Orphans Edward "Blackie" Gallagher and Jim Wade are lifelong friends who take different paths in life. Blackie thrives on gambling and grows up to be a hard-nosed racketeer. Bookworm Wade becomes a D.A. vying for the Governorship. When Blackie's girlfriend Eleanor leaves him and marries the more down to earth Wade, Blackie harbors no resentment. In fact, their friendship is so strong that Blackie murders an attorney threatening to derail Wade's bid to become Governor. The morally straight Wade's last job as D.A. is to convict his friend of the murder, and send him to the electric chair. After he becomes Governor, Wade has the authority to commute Blackie's death sentence-- a decision that pits his high moral ethics against a lifelong friendship. Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Well, unusual for me. Perhaps at the time, the circumstances, what have you, it was not so unusual. But for me, watching Clark Gable portray a happy-go-lucky double murderer, who garners tons of sympathy from the audience; it was a first.
Manhattan Melodrama is a film of dubious and rather interesting morals. Who's the hero? Who's the villain? Childhood friends Jim and Blackie grow up very different men, Jim becomes DA of New York City, while Blackie runs a casino, and performs other unsavory activities. Eventually, their positions force them into conflict, but it's not your typical run-of-the-mill courtroom drama.
Blackie in most films would be a villain, he is after all a gangster and a murderer, amongst other activities. But here he's played by Clark Gable, about as charming an actor as ever lived, and the movie takes place in the 1930s, when gangster pictures like Little Caesar elevated these types of men into hero roles.
The picture makes a very blatant message against the heroic vision of gangsters (In a speech by Jim that feels as if the men who controlled the Production Code were standing off screen holding the cue cards for him). But I couldn't help feeling sympathy for the character, after the evil deeds he did. Meanwhile Jim, a hardworking individual who is uncorruptable, comes off as "cold" by the end of the picture. The way this movie sidesteps conventional roles is really interesting.
The lead woman in the picture, Eleanor, is rather interesting too. Watch how she jumps back and forth and between the men, and for what reasons.
I don't fully understand this movie, and it's not one of the most exciting films I've ever seen, but it's one of the most interesting ones I've seen in quite a while.
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