Words evolve, and to a certain extent the term “melodrama” no longer carries with it a particularly positive connotation. Certainly when used in the sentence “don’t be so melodramatic” or in connection with any original movie from Lifetime. It probably wasn’t so big a deal back in 1934 when it was slapped on a low budget crime film that ended up being one of Clark Gable’s stepping stones to super-stardom. Oh, and it was the last flick John Dillinger ever caught.
Manhattan Melodrama – The Film
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Two childhood friends grow up on opposite sides of the law and end up competing for the same girl. You probably should have stopped me by now. I suppose this was slightly less of a cliché in 1934, though I’m not even sure about that. Jim Wade and Blackie Gallagher are the childhood friends, and thanks to an extremely subtle naming technique, you’ve pretty much figured out that “Blackie” is the bad one. Jim’s the DA going after Blackie, and Blackie’s girlfriend Eleanor is the girl in the middle. As with all these films the moral of the story is that you’ll be electrocuted by the state if you grow up on the wrong side of the law from your childhood friend.
Manhattan Melodrama – The Furs
Eleanor is played by Myrna Loy, who is certainly no stranger to large swaths of fox fur in the 1930’s. In the rather standard role as gangster girlfriend, she adds three more to her career highlight reel.
We start out with the film’s anchor, this full silver fox fur collar that remains on Eleanor as she spends the evening with Jim (William Powell) and then Blackie (Clark Gable).
Since the majority of the time Myrna Loy is shot from the waist and usually the chest up, the big collar fills the screen.
And time you will have, as this series of sequences fills out a good 8 minutes of celluloid glory, and that’s minus the bits where they cut away to Powell and Gable.
So you get a full set of views, including this very nicely famed shot just as she departs Blackie’s pad, taking the fur with her.
Later we see one of the two other fox furs in which Myrna Loy appears, all opposite William Powell. Those kids have chemistry, they should probably star in a long running series of gentlemen detective films together…
I’m going out a limb and calling this red fox, though obviously the color can be left to the imagination. The cuffs seems to particularly suggest it. Also notable, though not particularly visible in the stills is that Myrna Loy is holding a lit cigarette for this brief meeting.
Here is the “blink and you’ll miss it” fur of the film. This white fox jacket (I think) appears for about five seconds in a sequence where Blakie is “helping” Jim’s gubernatorial aspirations by committing murder. Disappointing as it appears to be a rather nice white fox fur.
Due to some eventual fallout from that murder thing, Jim’s term as governor is a tad short, as he resigns after winning. Eleanor is there to provide moral support as he departs. She wearing a big blue fox fur collar and shot in a lovely closeup.
The size is even more apparent at this angle, where you can see how tall it is, a beautiful fur that’s simply demands closeups.
Manhattan Melodrama is a nice showcase of 1930’s fox fur collars, covering silver, red, and ending on the best… blue. The runtime stacks up at an average 10%, which is about where most of these films end up. Much of it contained in the early sequence with the silver fox collar, so don’t expect quite so much of the other two, nor, of course, that white fox jacket.
Fur Runtime: approx 9 minutes
Film Runtime: 93 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 10%
Here is the full gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama.