City for Conquest

Part of the Tough Guys DVD box set (now reissued as Gangsters Volume 2), this 1940 Warner Brothers obscurity is a taut bundle of New York City energy with a big heart. James Cagney shows restraint and depth as a moderately ambitious fighter whose middling success is overshadowed by his longtime love’s sudden fame as a dancer. The acting is sympathetic from top to bottom. Elia Kazan, in a choice role as a childhood crony of Cagney’s character, doesn’t waste the opportunity. Anthony Quinn is a little stiff (he somehow made it work for him in La Strada) as Cagney’s slick rival but he has pretty good moves on the dance floor and Ann Sheridan does a nice job as the conflicted Peg. The bustle of late 30s Manhattan provides the backdrop throughout this lovable melodrama.

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