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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934)


William Powell & Clark Gable are best pals. Myrna Loy’s the only gal they’ve ever loved and they’re the only guys she’s ever . . . oh, you know. DESIGN FOR LIVING? Nope, that was @ Paramount the previous year. This one finds the guys, who grew up together in a tough neighborhood, now on opposite sides of the law. It all comes to a head when D. A. Powell has to prosecute mobster Gable on a murder charge, and just when Powell’s running for governor! But the kicker is that Loy unintentionally ordered up the hit! It all plays out with tremendous swank (did Loy ever look better?) with Gable at his best (watch him during the trial) and Powell showing a level of conflicting emotional involvement he usually held in check. There’s a snap & dramatic charge to this one. It doesn’t hurt that producer David Selznick, helmer W. S. Van Dyke & especially lenser James Wong Howe put out a strikingly dark & handsome product @ M-G-M where chiaroscuro was a dirty word. You have to put up with a cornball prologue (Mickey Rooney is hopeless as a pre-teen Gable) and Loy turns grandly noble for the coda, but it’s still a plum.

NOTE: This is the film that real life gangster Charles Dillinger just had to see. The cops got him coming out of the theater. And listen to that catchy nightclub tune from Rodgers & Hart. Sound familiar? With a new lyric it became BLUE MOON.

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