, particularly the beginning and the courtroom scene which contains a very dramatic speech delivered by Powell. The acting is marvelous. Gable is likable as a slick gangster who takes things in stride. His smile lights up the screen. He really had one of the great screen presences - looks, a great voice, and dripping with charm.

    But the really interesting performance is given by Powell. He's not the witty, energetic Thin Man in this, but a very committed and serious, dignified person with a lot on his shoulders. He's totally believable, and he and Gable provide great contrast. Powell's scene at the end of the film is very touching.

    Enjoy the great stars and the story, but don't look for laughs.
  • Well, unusual for me. Perhaps at the time, the circumstances, what have you, it was not so unusual. But for me, watching Clark Gable portray a happy-go-lucky double murderer, who garners tons of sympathy from the audience; it was a first.

    Manhattan Melodrama is a film of dubious and rather interesting morals. Who's the hero? Who's the villain? Childhood friends Jim and Blackie grow up very different men, Jim becomes DA of New York City, while Blackie runs a casino, and performs other unsavory activities. Eventually, their positions force them into conflict, but it's not your typical run-of-the-mill courtroom drama.

    Blackie in most films would be a villain, he is after all a gangster and a murderer, amongst other activities. But here he's played by Clark Gable, about as charming an actor as ever lived, and the movie takes place in the 1930s, when gangster pictures like Little Caesar elevated these types of men into hero roles.

    The picture makes a very blatant message against the heroic vision of gangsters (In a speech by Jim that feels as if the men who controlled the Production Code were standing off screen holding the cue cards for him). But I couldn't help feeling sympathy for the character, after the evil deeds he did. Meanwhile Jim, a hardworking individual who is uncorruptable, comes off as "cold" by the end of the picture. The way this movie sidesteps conventional roles is really interesting.

    The lead woman in the picture, Eleanor, is rather interesting too. Watch how she jumps back and forth and between the men, and for what reasons.

    I don't fully understand this movie, and it's not one of the most exciting films I've ever seen, but it's one of the most interesting ones I've seen in quite a while.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Manhattan Melodrama is a trivial pursuit game all in itself. Consider the number of things it's known for. 1. The only teaming of Clark Gable and William Powell. 2. The first teaming of William Powell and Myrna Loy. 3. A popular song that didn't get popular from this film. 4. A famous gangster being shot to death because he wanted to see this. 5. William Powell's first film under the MGM banner. And I'm sure I might think of a few more later on.

    It's a very dated piece, but made enjoyable because of the skill of its three leads. Two kids, Mickey Rooney and Jimmy Butler who later become Clark Gable and William Powell, are left orphaned as a result of the famous General Slocum disaster in the first years of the 20th century. One works hard, studies hard, and becomes a successful lawyer and prosecutor. The other works hard becoming the kind of man the first one makes a living prosecuting.

    Gable's the gambler and his girl friend is Myrna Loy. Gable is his usual charming self, but with a streak of toughness and nobody crosses him. He runs into Powell at the famous Dempsey-Firpo fight and later Powell runs into Loy. She gets a taste of respectability through him and she likes it. Gable would probably be sore about losing her to anyone, but Powell.

    Powell rises to become governor of the state and Gable gets to the top of his profession, the death house at Sing Sing. This is where the film truly turns into melodrama. Powell is a person of exacting moral standards a bit too exacting for my taste. I can't see how today's audience could accept the course of action he pursues, for just being TEMPTED to commute Gable's sentence.

    Manhattan Melodrama features a song sung by Shirley Ross, The Bad in Every Man. It's a familiar tune, but didn't do anything for the film. Composer Richard Rodgers had faith in his melody however and persuaded his partner Lorenz Hart to try another lyric. He did and Connee Boswell recorded it and made Blue Moon a big hit.

    Of course the legend of the film is that John Dillinger wanted so much to see the film that he came out of hiding. As soon as it was over he got betrayed by one of the women accompanying him and the FBI gunned him down in the streets of Chicago. Manhattan Melodrama entered into American folklore after that.

    I'm not sure today's audience would feel this film was worth even John Dillinger's life. If he wanted to see Gable, Powell, and Loy so badly, he should have waited later in the year for It Happened One Night or The Thin Man.
  • With a cast like this, how can you go wrong? And the film is a delight from beginning to end. Although all the players were great, special kudos to William Powell, whose uncompromising morals cause him to lose almost everything he has. His is a gut-wrenching performance, and the scene in which he addresses the assembly with tears in his eyes to tell of his own "weakness"--wow. It's rare to see Powell in a role with so much complexity and it is a marvelous performance.
  • They didn't name this "Manhatten *Melodrama* for nothing - it's classic melodrama! If you can get past the first fifteen minutes or so, what saves this film is the three leads: William Powell, Clark Gable, and Myrna Loy. As a Myrna Loy/William Powell fan, I love the whole scene from their first meeting, as she flings herself into his taxi, and he thinks she is out to wreck his career by pretending he assaulted her! Clark Gable is great as the charming bad guy, too. Of course, in this story about unpunished crime vs. betraying a friend, nobody ever considers the third way, but then it wouldn't be a melodrama anymore, would it? Anyway, if you enjoy golden oldies or any of the three main actors, it's worth watching.
  • "Melodrama" is right.

    Inside the first eight minutes we've got a ship disaster, a communist riot, and a pre-teen Mickey Rooney loses two sets of parents!

    This isn't one to watch for the tight plotting or realism. Watch this for the spectacular cast. Powell is dapper and urbane. Gable is dangerous and charming. Loy knock's em dead. Mickey Rooney is a riot as the young Gable.

    By the way - This is the movie John Dillinger was walking out of when he was gunned down by the police.

    Also of note : You'll immediately say "Oh - it's that guy," when Nat Pendelton shows up as Spud. He played either a cop or crook in half the gangster pictures ever made.
  • From what I can gather, two main social factors led to the popularity of the gangster genre in the 1930s. The first, and most obvious, was the prevalence of criminals like Al Capone and John Dillinger, who were glorified by the national media. The second was the Great Depression, and how it impacted the traditional notion of the "American dream." Families – regardless of character or social standing – were torn apart amid the economic collapse, and no doubt many ordinary citizens contemplated crime as the route to happiness.

    Films like 'Manhattan Melodrama (1934)' and 'Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)' place great emphasis on the thin line between "good" and "bad" characters, and often the central criminals are lamented as victims of circumstance. For example, James Cagney's Rocky Sullivan and Pat O'Brien's virtuous priest were separated by a matter of metres when the former is condemned to a life of crime. Circumstance, too, drives the fates of the characters in 'Manhattan Melodrama.' As children, both Jim Wade (William Powell) and Blackie Gallagher (Clark Gable) lose their parents in the burning of the steamship SS General Slocum, a true-life disaster caused by gross negligence that cost over 1000 lives. Each child responds to this injustice in their own way: Blackie rebels against the judicial system that betrayed him, whereas Jim enters law in a bid to reform it.

    Whereas Warner Bros. was responsible for most of the decade's gangster films, 'Manhattan Melodrama' was produced by M-G-M, and helmed by W.S. Van Dyke (director of the first four 'Thin Man' films), whose decidedly non-gritty aesthetic style at first seems at odds with the required mood. However, it would be misleading to compare the film with the likes of 'Little Caesar (1931)' and 'Scarface (1932).' Firstly, Hollywood was now working, for the first time, under the active supervision of the Production Code Administration. Also, the studio's intentions for the film were undoubtedly geared towards a higher-brow audience, further suggested by the unintimidating, woman-friendly title.

    Gable's "Blackie" Gallagher is not a paranoid hot-head like Tony Camonte or Rocky Sullivan, and, indeed, remains oddly passive throughout the film. When he does commit murders, it seems to be merely out of an obligation to genre conventions. Even when old friend Jim Wade dramatically demands his execution, Blackie looks on with a detached, amused smirk, doodling idly from the defendant's chair; the expected outburst of emotion never arrives. Instead, the story's central conflict unfolds entirely within the righteous Wade, who must choose between his personal and professional allegiances.

    'Manhattan Melodrama' has achieved some notoriety for being the film that killed John Dillinger, so to speak. The fugitive bank-robber was gunned down by FBI agents as he emerged from a screening at Chicago's Biograph Theatre on July 22, 1934 (clips from the film were recently featured in Michael Mann's 'Public Enemies (2009)'). These curious circumstances can't help but make one ponder what Dillinger had thought of 'Manhattan Melodrama.' Had he, like Blackie, accepted that his time was coming to an end? Did he welcome death over a lifetime of legal persecution? At the very least, he checked out having experienced a very fine addition to the genre.
  • preppy-331 March 2003
    Two boyhood friends (one played by a very young Mickey Rooney) grow up on opposite sides of the law. Clark Gable becomes a criminal--William Powell becomes governor. Myrna Loy loves both.

    This plot is now screamingly familar but, back in 1934, this was original. In fact it won the Best Original Story Oscar for its year. This could have been a real howler but a great cast, tight script and wonderful direction really put it over. Well worth catching--especially for a powerful climatic scene between Powell and Gable. A classic of its type.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A hugely popular film when first released in May 1934, "Manhattan Melodrama" is today historically important for three distinct reasons. It was the first picture to feature the by-now-common story line of two boyhood friends who grow up to become opponents in the realm of criminal justice. It saw the first pairing of William Powell and Myrna Loy, whose chemistry on screen here worked so well that they would ultimately be teamed 14 times together in films. And, of course, it was the last picture seen by the notorious bank robber John Dillinger, who, upon exiting Chicago's Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934, was killed during a gun battle with police and G-men. Today, almost 80 years since its release, the film still retains its impact and wonderful entertainment value, thanks largely to a terrific script and the megawatt star power of its three leads.

    In the film, we meet two young chums, Jim Wade and "Blackie" Gallegher (the latter played by 13-year-old, 14th billed Mickey Rooney). After the sinking of the General Slocum steamship on the East River on June 15, 1904, in which over 1,000 lives were lost, the boys are left orphans, soon taken in by a kindly Jewish man. When their benefactor is killed in a riot shortly thereafter, the boys are left to their own devices. Jim grows up to become the N.Y.C. D.A. and ultimately N.Y. state governor; the personification of moral rectitude, as played by William Powell. Blackie, on the other hand, as played by Clark Gable (here just a few months after the February 1934 release of "It Happened One Night"), grows up to become an underworld figure and professional gambler. Strangely enough, the two remain staunch friends, although trouble does loom when Blackie's moll, Eleanor Packer (yes, Myrna Loy), throws him over and marries Wade. And then things become even more problematic, when Blackie kills a man and D.A. Wade must prosecute the case and find the killer....

    Harking back to Dillinger, I must say that if you are ever given the choice as to what your last movie will be before being executed, you could do a lot worse than "Manhattan Melodrama." All three stars are given ample opportunities to shine here: Gable is extremely likable, his faithfulness to his old buddy never wavering; Powell gives two tremendous speeches, one in the courtroom as he urges for the death penalty for his old friend, the other in front of the State Assembly; and Loy is just as sexy and beautiful as can be. The film's script just sparkles (the picture won an Oscar for Best Original Story), and the events depicted move along briskly and with not a bit of flab. A quick check of the names behind the camera might convince potential viewers of what a class production "Manhattan Melodrama" is. The film was produced by the legendary showman David O. Selznick, cowritten by the famed Joseph L. Mankiewicz, lensed by one of Hollywood's foremost cinematographers, James Wong Howe, and features a tune, "The Bad In Every Man," by Rodgers & Hart. (Lorenz Hart would later rewrite the lyrics and turn it into the familiar standard "Blue Moon"!) Not to mention the crackerjack direction of W.S. Van Dyke, who would go on to helm four of the six "Thin Man" films starring Powell and Loy, and three films with Gable, including "San Francisco." Perfect entertainment package that the film is, it also offers the viewer a trip to Harlem's Cotton Club, a hockey game at Madison Square Garden AND a horse race at Belmont (during which the boys get out of Manhattan for a while, for an afternoon in Queens). Plus, we are also given some very amusing comedic relief, thanks to the antics of one of Blackie's henchmen, Spud (played by Nat Pendleton), and his dim-witted galpal Annabelle (Isabel Jewell). What most viewers will most appreciate, though, I feel, is the solid camaraderie that Blackie and Wade enjoy, although life has set them in opposition. Indeed, Blackie's love for Wade never flags, even while he is sitting on Death Row. And I'd like to think that as Dillinger felt the first bullet enter his body, he flashed back to Blackie's Death Row words: "Die the way you lived, all of a sudden. That's the way to go. Don't drag it out. Living like that doesn't mean a thing...."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a formulaic film that is very reminiscent of many of Clark Gable's films of the era (particularly SAN FRANCISCO) as well as the crime dramas that made Warner Brothers so popular in the 1930s--though this film IS from MGM. If the film had different stars, such as Jimmy Cagney or John Garfield, you would have just assumed it was a Warner project because they made so many similar gangster films--ones where the mobster is glib and carefree but ultimately doomed to pay for his crimes. Now to me, being formulaic isn't a bad thing at all. I love watching these type films and could do so again and again because they are so entertaining. After all, it's hard NOT to enjoy a film starring Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy--they were dynamite actors and professionals. Sure, they often tended to play the same type of character again and again, but you grew to love them and look forward to this because the films were so consistently good and exciting. Plus, as always, the writing, direction and production values were top-notch for the period. This predictability and consistency make this a very, very good film but also, unfortunately, keep it from getting a really high score because there isn't a whole lot new about the film as well.

    Gable plays a professional gambler and killer named, what else, "Blackie" (big surprise, huh). His childhood pal, William Powell, is the district attorney who eventually runs for governor. In SAN FRANCISCO this similar type role was played by Spencer Tracy--but the formula remained intact. Myrna Loy is the woman who loves them both. When Blackie kills a man as a favor to Powell (who NEVER would have approved--he was just too decent in the film), Powell is faced with the dilemma of prosecuting him! Sure it's predictable and almost impossible to believe, but this doesn't matter too much due to the film's quality throughout--that is up until the end. The film SHOULD have ended with Gable's final scene but instead has an ending that immediately follows it that just seems tacked on and unsatisfying. The movie should have ended about five minutes sooner.

    The film is a must see for fans of Hollywood's Golden Age or fans of Gable or fans of gangster films. All others will still probably enjoy it, but might also find the plot elements a bit hard to believe.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Even though there are elements in this film that will be familiar to those who enjoy crime dramas of the 1930s, not to mention some similarities with "San Francisco" (starring Gable), this film is a top notch production with superb acting and a very good script.

    Clark Gable here played...well...Clark Gable. A man who could take it. Even when it meant that his lifelong friend would be the prosecutor who would send him to the electric chair. Even though that friend, later the governor, would not commute his sentence as a matter of principle. I mentioned "San Francisco" (1936); in that film his character was also named Blackie; and there was a conflict between the somewhat bad Blackie there and another man (in that case Spencer Tracy instead of William Powell) and a sort of battle of wills as to what kind of woman she (Jeanette MacDonald instead of Myrna Loy) would become.

    This is one of William Powell's better roles...and he usually was wonderful! Here he plays a man of principle...even when that principle shakes him to his core. It's a very serious role, and he plays it with dignity. As much fun as he was in films such as "The Thin Man", this was a particular stellar role for him.

    And, this was his first pairing with Myrna Loy, and -- as usual -- Loy's performance is top notch.

    The only other performance here of particular note is that by a very young Mickey Rooney. Although hardly as polished as his later portrayals, one can see why he became a star.

    One thing that really caught my eye...or should I say ear...was a song with very strange lyrics that later was transformed into "Blue Moon" by Rogers and Lorenz Hart.

    I would guess that MGM didn't realize what a gem they had here. It was extremely popular at the box office. And, it has the distinction of being the film that John Dillinger saw and was subsequently shot to death by the FBI after leaving the theater.

    This is a superb film, and I'll give it a rare "8". And, I'm going to Amazon now to see if it is available on DVD.
  • utgard1416 December 2013
    Solid MGM crime drama that is best remembered today as the film John Dillinger saw just before being gunned down by federal agents. The story is a simple one about two men (William Powell, Clark Gable) who grew up together but are on opposite sides of the law. Myrna Loy also stars as the woman initially with Blackie (Gable) who falls for and marries Jim (Powell). Great director and trio of stars with fantastic chemistry elevate this above otherwise banal plot. Young Blackie is played by, of all people, Mickey Rooney! Must've been one hell of a puberty. Also of note is the song "The Bad in Every Man," sung by Shirley Ross here. The song would later be given new lyrics by Lorenz Hart and become the classic standard "Blue Moon."
  • Clark Gable plays a really sweet, caring guy who just happens to be a top mobster and cold-blooded killer. William Powell, less than month before his first appearance as wealthy gumshoe Nick Charles in "The Thin Man," is the uncorruptible Manhattan DA who saved Gable's life when they were kids. And Myrna Loy, less than a month before she first appeared as wealthy gumshoe-ette Nora Charles, is the Woman Who Loves Them Both.

    Gable finds himself in a quandary: should he let old buddy Powell lose the big election over a dirty lie? Or should he risk the chair to help him?

    Decisions, decisions.

    How times have changed: a chiseler who's borrowed a bundle from Gable pleads, "I thought I could pay, Blackie! But I ain't got the dough! Please lemme have just a little more time! A couple more days!"

    Gable snarls, "I'll give you more time! You got two months! You'll pay then...or else!"

    Wow! Two months with no penalty! You can't a get a deal like that from your own bank! That's the kind of movie this is.

    So how can it be as good as it is? Gable, Loy, and Powell. Like so many old-time stars, G and P learned early on how to play just one character each (let's call them Rhett and Nick) and they played them to perfection till they quit making movies. Loy was a little more flexible (check out The Best Years of Our Lives), but here she is, Nora Charles before "Nora" was even born.

    Nat Pendleton plays one of his trademark goons, and in a small role the Harlowesque Muriel Evans shines, almost literally, as Tootsie.
  • Excellent performances and direction combine with an exemplary script. Like all good fables, this story runs far deeper than its apparently simple premise. The same can be said of the fine acting from all players. The film explores the notion of nobility from highly contrasted perspectives and it offers plenty to discuss beyond the closing credits. Well worth catching!
  • Melodramatic, yes, but this movie has some meat to it that I wasn't expecting. Clark Gable and William Powell play childhood friends who grow up to be a hood and a respected judge, respectively. Both have a thing for Myrna Loy, but the expected rivalry for which this plot would seem to be tailor made never comes. Instead, there's a refreshingly serious story about the boundaries of loyalty and friendship. When Gable is accused of murder and sentenced to the death penalty, it is Powell's duty to decide whether or not to let his personal feelings for Gable interfere with his practice of legal justice. Loy pops up throughout, but, unfortunately, she's window dressing. (Side note: My wife and I decided to have a Myrna Loy theme to our New Year's movie night, and rented this and "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer." We couldn't have picked two Myrna Loy movies that do a worse job of showing off Myrna Loy). No, this movie belongs to the men, and the whole affair is better than I expected it to be.

    Grade: B+
  • There are already lots of comments about this one on the website but I just wanted to weigh in on it because I enjoyed it so much. I couldn't find a real flaw with the picture - Direction, acting, editing, photography, storyline all class A. Also couldn't find fault with the pacing.

    I was particularly impressed by the stellar job turned in by William Powell, showing more depth and sensitivity than in most of his films, especially in the climactic scene. And could anyone but Clark Gable make you root for a bad guy the way he could? I felt this was a gripping and compelling film from start to finish.

    I feel the picture is underrated and is better than the present 7 it has received. Also feel it was another 'miss' by Leonard Maltin, who misses from time to time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Assistant director: Lesley Selander. Music editor: W. Donn Hayes. Sound recording: Douglas Shearer. Producer: David O. Selznick. Executive producer: William Randolph Hearst. Copyright 3 May 1934 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. A Cosmopolitan picture. New York opening at both the Capitol and Loew's Metropolitan, 4 May 1934. U.S. release: 6 May 1934. U.K. release: 27 October 1934. London opening at the Empire, 24 May 1934. Australian release: 19 September 1934. 9 reels. 93 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: Two orphan boys are adopted by a kindly Jewish tailor. One grows up to become assistant district attorney, the other a gangster.

    NOTES: Academy Award, Arthur Caesar, Original Story (defeating Hide- Out by Mauri Grashin and The Richest Girl in the World by Norman Krasna).

    Shooting commenced 12 March 1934 and finished 3 April 1934 (one day ahead of schedule). Five days of re-takes were then directed by George Cukor and photographed by Oliver T. Marsh.

    Negative cost: $355,000. Gross domestic rentals: $770,000.

    COMMENT: Fast-paced, brilliantly directed melodrama. Van Dyke's stylish attention to detail (the way Gable throws the key away; the lights dimming off in the prison corridor), his mastery of crowd scenes (the stairway to the fight — before and after) and expertise with set- pieces (the excursion fire; the two murders) have never been better realized than here. He receives a big assist from the clipped film editing of Ben Lewis. The dialogue is witty ("Thanks for returning my coat. Admittedly, it was a rather roundabout way") and realistic ("Mr. Wade is late. We will start without him."), a credit to screenwriters Garrett and Mankiewicz.

    The photography of Jimmy Wong Howe is also a major asset, though he tends to photograph Gable and Loy at Powell's expense. The special effects by Slavko Vorkapich are most effective, the sets contrive to look both attractive and realistic. There's also a smart song by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

    OTHER VIEWS: It is certainly a melodrama and yet it is put across with a great deal of style and flair, well acted, expansively produced and its implied social comment more the type of film that might be expected of Warner Bros. than MGM. A particularly trenchant attack on the New York police force who are presented on the one hand as murdering conscienceless thugs and on the other as cheerful grifters and grafters. Morally, it's quite daring for MGM too with Myrna Loy's sassy, self-possessed gangster's moll and Clark Gable as the breezy, charming, lying, cheating, murdering thug. One can certainly detect Mankiewicz's hand in the smart dialog.

    Comic relief Nat Pendleton and his equally unfunny moll, let us hope, owe their existence to the pen of Mr. Garrett. The hokey priest so sententiously played by Leo Carillo (fortunately his part is small) also smells of Garrett's ink, but there is a fine music score. And I love the atmospheric photography by James Wong Howe. Arthur Caesar's original story was to be re-used extensively by Hollywood. He deserved his Academy Award many times over! – John Howard Reid writing as George Addison.
  • Myrna Loy, who was often paired with William Powell or Clark Gable, is paired with both in "Manhattan Melodrama". Gable plays Blackie--a gangster/casino owner with a sense of honor. Powell plays Jim--a childhood friend of Blackie, who, due to shared tragedies, becomes his spiritual brother, but finds success as a D.A. and politician.

    The film covers a lot of ground and the early scenes move at breakneck speed to bring the story to the adult lives of the main characters. Even then, the film feels like a condensed version of a film with more depth. Loy, as the love interest, holds her own and Powell is solid as the dutiful public servant, but Gable steals the show with his nuanced performance as anti-hero.

    The coincidences in this story stack up into a nifty pile of improbabilities, but it's a simple story at heart. Two "brothers" grow up on opposite sides of the law, but they still feel devotion to each other. Really, this is a love story. The most melodramatic parts are at the end of the film, when inescapable consequences allow for demonstrations of profound love.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Manhattan Melodrama' is the kind of film that has been referenced so often to the point where it's kind of become a cliché. The 30's Gangster picture is really one of the great joys I have in film. All of them generally follow the same plot line, an anti-hero gangster lives large on the heels of prohibition but eventually the world comes crashing down on them and they are forced to reconcile for their sins via the Hays Code. 'Manhattan Melodrama' is exactly what it's title suggests, all these gangster pictures were melodramas and sometimes I love that sweet sap.

    The only thing really different about Melodrama that distinguishes it from other gangster pictures of the time is that it deals with a friendship with two characters on different sides of the law. It takes this storyline very seriously and it works in large part thanks to the performances of both Powell and his counter part who is of course the suave and cool Clark Gable as the gangster Blackie Gallagher. I wished the film had dealt more with the deterioration of this friendship. But you can't cast Gable as someone who is a complete villain and so while Blackie does villainous things he never quite crosses the threshold and always loves his surrogate brother Jim Wade. Powell is good as Wade and I like how the character is written as a man with an insanely strict moral compass who has a friend in Blackie.

    The biggest thing I wanted to see though was these friends being forced to reconcile their natures with their friendship. These two men can't be friends and love each other in the two worlds they live in. The film really comes to an unsatisfying conclusion largely because of the lack of emotion involved. Blackie agrees with the charges against him and his crimes and is willing to pay for them with his life because of his love for Wade and Wade tries to fend off emotion and execute Blackie as Governor because of his moral code. Never is there a moment where these two ask "Why are we friends and why did it have to come to this?" And if Blackie truly does die because of his love for Wade then having Wade resign as Governor truly ruins his death. If this was a story about dear friendship to the bitter end wouldn't it be more poignant if Blackie made a sacrifice? These characters let everything play out without trying to skew destiny or question it.

    Why is this a fun picture? Gable. I could see this very easily being forgettable hadn't he been here. Gable might just have been the actor with the most charisma and presence in the long history of motion pictures. The picture works a lot because of Gable who is just so darn interesting and cool as Blackie who isn't really that great a character. The epitome of Gable's presence has to be Blackie's last scenes before his execution. He is really delivering dime story philosophies of life which as written are pretty stupid but as delivered by Clark Gable are amazing. It is just really really fun to see Gable dressed up as the gangster and go through the wiseguy talk in an MGM sound picture no less! What do I think of the film overall? For those who love gangster films it's a must see. It delivers on everything you come to expect and it comes from really one of the most fun performers to watch in film. It's a fun movie.
  • Famous, as about every film buff knows, for being the movie in which infamous gangster John Dillinger and "The Lady In Red" exited from and Dillinger was gunned down shortly after leaving the theater.

    The real-life occurrence is far more exciting than the movie. The story was not unlike others made during the '30s and '40s about two pals growing up together and one winds up a gangster and the other a priest or a lawman. In this case, it was a lawman played by William Powell. The gangster is played by Clark Gable. As a boy, Mickey Rooney plays him. Add Myrna Loy to the mix and you an interesting cast, but the story was really not that much.
  • Manhattan Melodrama (1935)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    MGM crime drama about two friends who go on the opposite sides of the law. One becomes a gangster (Clark Gable) the other a D.A. (William Powell) and the two's common ground, a woman (Myrna Loy). The story of two friends ending up on opposite sides was warn out by 1935 and this here brings down the film. Both the gangster side and the drama side are pretty bland for the times and this too takes away from the film but there's no doubt that the three leads make it more entertaining than it deserves. Gable is terrific in his role and his scenes with Powell are certainly energetic. Loy steals the show as the woman who loves both men. At 93-minutes the film goes on a bit too long but it's worth at least one viewing for the cast. Mickey Rooney plays Gable's character as a child. This film is a part of American history since it was the movie John Dillinger was watching when the police killed him afterwards.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Exaggerated emotions, interpersonal conflicts and stereotypical characters" is one definition of "melodrama." All are present in this concoction, the work of three writers, one of whom being a young Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

    Add to the mix "spurious ethics," and that describes "Manhattan Melodrama." That this was a David O. Selznick production means top notch production values and fine acting.

    One can't go wrong with Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy in the leads, and they all do commendable work. Powell was seldom given so complex a part to render, and he proves he is indeed a fine actor.

    This trio makes everything quite believable, obscurring some mighty dubious legal scruples and political values incorporated into the proceedings.

    One wonders what Dillinger might have thought of this, being gunned down moments after Gable's "killer Blackie" was "fried" in the chair.

    One also notes the Richard Rodgers songs, " The Bad in Every Man" which figures prominently here. Title not familiar but tune is--Dick recycled it years later, metamorphasizing it into the legendary hit, "Blue Moon."
  • Warning: Spoilers
    No need to recap the plot or the Dillinger sidelight. You might think that with the slick production, energetic direction, and A-grade cast, the results would be A-grade. But they're not. The script badly compromises itself by insisting that gangster Blackie (Gable) remain preternaturally steadfast to his friendship with DA Wade.

    Because of that, we get Blackie's (Gable) ludicrous behavior in the death house, where he treats impending death as something of a joke. After all, if Blackie betrays any note of even anxiety in the face of death, Wade might be blamed for causing it. That's because it's he, the DA, who sentenced Blackie to the ultimate punishment. But, of course, Wade relents at the last moment, wanting to commute Blackie's sentence on the basis of their friendship. However, that would betray his oath of office, so Blackie refuses the commutation, knowing it would discredit his District Attorney friend. As a result, we get more of the utterly ridiculous death house scene that Blackie laughs his way through so as not to compromise Wade in any fashion. At least, one sober note in the face of 20,000 volts would certainly have helped plausibility, but we get none. To me, at least, this undermines the movie's overall credibility, ode to friendship or not. Looks to me as though MGM wanted to put their budding stars in the best possible light regardless of damage to the story. But undermine an otherwise well-produced story they did.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was on the lookout for this film after watching 2009's "Public Enemies", a story about 1930's gangster John Dillinger, who met his end coming out of a theater after watching "Manhattan Melodrama". I wonder if he might have been thinking about the end Blackie Gallagher (Clark Gable) came to following a life of crime. At least Blackie saw it coming, Dillinger got it in the back.

    I've recently been on a William Powell/Myrna Loy kick, but this one was more of a Powell/Gable flick. Their characters grew up as boyhood friends and wound up drifting to opposite sides of the tracks. I thought it a somewhat ironic casting decision to have the young Mickey Rooney portray the juvenile Blackie; try to picture that working out? Loy's character is Eleanor Packer, determined to opt out of Blackie's world for a more traditional life of home and family, and eventually goes for Blackie's best pal. When we meet him, Jim Wade (Powell) is an up and comer on the way to the district attorney's office with political aspirations of becoming governor of New York. When I stopped to think about it, I had to wonder if that would have been any kind of a better life for compulsive homebody Eleanor. The difference between the careers of a gangster and a politician are a matter of degree.

    Aside from the 'melodrama' aspects of the story, I was fascinated by an early scene when Blackie and Jim were still young boys. While aboard a riverboat, it suddenly catches fire and there's a scene of a man on fire fleeing out of a cabin and jumping into the river. Considering the era, I though that was a pretty wild special effect to attempt without getting anyone seriously injured or killed. I wouldn't doubt if that was the very earliest one.

    Well I don't know if there's a whole lot that's credible with the story even if Gable and Powell look like they're pulling it off. The gambit with the overcoat left behind at a murder scene and a duplicate to look just like it probably wouldn't have fooled the original owner, and later on, when Spud (Nat Pendleton) tried to take the rap for killing Snow (Thomas E. Jackson) to save Blackie from the chair defied any kind of plausibility. That's just a couple of examples, but hey, they got the date of the Dempsey-Firpo fight correct (9/14/1923), and if you didn't know it, Dempsey won it with a knockout in the second round. The way it plays in the story, you'd think it was over after the first round. Spud's ditzy gal Tootsie (Muriel Evans) might have had a good idea about a refund because the match didn't go for the advertised fifteen rounds. Think about that one for a while.

    The story reminded me a bit of another movie that came out four years later. James Cagney and Pat O'Brien played similar characters of boyhood chums who grew up and wound up going separate ways in "Angels With Dirty Faces". For a while I thought Gable's character would go out begging for that elusive commutation that Wade was so reluctant to grant, but instead he encouraged the Governor to stick to his guns and let him face the music. Which made the ending a bit less melodramatic than Cagney's, one in which it's left to the viewer's imagination whether he died a 'yellow rat' or not. For my money, 'Angels' is the better picture, and as far as I know, it didn't get a real life gangster killed.
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