Manhattan Melodrama

1934

Manhattan Melodrama

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

80%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 15

71%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 862
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Manhattan Melodrama Photos

Movie Info

Notorious as the movie that gangster John Dillinger attended on the night he was killed, Manhattan Melodrama has weathered the years as one of MGM's finest examples of pure storytelling. The pageant-like story begins in 1904, when the excursion steamer "General Slocum" blows up and burns in the East River. Two young boys are orphaned by the disaster. They are adopted by a kindly Jewish businessman (Harry Green) who has lost his own children. Years later, when he is killed during a anarchist rally, the boys are separated once more. They grow up to be straight-arrow attorney Jim Wade (William Powell) and big-time gambler Blackie Gallagher (Clark Gable). Though the two men still like and respect one another, they are now on opposite sides of the legal fence. The professional rivalry becomes personal when Jim marries Blackie's ex-mistress Eleanor (Myrna Loy). The typically stellar MGM supporting cast includes Nat Pendleton as Blackie's faithful stooge, Isabel Jewell as his addled girlfriend, Mickey Rooney as the younger Blackie (a marvelous piece of mimicry here), and blonde singer Shirley Ross, here appearing in blackface in a Harlem nightclub sequence, singing a new Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart tune that would later gain popularity (with different lyrics) as "Blue Moon."

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Cast

Clark Gable
as Blackie Gallagher
Myrna Loy
as Eleanor
Leo Carrillo
as Father Pat
Mickey Rooney
as Blackie as a boy
George Sidney (I)
as Poppa Rosen
Isabel Jewell
as Anabelle
Jimmy Butler
as Jim as a boy
Shirley Ross
as Cotton Club Singer
Herman Bing
as German Proprietor
John Bleifer
as Chauffeur
Oscar Apfel
as Assembly Speaker
Curtis Benton
as Announcer
Leonid Kinskey
as Trotsky Aide
G. Pat Collins
as Miller in Prison
Vernon Dent
as Old German Man
William Arnold
as Blackjack Dealer
Frank Conroy
as Blackie's Attorney
Charles Dunbar
as Panhandler
Jay Eaton
as Drunk
Harrison Greene
as Eleanor's Dance Partner
Sherry Hall
as Assistant District Attorney
Lew Harvey
as Crap Dealer
George S. Irving
as Campaign Manager
William J. Irving
as German Note Holder
James Eagles
as Boy in Prison
George Irving
as Campaign Manager
Isabelle Keith
as Miss Adams
Jack Kenney
as Policeman
William Irving
as German Note Holder
Jim James
as Chemin De Fer Dealer
Eddie Hart
as Reporter
Sam McDaniel
as Black Man in Prison
Garry Owen
as Campaign Manager
Jack Lipson
as Uncle Angus
Landers Stevens
as Inspector of Police
Noel Madison
as Mannie Arnold
Alex Melesh
as Master of Ceremonies
Charles R. Moore
as Black Boy in Speakeasy
Wade Boteler
as Guard in Prison
Harry Seymour
as Piano Player
Pepi Sinoff
as Jewish Woman
Stanley Taylor
as Police Intern
Edward Van Sloan
as Yacht Skipper
Henry Roquemore
as Band Leader
Bert Russell
as Blind Beggar
Al Thompson
as Spectator on Street
Lee Phelps
as Bailiff
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Critic Reviews for Manhattan Melodrama

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (6)

Audience Reviews for Manhattan Melodrama

  • Aug 01, 2013
    Manhattan Melodrama is famous for being the last movie that infamous bank robber John Dillinger saw before being gunned down outside the Biograph Theatre on July 22nd 1934. Obviously I was interested in seeing the film due to its history surrounding that legendary showing. This is a brilliant gangster film that is a defining classic of the genre. Brilliantly acted by Clark Gable, this is a must see for cinema buffs who enjoy classic films that helped defined the genre. Before there was The Godfather, there was this film. Clark Gable is impressive here and the story is quite good and highly engaging. This is also a must see for people that are fascinated with John Dillinger because I feel that in some way, this movie is part of his legacy. Nonetheless, the plot is engaging and like I said is a classic gangster picture that would pave the way for all to follow. I really enjoyed the film, and felt it was very different from other films in the genre. In that respect, it is a film that helped shape the crime genre. Manhattan Melodrama is filled with action, drama, a good cast and effective pacing to really make this stand out. I really enjoyed the film and thought it was an entertaining gangster film, definitely among the finest in the genre. There are of course better genre films, but Manhattan Melodrama is a worthwhile viewing experience that should definitely thrill the diehard cinema buff. W.s Van Dyke has crafted a memorable and historically significant picture that stands out even by today's standards.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Sep 04, 2011
    "Manhattan Melodrama," which won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, is yet another 1930s gem that I've found lately. First was "Dancing Lady," then "Hell's Angels," and now "Manhattan Melodrama." The 1930s were a golden age of American cinema, and I've barely scratched the surface of it. How exciting it must have been in that era to work in the movies. Clark Gable (who was also in "Dancing Lady") and William Powell play men who've had a life-long bond. They were orphaned together on the same day in a terrible boating accident. One is studious and upstanding (Powell); the other (Gable) is a drop-out who got into bootlegging and gambling. When the studious one becomes Manhattan District Attorney, his close friendship with a gangster becomes a problem. When their lives begin to intersect more, including sharing a woman (played wonderfully by Myrna Loy), the complications multiply. It's a fascinating, pretty serious drama that I can't imagine would disappoint anyone. It's also briskly paced, brilliantly edited, and perfectly directed (by W.S. Van Dyke). Highly recommended. Incidental note: Gangster John Dillinger saw this movie the night he died. He was shot by FBI agents as he exited the theater. I can certainly see why he would have been attracted to this movie. It's a complex portrait of a boy born on the wrong side of the tracks.
    William D Super Reviewer
  • Sep 03, 2010
    I'm not sure why this film is talked about so much, it isn't very different from other gangster movies of the time. There are some good actors in the movie, though, the best thing about this movie was the actors.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2009
    This movie is probably best remembered for the fact that it was the last movie Johnny Dillinger saw before being shot dead outside the theater (as depicted in the film Public Enemies). Outside of that infamy it isn?t really remembered as well as other gangster films of the era like Little Ceaser, The Public Enemy, and Scarface. Perhaps part of what?s responsible for the film?s relative obscurity is that it has a horrible title (although I suppose it?s a fairly accurate description). Also I think it might have to do with the fact that its star, Clark Gable, isn?t really known as a tough guy the way James Cagney or Paul Munni were. That would seem to suggest that he was miscast, but that isn?t really the case, because his character is pretty different from those guys, and he was also pretty different from John Dillinger. This wasn?t the kind of guy who would be driving around robbing banks himself. He could certainly handle a gun but for the most part he was more the kind of gangster who would control a vast empire, the kind of guy who would rather run a phone scam than personally rob a bank. The film?s relative obscurity is unfortunate because it?s actually a pretty strong work. The film?s story is pretty intriguing, pitting two child friends on opposite sides of the law against each other. Not exactly the most original set up in the world but there?s still drama to it. The film also interestingly ends with a moral dilemma rather than a shootout. Gable proves to be a strong lead, and it interestingly also features Mickey Roony playing Gable as a child. There are some of the typical problems that Hollywood films of the era had to deal with, but for a film made in ?34 it seemed fairly modern. If you?re going to get shot over a movie, this is a pretty good one to do it for.
    MJS M Super Reviewer

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