powered by AFI
A working title of the film was Three Men. Daily Variety lists a preview running time of 100 min. A Hollywood Reporter news item on April 5, 1934 noted that U.S.C. football star "Cotton" Warburton was to make his film acting debut in the picture, however, his participation in the released film has not been confirmed. According to another Hollywood Reporter news item, after the April 14, 1934 preview showing, George Cukor was assigned to direct additional scenes for the picture because W. S. Van Dyke had already begun working on his next assignment, The Thin Man (see below). The song performed by Shirley Ross in "The Cotton Club" sequence was originally written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for Jean Harlow to sing in the film Hollywood Party, and was called "Prayer." Neither Harlow nor the song appeared in the released version of Hollywood Party, and Hart wrote new lyrics for the version included in Manhattan Melodrama. According to a modern source, Jack Robbins of M-G-M's music publishing company reportedly liked the tune so much that he asked Hart to write more commercially appealing lyrics. The result became the song's more familiar words under its final title, "Blue Moon." The song was copyrighted under that title in December 1934. According to information in the file on the film contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library, the film was approved for exhibition in 1934 by the Hays Office, although some objections were raised by the office in connection with the riot during the Leon Trotsky speech early in the film and a general anti-police attitude in the picture. Specific objections were raised prior to production to any inference that Myrna Loy's character was a "moll" or "mistress." The Hays Office requested that her character appear to be a "sweetheart." They also suggested that any references to the splitting of "Blackie's" trousers before his execution and the dimming of lights during the execution were "censorable" in most territories. Although objections were also raised about the line of dialogue in which just prior to his execution "Blackie" orders a black lace nightgown for his girl friend, saying "Black for me and lace for the next guy," the line was retained. After the film's preview, Will H. Hays sent a memo to Joseph I. Breen in the office in Los Angeles and said that the way Gable spoke the line it sounded like "Black for me and lays for the next guy," causing considerable laughing in the theater. Hays added in the memo: "This has gone now, but it shows how careful we have to be [in the future]." When the picture was re-issued in 1937, it was issued a Purity Seal and was accepted without eliminations in most states and territories. The picture was one of M-G-M's biggest hits of 1934 and appeared on several "ten best" lists. It marked the first time that Loy appeared onscreen with either Gable or William Powell, with whom she made numerous pictures throughout the next decade, and the only time in which Gable and Powell co-starred. In a memo written by producer David O. Selznick, reprinted in a modern source, Selznick stated that he had brought Powell to M-G-M over the protests of other executives at the studio, and said that the film, which cost very little to produce was "an enormous moneymaker." Arthur Caesar won an Academy Award for Best Story for the film. According to modern sources, corroborated by photographs from contemporary newspapers, notorious gangster John Dillinger was shot by FBI agents on July 22, 1934 in front of the Chicago movie theater in which he had just seen this film. Gable appeared on M-G-M's Good News radio program on May 5, 1938 to recreate the character in an abridged version of the story. Manhattan Melodrama was remade by M-G-M in 1942 under the title Northwest Rangers, directed by Joseph Newman and starring James Craig and William Lundigan. That film had a Canadian setting.