Apart from the Clark Gable-William Powell stellar duo and Myrna Loy, who does an excellent job as the principal femme, the Arthur Caesar story is replete with punchy popularly-appealing ingredients. The fast, crisp, intelligent dialog further enhances it.
True there is much to Manhattan Melodrama that’s very ten-twent-thirt. There are a couple of spots where perhaps Gable as the too suave hoodlum is glorified a bit, but there are also many offsetting speeches by Powell as the DA as he charges the jury to remember that there’s no longer public sympathy with bootleggers.
There are also a couple of somewhat banal spots such as Papa Rosen (George Sidney) adopting the two tough mick kids (Gable and Powell) because his own Morris was drowned in the Slocum disaster. Or, for example, where Papa Rosen is the first to deride the Russian red agitator (and gets trampled to death by the riot squad for his patriotism).
The captiousness embraces such incidents as the Governor’s wife (Loy) visiting the prisoner (Gable) in the Tombs. Or the inevitable Last Mile business in the death house with the colored convict, the surcharged atmosphere of bravado, etc. But in toto Manhattan Melodrama will never bore, and please generally.
Mickey Rooney and Jimmy Butler in the juve portions are tiptop. Shirley Ross is the colored warbler who handles the lone Rodgers-Hart song in the picture (which means little) in the Cotton Club setting.
1934: Best Original Story