The winning storyline of Manhattan Melodrama, boyhood pals who remain friends despite being on opposite sides of the law, has since become a classic movie plot. In Manhattan Melodrama, Gable plays Blackie a gambler who resorts to murder to protect a friend. William Powell is his boyhood pal, now a DA, who must choose between friendship and his own conscience. This plot has often been recycled into new movies with the same basic premise. The story was remade as Northwest Rangers in 1942, and though not called a remake, the movie Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) shares a very similar plot.
Writer Arthur Caesar is credited with the story for Manhattan Melodrama and was the only one of the film's three screenwriters (the other two were Oliver H.P. Garrett and Joesph L. Mankiewicz) to receive the Oscar®. Caesar was something of a wild card, even by Hollywood standards. He had written a play called Napoleon's Brother that was made into director John Ford's first talkie in 1928. Caesar was put under contract by Fox, but apparently his biting sense of humor eventually cost him his job. Darryl F. Zanuck, then at Warner Bros., seemed more able to tolerate Caesar's outspokenness than others and put him to work. And Caesar had success at Warner Bros. turning out winners like The Heart of New York (1932), the Joe E. Brown vehicle, Fireman Save My Child, and his Oscar® winning Manhattan Melodrama.
One interesting side note, Manhattan Melodrama was the film John Dillinger saw before being gunned down outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago.
Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Screenplay: Arthur Caesar (story), Oliver H.P. Garrett, Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Film Editing: Ben Lewis
Original Music: Richard Rodgers (song)
Cast: Clark Gable (Edward "Blacki" Gallagher), William Powell (Jim Wade), Myrna Loy (Eleanor Packer), Leo Carrillo (Father Joe), Nat Pendelton (Spud).
BW-91m. Closed captioning.
by Stephanie Thames