City for Conquest - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

City for Conquest Reviews

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½ April 12, 2016
I'm unashamedly a James Cagney enthusiast--in fact, he's my very favourite actor (like me, he's at least part-Irish, and he's more versatile than Orson Welles), so yes, I tend to be overly generous when I'm watching his films. But I really enjoyed this gangster/boxing hybrid film from the early 40's that, not only sported great acting by Cagney but also had wonderful performances by Ann Sheridan (I'm rather fond of redheads too), Anthony Quinn and a rare acting role for top-notch director Elia Kazan. Yes, it was melodramatic, a tearjerker and overly predictable--people talk about those qualities as if they were bad things.

Also being an aficionado of many types of music, particularly jazz and classical, I found it highly compelling of the filmmakers to utilize music as a way of communicating the inexpressible (the trials and tribulations, dreams and pitfalls). Highly recommended for anyone who likes seeing filmmakers think outside of the box for once, and dare to try something different. Especially if you love Cagney and classic cinema as much as I do, I highly doubt you'll be disappointed.
½ April 12, 2016
I'm unashamedly a James Cagney enthusiast--in fact, he's my very favourite actor (like me, he's at least part-Irish, and he's more versatile than Orson Welles), so yes, I tend to be overly generous when I'm watching his films. But I really enjoyed this gangster/boxing hybrid film from the early 40's that, not only sported great acting by Cagney but also had wonderful performances by Ann Sheridan (I'm rather fond of redheads too), Anthony Quinn and a rare acting role for top-notch director Elia Kazan. Yes, it was melodramatic, a tearjerker and overly predictable--people talk about those qualities as if they were bad things.

Also being an aficionado of many types of music, particularly jazz and classical, I found it highly compelling of the filmmakers to utilize music as a way of communicating the inexpressible (the trials and tribulations, dreams and pitfalls). Highly recommended for anyone who likes seeing filmmakers think outside of the box for once, and dare to try something different. Especially if you love Cagney and classic cinema as much as I do, I highly doubt you'll be disappointed.
½ November 6, 2015
I showed this movie recently to our men's group. This film has a good musical score and three careers to focus on. It is a movie with "Middle Class" appeal. The ups and downs, and the great Gershwin style culmination are entertaining, and bring the audience to be involved emotionally. Cagney reminds you of "Public Enemy" while walking the streets, but the real lesson here is the hazards of choosing money over love in the case of Ann Sheridan, and the consequences of fame. But the film never fails on hope.
May 30, 2015
well acted but ploddingly paced
January 21, 2013
For a guy who eventually makes his living as a prizefighter, Danny Kenny is one of the gentlest heroes James Cagney brought to the screen. His greatest pleasures are found in the girl friend he has from the neighborhood, Ann Sheridan, and in listening to the music creations of his brother Ed, played by Arthur Kennedy in his film debut. Kennedy has ambitions to be a serious composer and Sheridan has ambitions herself to get out of the Lower East Side of New York via show business as a dancer.

My suggestion is that when you watch City for Conquest do it alone, because if you do it alone you might more easily give way to tears at Arthur Kennedy's dedication to his symphony to his brother.
½ August 25, 2012
Fine Cagney boxing picture that features Elia Kazan, director of "On the Waterfront", "East of Eden" and many other classics, in a rare acting role. It could have been a classic if it had a little more grit and a little less pretescious ness.
August 19, 2012
in "city for conquest", james cagney gives a hell of a performance. he brings a good amount of welcomed humor as well as the necessary emotions required for such a role. i found this film to be really entertaining, ang was on the edge of my seat during the big fight scene.
½ August 17, 2012
What a sad sad sad film. It's well shot and well played, and there's never a dull moment. Though the film does play into melodrama during the third act, the real life situations and down to earth storytelling keeps the film from getting hurt too badly by a couple of cheap shots.
August 14, 2012
paired down book makes good movie
August 11, 2012
Cagney as a boxer. Another great Cagney film !!!!!
July 23, 2012
An OK tough guy movie, a chronicle about a group of people starting from their childhoods and following them through the rise and fall in life. Cagney is a boxer with high pride, Ann Sheridan is his girl that slowly moves away, and one interesting casting, Elia Kazan as Googie, a rare acting role. It's pretty forgettable compared to a lot of the tough guy films of the time, but the punchy dialogue keeps it alive.
½ July 22, 2012
Well polished Warner Brothers fare, A list all the way, with a moving James Cagney as a boxer with a heart of gold. Top melodrama from the height of the studio system.
½ February 8, 2012
This odd James Cagney movie features a magical hobo narrating the life story of a reluctant boxer's spectacular career. Besides fighting he spends his time attempting to woo his childhood sweetheart as she pursues a career as a professional dancer. Things get even weirder when the camera focuses on the boxer's brother; a George Gershwin-esque jazz writer who's struggling to attain notice as a symphonic composer. As one can guess, the disparate elements of this film don't hold together all that well.
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
December 3, 2011
Good film with James Cagney in the lead. A boxer who is a good man just trying to earn a living as a boxer(but retires due to partial blindness), has a close girlfriend who betrays the Cagney character and then goes back to him for forgiveness, Cagney's character--a brother who is musically talented, and the corruption of American boxing. The film drags when Cagney's character's brother plays that long orchestra concert and then makes that long speech dedicating the music to the Cagney character. That deserves to be elsewhere and it drags the picture since it is not needed. It is not needed because, in a way one of the least few characters is now focused and should be focused more on Cagney. The ending is typical Hollywood stuff but that's what audiences at that partucular time would expect, since it's a studio picture produced by Warner Bros...
flixsterman
Super Reviewer
April 8, 2011
Ann Sheridan is on a quest for fame and fortune. Jimmy Cagney is on a quest for Ann Sheridan. A terrific little rags to riches to rags story replete with music and boxing and a dancing Anthony Quinn.
Super Reviewer
September 29, 2010
I love these old boxer movies, Cagney is perfect for this part too. I loved this movie it's really dramatic and exciting. I highly recommend it.
August 26, 2010
How many of you guys love an "underdog.." This film is just about that...an, underdog. James Cagney and Ann Sheridan are great in this film about a boxer who get's a raw-deal. But even when the chips are down, he never ever gives up or looses faith. It's a great film that all of you guys need to see...Njoy!!!
½ July 9, 2010
Hmmm...there is something about this story that bugs me. It could be me just reading way too much into this story and perceiving a "message" where none exists. I admit CITY FOR CONQUEST is an entertaining film to watch and I'm sure it was meant to be that...but still, I just have this nagging feeling that the writers were making a statement - albeit a subtle one - about "traditional family values". Bear with me and I'll try to explain:

I'm trying to think if James Cagney ever played a more decent guy than he does here in CITY FOR CONQUEST. Sure, he's played the tough guy with a heart of gold before - but never with a bigger heart than he does here, I bet. It's one of the main points of the story as pointed out by a bum (Frank Craven) who acts as a kind of Jiminy Cricket-like narrator to the film. He is first seen admiring the New York City skyline from the deck of the Williamsburg bridge. The bum is roused from his reverie by a policeman (yep, that's Ward Bond under that uniform in an uncredited bit role) who tells the bum that he can't loiter there and must move along. The bum explains that despite New York being a vast and seemingly cold & impersonal city (as exemplified by the policeman) - underneath it all beats a warm and caring heart.

The bum takes us to a poor working-class neighborhood where the film's main characters are first introduced - as little kids. A girl, Peggy is dancing to an organ grinder's music before a crowd of onlookers. She dreams of one day being a famous dancer. Danny, her boyfriend looks admiringly from the sidelines. When a bully pushes another kid into Peggy, knocking her to the ground - Danny is quick to her defense. Point being - Danny is the brawler. There is also Danny's brother, Eddie - who would rather practice on his accordion than play "kick-the-can" with the other kids. Eddie dreams of one day being a famous musician...

Fast forward to present day -

Danny (James Cagney) is content just being a truck driver. He doesn't have the ambition to pursue a prizefighting career despite a talent for boxing and rebuffs offers from a boxing promoter (Donald Crisp). Danny explains that he doesn't want to end up like the washed up ex-boxers who hang around the gym... "old before their time. No, thanks, I think i'll stick to driving a truck". Danny's biggest plan though is to one day marry Peggy.

But Peggy (Ann Sheridan) wants something more out of life. She doesn't picture herself becoming like her mother - barely eking out an existence. She wants to make a name for herself first - a famous dancer on Broadway. "We'd only be hurting each other if we let ourselves into the lives like our families had...always struggling, always making a dime do for a dollar...", she tells Danny her reluctance to rush into marriage.

Eddie (Arthur Kennedy), meanwhile is the struggling composer/musician...earning a few bucks teaching neighborhood kids how to play the piano. Eddie is working on writing a symphony - a musical "portrait" of New York City (film composer Max Steiner took a cue from George Gershwin's RHAPSODY IN BLUE here. The similarity is readily apparent).

Three characters with different ambitions...but the fate of the other two characters will eventually revolve around Cagney's charter -Danny. It's to Danny's credit that despite his disappointment with Peggy for postponing their marriage -he doesn't hinder her ambition to become a dancer. Danny also doesn't mind when another guy asks Peggy to be his partner for a nightclub dance competition "...as long as she's having a good time, I don't worry about Peggy", says Danny to his worried buddy, Mutt (Frank McHugh).

Peggy's dancing partner, Murray (Anthony Quinn) is a talented dancer too and the pair wins the competition - and so are noticed by a booking agent. With Murray as her dance partner, Peggy thinks she is on her way to achieving her dream.
Unfortunately, Murray takes an instant disliking to Danny and his friends. The film never really explains why. I suppose Murray is meant to be the "bad guy" in this - the third spoke of the "triangle" - but he just comes across being too one-dimensionally bad - without added depth to his character. Yes, Murray helps Peggy achieve the fame she was yearning for...but at what price? The pair become a vaudeville success story...but you wonder why Peggy would choose to remain Murray's dance partner considering his behavior towards her.

With Peggy's star on the rise...Danny is motivated to "win" her back. He accepts the offer from the boxing promoter and becomes a prizefighting sensation - eventually gaining a chance to fight for a championship crown. A bout that would end with fateful consequences...

...which brings me to my point about "traditional family values".
I wonder if the writers were (at heart) espousing traditional family values as the main theme of the film?
I thought it was very "un-traditional" that Peggy would choose a career for herself over marriage.
I thought too that it was a plus that Danny was tolerant to Peggy's ambition. Although, he was a bit jealous that Peggy eventually spent more time with Murray - Danny didn't really hinder her career moves or that they never had any bad arguments over it.

But look what eventually happens to them. Yes, the film ends on a bittersweet, tear-jerking note but it seems to me that both were "punished" for having liberal views in regards to "family values". The boxing promoter played by Donald Crisp - chews out Peggy for her behavior - "I've seen you give that boy (Danny) the rawest deal that any woman ever gave a man...You're no good for him..." hmmmm, all because she chose a career over marriage?

Consider too that CITY FOR CONQUEST was made after the institution of the Hollywood codes which states:
"The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld". It was important to show that folks are punished for their transgressions - all for the sake of the public good.

There is also a small but memorable role played by Elia Kazan - in one of his few acting roles before he became a director (A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, ON THE WATERFRONT - to name just a few). Kazan plays one of Danny's friend, Googi - also from the same poor neighborhood. Googi is first seen stealing bread in the beginning of the film and is admonished by the narrator bum. Googi later becomes a rich gambler and hood. But alas, due to the "codes" - Googi's fate is sealed too.

Interesting film with very good performances from Cagney and Sheridan...if you don't mind being manipulated a bit. Am I reading too much into this? Oh well. That's what makes watching classic films fun.

7.5
Super Reviewer
½ June 8, 2010
When you think of James Cagney, your thoughts might gravitate towards some of his movies like Public Enemy, White Heat or Yankee Doodle Dandy, right? You never hear anyone gush over City for Conquest. Reason being its a flat, dull and dragged out tale of slum kids following their dreams and blah blah blah. Cagney plays the likable tough guy, Ann Sheridan plays his (asshole) girl and Arthur Kennedy plays Cagney's kid brother. Oddest thing is that City for Conquest is the kind of movie that's right up my alley but it was so unengaging and drab that by the time the tragedy hit I didn't care. Seeing a young Anthony Quinn and Elia Kazan was kind of amusing but once Cagney's character goes blind (I didn't blow anything the synopsis above didn't so don't get mad for the lack of spoiler alert...) he's just really creepy. And the whole ageless bum thing was just dumb.
½ December 27, 2009
I really enjoyed this picture about childhood friends' rises and falls in the greatest city on Earth.
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