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Cagney is Danny Kenny, a truck driver who enters "the fight game" and Sheridan plays his girlfriend, Peggy. Danny realizes success in the ring and uses his income to pay for his brother Eddie's music composition career, while Peggy goes on to become a professional dancer. When Peggy turns down Danny's marriage proposal for her dancing career, Danny, who wanted to quit the fight game, continues on & is blinded by rosin dust purposely placed on the boxing gloves of his opponent during a fight. His former manager finances a newsstand for the now semi-blind Danny. The movie ends with brother Eddie becoming a successful composer and dedicates a symphony at Carnegie Hall to his brother who listens to the concert on the radio from his newsstand. Peggy, now down on her luck, but in the audience at Carnegie, rushes to Danny at his newsstand where they reunite. The movie is based on a novel of the same name. Written by
As working class stiff Danny Kenny who drives a truck for a living, James Cagney created one of his most unforgettable screen heroes and one of my favorite Cagney films in City for Conquest.
No studio could do a working class film like Warner Brothers and this is one of the best. It does get melodramatic and has large doses of sentimentality with it, but never to extreme.
For a guy who eventually makes his living as a prizefighter, Danny Kenny is one of the gentlest heroes James Cagney brought to the screen. His greatest pleasures are found in the girl friend he has from the neighborhood, Ann Sheridan, and in listening to the music creations of his brother Ed, played by Arthur Kennedy in his film debut. Kennedy has ambitions to be a serious composer and Sheridan has ambitions herself to get out of the Lower East Side of New York via show business as a dancer. To realize those ambitions she hooks up with a no good dancer/gigolo in Anthony Quinn.
So Cagney who if he had his way would have been content to spend his life driving a truck, to help Kennedy with his dream and to win Ann Sheridan back, takes up boxing. It all results in some terrible sacrifices he makes for both of them.
Director Anatole Litvak gave Cagney and Sheridan a fine supporting cast to help carry the story along. Donald Crisp is Cagney's manager, Frank McHugh in his ever familiar role as best friend, and future director Elia Kazan as another pal from the neighborhood who becomes a gangster,
Kazan exacts some vengeance on Cagney's behalf, but then pays for it himself in a never to be forgotten death scene.
My suggestion is that when you watch City for Conquest do it alone, because if you do it alone you might more easily give way to tears at Arthur Kennedy's dedication to his symphony to his brother.
Unless you cry better in a group. Kennedy's performance and this scene in particular insured that man of the long and great career he had.
But the film is really for James Cagney fans in every generation.
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