I have been enjoying ‘30s films so much that I have been picking what to watch based more on the date of release than anything I know about the film. I had no idea what Manhattan Melodrama was about, other than what is suggested by the title. I even forgot about the fact that this was the last film that John Dillinger saw with the “lady in red” before he was shot down by the FBI.
The title certainly is fitting, as the film’s story line is pure melodrama. Two boys (one played by a very young Mickey Rooney) nearly drown when the General Slocum pleasure boat catches fire in the East River in 1904. The boys save each other, but learn that their parents have died. They are taken in by a Jewish man, but he too dies when he is trampled at a Trotsky speech. The boys grow up, one (William Powell) becoming a public prosecutor and the other (Clark Gable) falling in with gangsters and opening an illegal casino. When Gable’s character is tried for bumping up a gangster who owes him money, his lifetime friend must decide if he is going to prosecute. Myrna Loy, whom I first learned about from her ‘40s films with Cary Grant, and she is looking much younger and prettier here as the woman who loves both men. And blonde Isabelle Jewell is quite funny as the airhead girlfriend of one of Gable’s goons.