Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

93 mins | Drama | 4 May 1934

Director:

W. S. Van Dyke

Producer:

David O. Selznick

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

Ben Lewis

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

A working title of the film was Three Men . DV lists a preview running time of 100 min. A HR news item on 5 Apr 1934 noted that U.S.C. football star "Cotton" Warburton was to make his film acting debut in the picture, however, his participation in the released film has not been confirmed. According to another HR news item, after the 14 Apr 1934 preview showing, George Cukor was assigned to direct additional scenes for the picture because W. S. Van Dyke had already begun working on his next assignment, The Thin Man (see below). The song performed by Shirley Ross in "The Cotton Club" sequence was originally written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for Jean Harlow to sing in the film Hollywood Party (see above), and was called "Prayer." Neither Harlow nor the song appeared in the released version of Hollywood Party , and Hart wrote new lyrics for the version included in Manhattan Melodrama . According to a modern source, Jack Robbins of M-G-M's music publishing company reportedly liked the tune so much that he asked Hart to write more commercially appealing lyrics. The result became the song's more familiar words under its final title, "Blue Moon." The song was copyrighted under that title in Dec 1934. According to information in the file on the film contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library, the film was approved for exhibition in 1934 by ... More Less

A working title of the film was Three Men . DV lists a preview running time of 100 min. A HR news item on 5 Apr 1934 noted that U.S.C. football star "Cotton" Warburton was to make his film acting debut in the picture, however, his participation in the released film has not been confirmed. According to another HR news item, after the 14 Apr 1934 preview showing, George Cukor was assigned to direct additional scenes for the picture because W. S. Van Dyke had already begun working on his next assignment, The Thin Man (see below). The song performed by Shirley Ross in "The Cotton Club" sequence was originally written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for Jean Harlow to sing in the film Hollywood Party (see above), and was called "Prayer." Neither Harlow nor the song appeared in the released version of Hollywood Party , and Hart wrote new lyrics for the version included in Manhattan Melodrama . According to a modern source, Jack Robbins of M-G-M's music publishing company reportedly liked the tune so much that he asked Hart to write more commercially appealing lyrics. The result became the song's more familiar words under its final title, "Blue Moon." The song was copyrighted under that title in Dec 1934. According to information in the file on the film contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library, the film was approved for exhibition in 1934 by the Hays Office, although some objections were raised by the office in connection with the riot during the Leon Trotsky speech early in the film and a general anti-police attitude in the picture. Specific objections were raised prior to production to any inference that Myrna Loy's character was a "moll" or "mistress." The Hays Office requested that her character appear to be a "sweetheart." They also suggested that any references to the splitting of "Blackie's" trousers before his execution and the dimming of lights during the execution were "censorable" in most territories. Although objections were also raised about the line of dialogue in which just prior to his execution "Blackie" orders a black lace nightgown for his girl friend, saying "Black for me and lace for the next guy," the line was retained. After the film's preview, Will H. Hays sent a memo to Joseph I. Breen in the office in Los Angeles and said that the way Gable spoke the line it sounded like "Black for me and lays for the next guy," causing considerable laughing in the theater. Hays added in the memo: "This has gone now, but it shows how careful we have to be [in the future]." When the picture was re-issued in 1937, it was issued a Purity Seal and was accepted without eliminations in most states and territories. The picture was one of M-G-M's biggest hits of 1934 and appeared on several "ten best" lists. It marked the first time that Loy appeared onscreen with either Gable or William Powell, with whom she made numerous pictures throughout the next decade, and the only time in which Gable and Powell co-starred. In a memo written by producer David O. Selznick, reprinted in a modern source, Selznick stated that he had brought Powell to M-G-M over the protests of other executives at the studio, and said that the film, which cost very little to produce was "an enormous moneymaker." Arthur Caesar won an Academy Award for Best Story for the film. According to modern sources, corroborated by photographs from contemporary newspapers, notorious gangster John Dillinger was shot by FBI agents on 22 Jul 1934 in front of the Chicago movie theater in which he had just seen this film. Gable appeared on M-G-M's Good News radio program on 5 May 1938 to recreate the character in an abridged version of the story. Manhattan Melodrama was remade by M-G-M in 1942 under the title Northwest Rangers , directed by Joseph Newman and starring James Craig and William Lundigan. That film had a Canadian setting. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Apr 34
p. 3.
Film Daily
2 May 34
p. 7.
HF
31 Mar 31
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Apr 34
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 34
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 38
p. 4.
Motion Picture Daily
20 Apr 34
p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald
28 Apr 34
p.31.
New York Times
5 May 34
p. 14.
Variety
8 May 34
p. 5.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
William N. Bailey
John M. Bleifer
James C. Eagles
Don Brody
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Cosmopolitan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Fill-In dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Ward
SOUND
Rec dir
Syncronization
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Bad in Every Man (Blue Moon)," music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Three Men
Release Date:
4 May 1934
Production Date:
mid March--early April 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Copyright Date:
3 May 1934
Copyright Number:
LP4682
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
93
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Blackie Gallagher and Jim Wade lose their parents when the General Slocum sinks in New York harbor, but they are rescued by Father Joe. Because he has lost his own son, kindly Poppa Rosen takes the boys in, but a few years later he, too, is killed, trampled by police horses used to break up a riot against the Russian agitator Leon Trotsky. While Blackie grows up gambling and playing, Jim studies hard and becomes an attorney. During the 1920s, Blackie runs a gambling club while Jim has been elected district attorney. Blackie worships Jim, even though they are on opposite sides of the law. When Blackie's mistress Eleanor meets Jim, she is also impressed, and tries to convince Blackie to stop gambling and settle down with her. He lets her go, not wanting to change his life, and wishes Jim luck when he marries Eleanor some months later. After gambler Manny Arnold is shot, suspicion rests on Blackie. Because Spud, their childhood pal, has accidentally left Jim's coat at the scene of the crime, Blackie has Spud bring an exact duplicate that he has had his tailor make to Jim, thus mistakenly convincing Jim that Blackie is innocent. Soon Jim runs for governor, but his assistant, Richard Snow, tries to pressure him by indicating that the Arnold case makes Jim look like he is mixed up with murderers. Eleanor tells Blackie about it and Blackie murders Snow in a men's room, unaware that a man sitting outside is not blind, as he pretends, and reports Blackie's crime to the police. During the gubernatorial campaign, Jim must ... +


Blackie Gallagher and Jim Wade lose their parents when the General Slocum sinks in New York harbor, but they are rescued by Father Joe. Because he has lost his own son, kindly Poppa Rosen takes the boys in, but a few years later he, too, is killed, trampled by police horses used to break up a riot against the Russian agitator Leon Trotsky. While Blackie grows up gambling and playing, Jim studies hard and becomes an attorney. During the 1920s, Blackie runs a gambling club while Jim has been elected district attorney. Blackie worships Jim, even though they are on opposite sides of the law. When Blackie's mistress Eleanor meets Jim, she is also impressed, and tries to convince Blackie to stop gambling and settle down with her. He lets her go, not wanting to change his life, and wishes Jim luck when he marries Eleanor some months later. After gambler Manny Arnold is shot, suspicion rests on Blackie. Because Spud, their childhood pal, has accidentally left Jim's coat at the scene of the crime, Blackie has Spud bring an exact duplicate that he has had his tailor make to Jim, thus mistakenly convincing Jim that Blackie is innocent. Soon Jim runs for governor, but his assistant, Richard Snow, tries to pressure him by indicating that the Arnold case makes Jim look like he is mixed up with murderers. Eleanor tells Blackie about it and Blackie murders Snow in a men's room, unaware that a man sitting outside is not blind, as he pretends, and reports Blackie's crime to the police. During the gubernatorial campaign, Jim must try Blackie for murder. Though convicted, Blackie is still proud of Jim's honesty, and is happy when Jim is elected governor. Eleanor pleads with Jim to pardon Blackie, but he refuses, even after she tells him that Blackie killed Snow to help him. Jim changes his mind after she leaves him though and visits Blackie, but Blackie says that he would rather be electrocuted than get life in prison. After Blackie's death, Jim resigns as governor and Eleanor embraces him after he leaves the state assembly. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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