Words evolve, and to a certain extent, the term “melodrama” no longer carries with it a particularly positive connotation. Indeed, when used in the sentence “don't be so melodramatic” or connected 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 (1934)
Format: NTSC, Subtitled
Manhattan Melodrama – The Film
Stop me if you've heard this one. Two childhood friends grow up on opposite sides of the law and compete 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 sure about that. Jim Wade and Blackie Gallagher are the childhood friends, and thanks to a highly 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 the state will electrocute you if you grow up on the wrong side of the law from your childhood friend.
Manhattan Melodrama – The Furs
Myrna Loy plays Eleanor, who is certainly no stranger to large swaths of fox fur in the 1930s. In the relatively traditional role as gangster girlfriend, she adds three more to her career highlight reel.
We start 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 Myrna Loy is shot from the waist and usually the chest up most of the time, the oversized collar fills the screen.
And time you will have, as this series of shots fill out a good 8 minutes of celluloid glory, minus the bits they cut away to Powell and Gable.
So you get a complete 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, opposite William Powell. Those kids have chemistry; they should probably star together in a long-running series of gentlemen detective films.
I'm going out a limb and calling this red fox, though the color can be left to the imagination. The cuffs seem to suggest it. Also notable, though not particularly visible in the stills, 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 seems to be a rather lovely white fox fur.
Due to some eventual fallout from that murder, 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 is wearing an oversized 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 demands closeups.
Manhattan Melodrama is an excellent showcase of 1930's fox fur collars, covering silver, red, and ending on the best: blue. The runtime stacks up at an average of 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%