City for Conquest (1940)
“Call it applause, call it ambition, call it whatever you’d like — but it’d take a lot more than a man to come between you two.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Indeed, there’s a heck of a lot packed into this “ambitious” film, which purportedly disappointed Cagney enough to prompt him to write a letter of apology to the source novel’s author. With that said, it’s atmospherically shot by James Wong Howe, and never boring to watch, even if one wishes for a little less going on. Perhaps least successful is the framing use of “Old Timer” Frank Craven (narrator of Our Town) for opening, closing, and intermittent commentary as a hobo who’s seen all sorts of misadventures occurring in the Big City of New York. This footage was excised for many years and suddenly reappeared — though it arguably should have been left aside. Watch for Arthur Kennedy in his film debut, and Elia Kazan in a supporting role.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
One thought on “City for Conquest (1940)”
Agreed – not must-see; sort of a ‘popcorn flick’ of the period.
It’s tailor-made to the tough Warner Bros. style, with all of the standard (occasionally over-the-top) tough-talk to match. True, it’s never boring (and the performances are competent) but it doesn’t particularly stand out for any reason. (Craven’s commentary is a bit much.)