Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
Release Date: May 4,1934
Directed by: W.S. Van Dyke
Available on DVD in The Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection
Gable is Blackie Gallagher, a gambling, gun-slinging gangster, who remains best friends with his childhood pal, Jim Wade (Powell), an ambitious lawyer. Blackie’s girl, Eleanor (Loy) grows tired of the shady side of life and soon falls in love with Jim and marries him. Jim is promoted to district attorney and starts a campaign to become New York’s next governor. When a blackmailer threatens Jim’s campaign, Blackie decides to handle the situation himself and kills the man. On trial, Jim has no choice but to prosecute Blackie and he is sentenced to death. The conviction helps Jim win the election, but on the day of Blackie’s execution, Eleanor pleads with Jim to pardon Blackie and reveals to him that Blackie killed the man to protect Jim. Jim rushes to the prison to commune Blackie’s sentence, but Blackie refuses to let Jim waver on his original decision. After Blackie is put to death, Jim resigns as governor and makes up with Eleanor at the fade out.
Hollywood magazine, June 1934:
Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy prove themselves a great dramatic trio in this very excellent picture of New York life. It is a mighty well-rounded picture that grips the audience from the opening scene and maintains that hold through to the end. Gable and Powell start life in the east side as boyhood buddies. Gable becomes a gambling racketeer and Powell the district attorney. Though both love the same girl, Myrna Loy, their friendship is not marred. Finally Powell, on the eve of his election as governor, is forced to prosecute Gable for murder and he sends him to the electric chair. A tremendous situation is built around this, but it would spoil your pleasure to reveal the solution of a picture you will not want to miss.
Photoplay magazine, July 1934:
A gripping story of the deep friendship between two men and the melodramatic climax of that friendship. As boys, Clark Gable and William Powell find themselves alone in the world. Gable is a born gambler. Powell, a studious lad determined to get on. He becomes district attorney; Gable, a gambling hourse proprietor.
The combat between the two, the unflinching integrity of Powell and the devotion of Gable and his respect for his friend’s ideals, present an unusual situation.
In order to squelch a scandal against Powell, who is running for Governor, Gable kills a man and it is the duty of Powell, his friend, to send him to death.
Myrna Loy, as the girl who once loved Gable and marries Powell, turns in a beautiful performance. Fine support.
New Movie magazine, August 1934:
B–Story writers of this item have been just about as blind to common sense of human nature as even the movies ever get to be. It is a pretty silly yarn, adorned by Clark Gable and better than fair by Myrna Loy and William Powell. There has been better direction on the screen. Mr. Van Dyke has done some of it himself.
“Manhattan Melodrama” is the old one about the two boys who grew up together. The righteous (Mr. Powell) becomes district attorney and later governor, marries the mistress of the wicked (Mr. Gable) and sends his old chum to the electric chair. Drama could have been made out of this, but it hasn’t been.
Inanity of the plot and a lot of silly lines don’t keep Mr. Powell and Miss Loy from being clear-cut and convincing in their roles…Mr. Gable is completely miscast. He acts the sinister gangster and killer like one of the Rover boys. Nat Pendleton, as a comic gunman, does the best and as far as I’ve seen the only acting of his career. No one else is worth mention in a film that really doesn’t rate much.
Photoplay magazine, December 1934:
Powerful drama about the friendship of two men–district attorney William Powell and gambler Clark Gable–and the tragic climax of that friendship. Myrna Loy does fine work. (July)
“I’m glad you are through. I’ve had enough of your beef!” first line
“Me? I’m just an all around lucky guy.”
“When I lose, I pay and when I win I expect to get paid. I don’t ask anybody to trust me and I don’t trust anybody: big shot or penny chiseler.”
“You’re talking a lot of hooey out of nice clean storybooks!”
“The whistles have stopped, Manny. A couple of months ago I might have felt sorry for you and let you crawl out. But a lot of things have happened to me since then and I don’t feel the same about you anymore.”
“You better cross yourself Manny and make it double. Because this is once you double-crossed yourself!”
“I’m just a no good guy, that’s all.”
“If I can’t live the way I want, at least let me die when I want.”
“So long, kid.” last line
Behind the Scenes:
Had a twenty-four day shooting schedule, of which Gable was only required for twelve.
Produced by David O. Selznick (Gone with the Wind).
The only film that stars both of Carole Lombard’s husbands (Powell past, Gable future).
Soon after production on this film, Gable joined the Freemasons, to please his father, who was a lifelong member. After serving his apprenticeship, he became a Master Mason.
The first film that costarred Myrna Loy and William Powell. They hadn’t even met before they began filming their first scene. Director W.S. “Woody” Van Dyke noticed their onscreen chemistry and requested them both to star in his next feature, The Thin Man. They would go on to become one of classic film’s most popular onscreen duos, starring in fourteen films together.
Mickey Rooney appears in one of his first film roles as Blackie as a child. He was granted an MGM contract based on his performance.
Infamous bank robber John Dillinger, a Myrna Loy fan, was gunned down outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater after seeing this film on July 22, 1934.