Written by / 8/06/2012 / No comments / , , , , ,

CLARK GABLE STARS IN MANHATTAN MELODRAMA

year: 1934 rating: ***1/2
It’s difficult not to think of MANHATTAN MELODRAMA as anything other than John Dillinger’s Waterloo...

The bank robbing icon watched this picture at Chicago's Biograph Theater before fatally greeting a bevy of gun-toting G-Men. Beside him was Anna Sage, the Lady in Red, and perhaps, as the movie flickered up on that screen, she related to William Powell’s guilt-ridden District Attorney turned Governor who sends his friend to the electric chair... But that’s skipping ahead, and already the Dillinger lore has encroached this review.

We begin with two youngsters on the wrong side of the tracks. Blackie Gallagher (how can you be anything but a criminal with that name?) and Jim Wade survive a terrible boat accident and, to make a short story shorter, Jim studies hard while Young Blackie (Mickey Rooney) shoots craps on that money-making wide road of excess.

Skip twenty some years later and the boys have completely different trades yet there’s one connection other than the past. Myrna Loy, as Blackie’s reluctant moll, wants out of the rackets. She winds up with Jim and they’re a match made in heaven. The best scenes involve Blackie wielding a gun – Clark Gable plays a gangster with gruff precision while Powell’s idealist do-gooder isn’t preachy or annoying, like these type of stuffed shirts can be in the “crime doesn’t pay” films.

The acting between the three leads is hardly dated; they really seem to know and love each other. And although the slick pace hits a wall once Blackie’s jailed, he walks the Green Mile with the type of confidence that we can only wonder if Dillinger had strolling out the Biograph lobby. Only he didn’t know what was coming...
Ben Johnson as Melvin Purvis outside the Biograph in DILLINGER (1973)
Lawrence Tierney's last laugh as DILLINGER (1945)
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