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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
"City For Conquest" is the story of five New York street kids who grow up and pursue their respective dreams. The film opens with an "Old Timer" (Frank Craven in a role similar to one he played in "Our Town" the same year) commenting on the story. He pops up at different point in the story to add his commentary.
Danny Kenny (James Cagney) is content with his life as a truck driver. He has been carrying the torch for Peg Nash (Ann Sheridan) since they were kids. She has ambitions of becoming a professional dancer. Mutt (Frank McHugh) is Danny's pal with no ambitions of his own but to follow Danny wherever that may lead. Googi Zucco (Elia Kazan - yes THAT Elia Kazan) grows up to be a prominent gangster after Danny helps him out on his release from prison. Eddie Kenny (Arthur Kennedy in his film debut), Danny's brother is an aspiring classical composer.
One night at a dance contest Peg meets "65th St. sharpie" Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn). They win the contest and Burns offers Peg the chance to fulfill her dream to become a professional dancer. Peg signs a contract with Burns' manager (Charles Lane) and the team sets out on the road to success. Danny meanwhile is talked into becoming a professional boxer. After defeating contender Kid Callaghan (Bob Steele), Danny is signed up by promoter Scotty MacPherson (Donald Crisp). Danny hopes that his success will bring him closer to Peg and that he will be able to support his brother's ambitions as well.
Both Peg and Danny become successful. Peg is offered a chance to play the big clubs and earn $850 a week. Danny meets her again one night and is given the impression that Peg is ready to marry him. Unfortunately for Danny, Peg chooses her career over marriage and leaves him in the lurch.
Peg becomes even more successful and Danny, despondent over the loss of Peg pushes Scottie for a title fight. Then tragedy strikes.
The last third of the film is a melodramatic typical Hollywood tear jerker. Cagney's performance, especially in this segment is outstanding. Sheridan, one of the few actresses of the day that could hold her own with Cagney is also compelling. Quinn also stands out as the oily dancer.
Others in the cast include George Tobias as Pinky, one of Danny's handlers, Lee Patrick as Gladys who befriends Peg, Jerome Cowan and Georgr Lloyd as gangsters, Ward Bond as the cop in the opening sequence, Frank Faylen as a band leader and Laurel & Hardy's favorite drunk Arthur Houseman as, you guessed it, a drunk.
Oddly enough, Cagney who was "just an old hoofer" doesn't get to dance in this film. He has to pretend that he can't dance instead.
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