Manhattan Melodrama (1934) - Rotten Tomatoes

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

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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 C. Eagles
as Boy in Prison
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 (13) | Top Critics (5)

Well directed by W. S. Van Dyke, superbly photographed by famed Chinese Cinematographer James Wong Howe, Manhattan Melodrama is first-rate cinema, chiefly important because it marks the elevation to stardom of Myrna Loy.

Full Review… | July 26, 2010
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Apart from the Clark Gable-William Powell stellar duo and Myrna Loy, who does an excellent job as the principal femme, the Arthur Caesar story is replete with punchy popularly-appealing ingredients.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Variety
Top Critic

One finds a mechanical plot which is scarcely worthy of the cast, which includes Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Leo Carrillo.

Full Review… | August 8, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

This is an archetypal gangster movie of the period, a product of the moral backlash instigated by Hoover and the Hays Office.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

This 1934 feature was the last movie John Dillinger saw before being gunned down outside the Biograph, and he might have had better luck on both counts.

Full Review… | January 10, 2004
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

This MGM prestige production, winner of the Original Story Oscar, features its top stars, Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Full Review… | March 21, 2013
EmanuelLevy.Com

Audience Reviews for Manhattan Melodrama

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 roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

"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 Dunmyer
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

½

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
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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