Tuesday, May 25, 2010

City for Conquest (and sardines)

[Peggy Nash (Ann Sheridan) and Danny Kelly (James Cagney). Peggy: “Boy, was it crowded tonight on the subway. Talk about sardines. They got it easy. At least they’re floatin’ in olive oil.”]

Watching City for Conquest (dir. Anatole Litvak, 1940), I wondered how its contents were ever packed into a 104-minute can. This movie has everything: a scene of the principals’ childhoods in old New York (à la Angels with Dirty Faces), boxing, ballroom dancing, composing, brotherly love, jitterbugs, a swank party, a gangland murder, a symphony at Carnegie Hall, an “Old Timer” (a shabby Everyman-observer), and sardines. And four montages — of New York, Coney Island, dancing, and boxing. Danny Kelly (aka Young Samson) is a reluctant fighter, a former Golden Gloves champ who returns to the ring to help pay his composer-brother Eddie’s tuition. Peggy Nash is a dancer whose rise to success with partner Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn) pulls her away from the city and Danny. Yes, that Anthony Quinn, who turns out to have been a good dancer. (Sheridan’s a good dancer too. That Cagney barely dances in the film must have amused moviegoers.) Another unexpected element: Elia Kazan as crime boss “Googi,” who at the swank party introduces Eddie as “a composer of real class.” Yes, that Elia Kazan.

comments: 0