City for Conquest


1h 41m 1940
City for Conquest

Brief Synopsis

A truck driver risks his eyesight when he boxes to pay for his brother's education.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Sep 21, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel City for Conquest by Aben Kandel (New York, 1936).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

In the East Side slums of New York City, Danny Kenny, his brother Eddie and Peggy Nash, all childhood friends from the tenements, pursue different paths to climb their way out of the gutter. Danny is content driving a truck until his brother, who dreams of writing a symphony of the city, needs money for music school. To earn Eddie's tuition, Danny accepts a boxing match, where he is spotted by fight manager Scotty MacPherson. Meanwhile, Peggy, seduced by the vision of her name in lights, becomes the dance partner of the despotic Murray Burns, and the pair set out on the vaudeville circuit. Desperate to win Peggy back, Danny decides to make something of himself and accepts Scotty's offer to be his manager. As Danny wins bout after bout, Peggy's tour ends, and she agrees to give up dancing for Danny. When the dance team is offered a contract in the big time, however, Peggy foresakes Danny to pursue fame. Danny, confident that winning the championship will win him Peggy, insists on a match with the mean and dirty boxer Cannonball Wales. To make sure that he wins the title, Wales puts rosin on his boxing gloves, thus blinding Danny. As she listens to the match on the radio, Peggy hears of Danny's pummeling, quits the dance team and returns to Danny, only to be sent away by Scotty. Blinded by the fight, Danny feels no self-pity and opens up a newstand. When Eddie, frustrated by his struggle for artistic recognition, is on the verge of selling out his talents, Danny inspires him to keep fighting. Eddie's symphony is finally accepted for performance at Carnegie Hall, and Peggy, now miserable and alone, goes to hear his debut. In a moving speech, Eddie dedicates his work to his brother, and after the concert, Peggy seeks out Danny at the newsstand, and the two are reconciled.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Sep 21, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel City for Conquest by Aben Kandel (New York, 1936).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 41m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Articles

City for Conquest - City For Conquest


James Cagney was a force of nature, both on the screen and off. The raw power of his performances always seemed to raise mundane material to a higher level, and he wasn't about to be pushed around by a director. That can definitely be said of his experience on City for Conquest (1940), one of those melodramatic "New York" stories that Warner Bros. was so fond of in the Thirties and Forties. Cagney single-handedly gooses the clichéd storyline into high gear, and his pragmatic attitude toward his work won out over what he saw as the artsy fussiness of his director, Anatole "Tola" Litvak.

Cagney plays Danny Kenny, a street-tough truck driver who grows up on Manhattan's Lower East Side with a young woman named Peggy Nash (Ann Sheridan). Danny wants to marry Peggy, but she's hoping to rise to a new station in life, and marrying a trucker isn't likely to do that. In an attempt to impress Peggy, and, not incidentally, earn enough money to send his sensitive brother, Eddie (Arthur Kennedy), to music school, Danny becomes a professional boxer. (Is it just me, or is somebody always taking up prize fighting for money in these movies?) Peggy, for her part, hooks up with a suave lothario named Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn), and becomes a successful dancer. This will lead to a battle for Peggy's heart as well as the kind of life-altering injury that boxers only receive in the movies.

City for Conquest is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. But it might have completely faded into the mists of movie history were it not for one of Cagney's co-stars- a young actor named Elia Kazan, who, of course, would go on to become a groundbreaking stage and screen director. Kazan wrote rather extensively about his work on City for Conquest in his autobiography, Elia Kazan: A Life. During the filming he learned a great deal about on-set politics while observing the battle of wills between Cagney and Litvak.

"The crew liked and respected Cagney," Kazan wrote. "They were off the street too – but they didn't like the way Tola spoke to them, and Jimmy didn't either. Tola had an abrupt way of giving orders, was always dominating and impatient with objection and error." Kazan also noted Litvak's unorthodox shooting technique, which consisted of filming as much of the scene as possible in one, catch-all take, via a panning camera that was being pushed on a dolly. This required the actors to hit scores of marks during a single scene. Locating sundry chalk lines on the floor soon began to overtake the all-important rehearsal process, and it drove Cagney to distraction.

Cagney, however, would get his revenge while shooting the picture: "In his quiet way (Cagney) made Tola eat dirt. In the last scene of the film, Jimmy had a heavy scar over one eyebrow, the kind prizefighters acquire. It was carefully put on by a makeup man in the morning." Cagney would work with his usual intensity all day long, but when quitting time approached, he was done. "Toward the end of the afternoon, Cagney, whose contract specified that he was through at five-thirty, would look at his watch, and if, in his opinion – Cagney's, not Tola's, not the cameraman's – there wasn't enough time to get the shot the electricians were preparing, Jimmy would pull off the scar and so bring the day's work to a close. He'd walk off the set without a word to Litvak."

Kazan grew to admire Cagney while working on the picture. "Jimmy was a completely honest actor," he wrote. "I imagine he'd have figured out each scene at home, what he'd do and how he'd do it, then come to work prepared. But what he did always seemed spontaneous." Kazan viewed Cagney as something of a natural: "He had no schooling in the art of acting, although he had tremendous respect for good actors. If the Actors Studio had existed then, I'm sure he would have despised it...Jimmy didn't see scenes in great complexity; he saw them in a forthright fashion, played them with savage energy, enjoyed his work."

Director: Anatole Litvak
Producer: Anatole Litvak
Associate Producer: William Cagney
Screenplay: John Wexley (based on the novel by Aben Kandel)
Cinematographer: Sol Polito, James Wong Howe
Editor: William Holmes
Music: Max Steiner
Music Director: Leo F. Forbstein
Dialogue Director: Irving Rapper
Art Director: Robert Haas
Dance Director: Robert Vreeland
Special Effects: Byron Haskin, Rex Wimpy
Principal Cast: James Cagney (Danny Kenny), Ann Sheridan (Peggy Nash), Frank Craven (Old Timer), Donald Crisp (Scotty MacPherson), Arthur Kennedy (Eddie Kenny), Frank McHugh (Mutt), George Tobias (Pinky), Jerome Cowan (Dutch), Elia Kazan (Googi Zucco), Anthony Quinn (Murray Burns), Lee Patrick (Gladys), Blanche Yurka (Mrs. Nash), George Lloyd (Goldie), Joyce Compton (Lily), Thurston Hall (Max Leonard).
BW-99m.

by Paul Tatara

City For Conquest - City For Conquest

City for Conquest - City For Conquest

James Cagney was a force of nature, both on the screen and off. The raw power of his performances always seemed to raise mundane material to a higher level, and he wasn't about to be pushed around by a director. That can definitely be said of his experience on City for Conquest (1940), one of those melodramatic "New York" stories that Warner Bros. was so fond of in the Thirties and Forties. Cagney single-handedly gooses the clichéd storyline into high gear, and his pragmatic attitude toward his work won out over what he saw as the artsy fussiness of his director, Anatole "Tola" Litvak. Cagney plays Danny Kenny, a street-tough truck driver who grows up on Manhattan's Lower East Side with a young woman named Peggy Nash (Ann Sheridan). Danny wants to marry Peggy, but she's hoping to rise to a new station in life, and marrying a trucker isn't likely to do that. In an attempt to impress Peggy, and, not incidentally, earn enough money to send his sensitive brother, Eddie (Arthur Kennedy), to music school, Danny becomes a professional boxer. (Is it just me, or is somebody always taking up prize fighting for money in these movies?) Peggy, for her part, hooks up with a suave lothario named Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn), and becomes a successful dancer. This will lead to a battle for Peggy's heart as well as the kind of life-altering injury that boxers only receive in the movies. City for Conquest is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. But it might have completely faded into the mists of movie history were it not for one of Cagney's co-stars- a young actor named Elia Kazan, who, of course, would go on to become a groundbreaking stage and screen director. Kazan wrote rather extensively about his work on City for Conquest in his autobiography, Elia Kazan: A Life. During the filming he learned a great deal about on-set politics while observing the battle of wills between Cagney and Litvak. "The crew liked and respected Cagney," Kazan wrote. "They were off the street too – but they didn't like the way Tola spoke to them, and Jimmy didn't either. Tola had an abrupt way of giving orders, was always dominating and impatient with objection and error." Kazan also noted Litvak's unorthodox shooting technique, which consisted of filming as much of the scene as possible in one, catch-all take, via a panning camera that was being pushed on a dolly. This required the actors to hit scores of marks during a single scene. Locating sundry chalk lines on the floor soon began to overtake the all-important rehearsal process, and it drove Cagney to distraction. Cagney, however, would get his revenge while shooting the picture: "In his quiet way (Cagney) made Tola eat dirt. In the last scene of the film, Jimmy had a heavy scar over one eyebrow, the kind prizefighters acquire. It was carefully put on by a makeup man in the morning." Cagney would work with his usual intensity all day long, but when quitting time approached, he was done. "Toward the end of the afternoon, Cagney, whose contract specified that he was through at five-thirty, would look at his watch, and if, in his opinion – Cagney's, not Tola's, not the cameraman's – there wasn't enough time to get the shot the electricians were preparing, Jimmy would pull off the scar and so bring the day's work to a close. He'd walk off the set without a word to Litvak." Kazan grew to admire Cagney while working on the picture. "Jimmy was a completely honest actor," he wrote. "I imagine he'd have figured out each scene at home, what he'd do and how he'd do it, then come to work prepared. But what he did always seemed spontaneous." Kazan viewed Cagney as something of a natural: "He had no schooling in the art of acting, although he had tremendous respect for good actors. If the Actors Studio had existed then, I'm sure he would have despised it...Jimmy didn't see scenes in great complexity; he saw them in a forthright fashion, played them with savage energy, enjoyed his work." Director: Anatole Litvak Producer: Anatole Litvak Associate Producer: William Cagney Screenplay: John Wexley (based on the novel by Aben Kandel) Cinematographer: Sol Polito, James Wong Howe Editor: William Holmes Music: Max Steiner Music Director: Leo F. Forbstein Dialogue Director: Irving Rapper Art Director: Robert Haas Dance Director: Robert Vreeland Special Effects: Byron Haskin, Rex Wimpy Principal Cast: James Cagney (Danny Kenny), Ann Sheridan (Peggy Nash), Frank Craven (Old Timer), Donald Crisp (Scotty MacPherson), Arthur Kennedy (Eddie Kenny), Frank McHugh (Mutt), George Tobias (Pinky), Jerome Cowan (Dutch), Elia Kazan (Googi Zucco), Anthony Quinn (Murray Burns), Lee Patrick (Gladys), Blanche Yurka (Mrs. Nash), George Lloyd (Goldie), Joyce Compton (Lily), Thurston Hall (Max Leonard). BW-99m. by Paul Tatara

Quotes

Trivia

Jean Negulesco took over direction of the film for a short period when Anatole Litvak suffered an eye injury.

Notes

According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, Robert Rossen "polished" one version of the scripts for this film and Jean Negulesco assumed the direction of the film when Anatole Litvak suffered an eye injury. Rossen's contribution to the final film has not been determined. This picture marked Arthur Kennedy's screen debut, and Elia Kazan's first screen role.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1996

Released in United States Fall September 1940

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Kazan" November 22 - December 26, 1996.)

Released in United States Fall September 1940