Manhattan Melodrama

Director: W.S. Van Dyke and George Cukor
Year Released: 1934
Rating: 2.0

Two orphans, despite growing up together, end up in diametrically opposed professions - William Powell, District Attorney, upholds the law while Clark Gable the Gambler routinely breaks it - but the strong tie between them threatens to spoil the lawyer's bid for Governor. The pedestrian setup is tolerable until the movie reaches its third act, where the screenwriters really pump up the preachiness, forcing head-strong Powell to send his friend to the electric chair and Gable smiling all the way there: he's the cheeriest man about to be fried to a crisp in movie memory (coincidentally, it's best not to think too hard about how they're able to convict and kill Gable so quickly without a motive, a murder weapon or a credible witness). The dream pairing of Gable, Powell and love-interest Myrna Loy provides a reasonable excuse to see this, though it goes without saying Powell and Loy have done better work together … in 1934 alone. The picture will also forever remain in Movie Lore for being the last movie mobster John Dillinger saw on Earth - it wouldn't have been quite so notable (and ironic) had Gable's character and Dillinger not been similar figures. Now if I were about to be shot to hell by INGSOC and betrayed by a Hungarian prostitute, I'd want to go out having seen something more creative, like, you know, Gable in It Happened One Night....