The Clark Gable Blogathon…

MMELODRAMA

source: MGM

A story of principle.

There have been many movies over the years that exemplify this precious sentiment. What there hasn’t been, however, is a film that makes sticking to what you believe in a matter of life or death.

Manhattan Melodrama is a film about convictions, love, and how far one is willing to go to keep them together.

Director W.S Van Dyke tells the story of two boys who grow up together, and how time and different circumstances lead them to live different lives.

Clark Gable and William Powell star as ‘Blackie’ Gallagher and Jim Wade, the two boys whose friendship is thicker than blood. Their friendship goes through countless ups and downs, through several trials and tribulations, but despite those hardships, Wade and ‘Blackie’ were inseparable.


Their misfortunes begin at the beginning of the film when the cruise liner they were traveling on catches fire, leaving everyone to fend for themselves.

This unlucky accident has both of their parents die in the frenzied blaze, leaving both of the boys parentless. As the boys and other survivors swim to safety, they run into a homely man named Poppa Rosen (played by George Sidney.) It’s shown that he also lost a family member, a son, the same age as ‘Blackie’ and Wade.

MMELODRAMA2

source: MGM

As the trio grieve together, Rosen offers to become their guardian. With nowhere else to go, the boys jump at the opportunity.

A couple of years pass by and everything seems to be going well for the boys (well, at least for one of them.) Wade is studying to become a district attorney and ‘Blackie’ is dipping his toes into the grimy world of petty crime.

After living comfortably with Rosen for a few years, he’s accidentally trampled to death by a policeman’s horse at a pro-Communism rally.


The movie skips ahead to the year 1920, where Wade has triumphantly become District Attorney and ‘Blackie’ runs an illegal gambling ‘joint’.

Both boys have found success in very, very different lines of work.

The law is the only thing that keeps them separated.

The two boys – now men – run into each other one night at a boxing match. They laugh, and joke around like old pals, prompting ‘Blackie’ to invite Jim out for drinks. Jim declines citing work as his excuse. That doesn’t deter ‘Blackie’ though. If he couldn’t be there he’ll send the next best thing, Eleanor – his mistress girlfriend (played by Myrna Loy.)

When Eleanor and Jim meet, she’s immediately impressed by the class and charms that oozes out of Wade, the polar opposite of ‘Blackie’s’ brash and coarse demeanor.

Eleanor returns from her impromptu ‘date’ and she realizes that she doesn’t want to live the “gangster” lifestyle anymore and ends her romance with ‘Blackie,’ eventually marrying Jim.

MMELODRAMA3

source: MGM

Her decision proves to be the correct one when a couple of days later a man who owed ‘Blackie’ money is mysteriously shot in his hotel room.

The man behind the crime?

Edward J. ‘Blackie’ Gallagher.

But, Wade doesn’t know that.

Run he starts his campaign for governor later that year, his assistant Richard Snow essentially harasses him into looking deeper into the murder case. If Jim doesn’t comply with his wishes, Snow would expose his close friendship to ‘Blackie’ thus ruining his chances of winning the race.

Coincidentally, Eleanor and ‘Blackie’ reunite at a horse track, where Eleanor explains the predicament that Wade has got himself into.

‘Blackie’ being an all-around “bad guy” tells her that she shouldn’t worry and that he’ll “take care of this, himself.”

We all know what this means.

Lo and behold, ‘Blackie’ shoots Wade’s assistant point blank in a restroom during a hockey game in Madison Square Garden. Because, why not?

MMELODRAMA4

source: MGM

What ‘Blackie’ thought to be a blind man sitting outside the restroom when he committed the crime turned out to be a concerned citizen who quickly reports the crime to the police.

Jim is now forced to choose between two of the things that he loves the most: his career or persecuting ‘Blackie.’ He wins his gubernatorial race, but his mind can’t shake the obvious conflict of interests.

Ultimately, his conscience takes over, as much as it pains him to do so and against the objections of his wife, he prosecutes ‘Blackie’ for both murders sentencing him to death by electric chair.

He almost retracts his sentencing, however, when Jim visits ‘Blackie’ in prison, he reiterates to him that he’s proud that he stuck to his conscience and didn’t relent in his charges. Agreeing, Wade gives up and lets ‘Blackie’ have a peaceful death.

The movie ends with Jim tendering his resignation from his governor seat, stating that a murder influenced the result of his election, therefore, making it invalid.

Conclusion

MMELODRAMA5

source: MGM

When you combine the genius of Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the directorial magic of W.S Van Dyke, you’re bound to get magic on the silver screen.

That’s exactly what makes Manhattan Melodrama a film that deserves more recognition. This movie has it all: excellent writing (absolutely incredible, I can’t stress that enough), outstanding acting, and exceptional directing – the trifecta.

W.S Van Dyke has quickly become one of my favorite directors because of pictures like this. He has the magic touch when it comes to movies where you need to have that delicate balance of drama and comedy (e.g The Thin Man.) Though ‘MMD’ isn’t necessarily a comedy, there were several moments in the film where the witty banter between Powell and Gable flowed organically, like they’ve known each other all their life.

For that, we have Mr. Mankiewicz to thank.


Manhattan Melodrama is a film that will make you reflect on what you truly believe and whether or not you can stand for it when the going gets tough. Not only is the film visually stunning and terrifically written, it also has an underlying message of morality and virtue.

There are not many movies that could do this, but ‘Melodrama’ is one of the few that does it so well.


If you wish to read the rest of the entries in the blogathon, click here.

 

 

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Workplace in Film & TV Blogathon…

Libeled Lady

source: MGM

Libel.

It’s a word that gets flung about carelessly, particularly in today’s heated political climate.

But, in this movie’s case, it’s used as a comedic plot device.

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow and Spencer TracyLibeled Lady is a hilarious look at the newspaper industry and how they handle being sued for, you guessed it, libel.

The newspaper that has the unfortunate luck of being in this predicament belongs to a tough-talkin’, quick-witted editor named Warren Haggerty (played by Tracy) whose business is the focal point of the entire film.

Dubbed, “The New York Evening Star” the plot kicks off when a wealthy socialite named Connie Allenbury (played by Myrna Loy) sues the paper for running a story about her being a homewrecker. Asking for $5,000,000 dollars in damages, Mr. Haggerty spends day after day, tirelessly trying to get her to drop the charges.

libeled-lady-1936

source: MGM

Although Warren is exhausted from working his butt off to avoid being swindled for an absurd amount of money, he is more than content to continue to on this path he’s set for himself.

Why?

Well, the more he works, the more time he has to come up with an excuse to why he hasn’t proposed to his girlfriend Gladys Benton (played Jean Harlow.) Luckily for Gladys, Warren is running out of options – fast.

Desperately looking for a way out of this libel suit, he goes for the “nuclear option,” so to speak.

He phones the owner of the ‘Evening Star’ and requests to have him send in disgruntled former employee and ladies man Bill Chandler (played by William Powell) who could help him create a scheme so unbelievable that only a classic Hollywood movie can get away with.

Chandler’s plan is as follows:

  1. Marry someone in name only; Warren volunteers his girlfriend who, begrudgingly accepts, only on the condition that Haggerty marries her after the whole ordeal.
  2. Maneuver a way into Connie arms, where his “wife” would find them in a compromising position.
  3. Lastly, force Connie to drop the suit because, you know, she’s cheating with a married man – that wouldn’t look too good in the papers, now would it?
libeled-lady

source: MGM

After brainstorming for a couple of days, the plan is finally set in motion when Bill arranges to meet Connie and her father on an ocean liner returning to America, where he harasses them until he gets into their good graces, which ultimately sees Connie beginning to fall in love with him.

Taking a liking to this young man, Connie’s father J. B Allenbury (played Walter Connolly) invites Bill on a fishing trip for a little R&R.

“No big deal,” Bill says, “I can get through this.”

Except he doesn’t. His feelings for Connie grow – rapidly.

Oh, boy.

A conflict of interests has become apparent; what is a red-blooded male American supposed to do about this?

Call off the plan, of course!

Myrna-Loy-and-Spencer-Tracy-in-Libeled-Lady-1936

source: MGM

The pair return to New York where their relationship begins to flourish. Connie isn’t the only woman who has been wooed by Bill’s suave nature, however. Gladys takes their fake marriage and decides she wants to turn into a real one. Unfortunately for her, Connie and Bill have gotten married already, and have gone on their honeymoon.

Warren hears about this and is, understandably, livid.

He decides that he wants to end the scheme and painstakingly seeks out the hotel room that Bill and Connie are staying at.

Warren barges into the room, only to find Bill and Connie doing what newlyweds would normally do on their wedding day- talking.

In true comedic fashion, Bill confesses to Warren that he’s told Connie everything, and he means everything. He goes on to explain that Gladys’ divorce from her first husband wasn’t valid, therefore her “marriage” to him wasn’t real. Gladys, on the other hand, won’t take no for an answer.

Nope

Libeled Lady 1936

source: MGM

Gladys rebuts these claims, asserting that she got ANOTHER divorce later on in Reno and is truly married to Bill. Connie interjects herself into this conversation to tell Gladys that she only fell for Bill because he showed her a bit of kindness while her actual boyfriend didn’t.

Her words fall on deaf ears, and a fight breaks out between Bill and Warren.

During this commotion, Gladys realizes that Connie is right and rushes into the arms of Warren where they embrace.

The film ends when Connie’s father, Mr. Allenbury, finds his daughter in the hotel room and demands an explanation of what’s happening, wherein the four of them attempt to explain it to him all at once causing a massive uproar.

Conclusion

libeled-lady-end-title-still

source: MGM

This film is an absolute joy to watch, It plays like a cool sip of water.

The acting is superb, the dialog is phenomenal and the chemistry between the four leads is palpable. Not only that but, to see the inner workings of a daily newspaper was a joy to observe- even if this movie was a comedy.

Libeled Lady is, in a lot of ways, a great film to pick for this blogathon. It’s entertaining, interesting and gives the audience a great glimpse at a professional setting. Yes, it may be a rather light-hearted film, and maybe not as serious as some of the other movies in this blogathon, but, I still believe it gives you the essence of what it’s like to be a newspaperman.

All in all, this film is a really exceptional one to experience. Harlow, Tracy, Powell, and Loy make a hilarious team to watch.  If I have the chance to watch this picture again, I would! And I strongly suggest you do that same, you certainly won’t regret it.

 

If you want to read more entries in this blogathon, click: here.