Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Directed by W. S. Van Dyke (The Thin Man (1934) & San Francisco (1936)) & George Cukor (My Fair Lady (1964)) uncredited with a screenplay co-written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve (1950)) this film is reported to be the one that Myrna Loy fan John Dillinger went to see at a Chicago theater after which he was gunned down by the FBI. Arthur Caesar’s Original Story won an Oscar. It also contains the song “The Bad in Every Man” which later became “Blue Moon”. It was remade with several modifications as Northwest Rangers (1942).

Boyhood pals Jim & Blackie (Mickey Rooney) lose their parents tragically and are adopted by a nice man they know. Jim is nice “straight as an arrow” type of kid; Blackie is always shooting dice and/or trying to scam the other kids out of their money. Fast forward 16 years Jim (William Powell) has earned a law degree; Blackie (Clark Gable) runs an illegal gambling establishment. Blackie’s girlfriend Eleanor (Myrna Loy) is tired of all the gambling wanting Blackie to leave it all marry her and settle down.

Jim and Blackie with Eleanor in tow run into one another at a prize fight & promise to catch up with each other sometime soon. When they try Eleanor is left waiting with Jim while Blackie’s business concerns delay him. After Blackie fails to show in a reasonable amount of time Eleanor and Jim get acquainted she being somewhat wistful of his clean life. When Jim takes Eleanor home in the wee hours he accidentally leaves his overcoat at her place. Blackie finally returns to Eleanor’s and finds Jim’s coat which he likes enough to ask his flunkie Spud (Nat Pendleton) to have duplicated before he returns the original to Jim.

Some time later Jim who is now District Attorney runs into Eleanor who is no longer Blackie’s girl and they begin seeing each other. Meanwhile Blackie and Spud who’ve been unable to collect a gambling debt from Manny Arnold arrive at his hotel room to settle up. When Manny still can’t pay Blackie shoots & kills him but Spud inadvertently leaves behind Blackie’s overcoat. While investigating Arnold’s murder Jim recognizes the coat thinking it’s his own and assumes Blackie had gotten it from Eleanor. Not knowing about the duplicate he calls Blackie into his office. But since Spud had forgotten & never returned Jim’s original to him Blackie is able to have Spud bring it into Jim’s office to clear himself. However Jim warns Blackie that he better keep his nose clean that he won’t hesitate to throw the book at him if he doesn’t. To which Blackie replies he’d be disappointed in Jim if he didn’t.

*** SPOILERS ***

Jim and Eleanor marry and he decides to run for governor. But the Assistant DA who has his own reasons for being upset with Jim decides to try and tarnish Jim’s name by accusing him of letting Blackie off easy in the Arnold murder case because of their friendship. When Eleanor sees Blackie and mentions that she’s worried about the Assistant DA’s actions Blackie kills him in a washroom. However his act was witnessed and Blackie is arrested. Eleanor visits Blackie in prison but he tells her to keep his motive secret from Jim. Blackie is convicted and Jim is responsible for getting him the death penalty. This helps Jim get elected governor. Eleanor is distraught and “spills the beans” pleading with Jim to commute Blackie’s sentence. But “straight as an arrow” Jim won’t do it so Eleanor says she’s leaving him.

A priest (Leo Carrillo) the men have known since they were boys visits Blackie on death row. Jim who has agonized over the situations of Blackie & Eleanor rushes to the prison at the 11th hour telling Blackie that he’s changed his mind and will commute his sentence. But Blackie won’t let him and faces his fate. Later in front of all his colleagues in the State House Jim resigns as governor. Waiting for him outside is Eleanor and they reconcile as the film ends.

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