Ex-Golden Gloves fighter Danny Kenny has it all worked out. He'll turn pro to bankroll his brother's dream of writing a symphonic paean to the teeming city where they both live: New York. But life pulls the sidewalk out fr... more »om under Danny when he's blinded during a brutal 15-round welterweight title bout. James Cagney plays Danny in this heart-tugging melodrama co-starring Ann Sheridan, Anthony Quinn, film-debuting Arthur Kennedy and in a rare acting turn before becoming a director, Elia Kazan. Among familiar studio players, there's an unbilled one: a vivid backlot and rear-screen Manhattan. "Sometimes we wonder," The New York Times' Bosley Crowther wrote, "whether it wasn't really the Warner brothers who got New York from the Indians, so diligent and devoted have they been in feeling the great city's pulse."« less
Juneann C. from TENAFLY, NJ Reviewed on 8/12/2010...
Same Story, Better Cast
Randy Keehn | Williston, ND United States | 05/04/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
""City for Conquest" is a sort of conglomeration of old movie cliches; older brother risks his life and limb in the ring to help put brother through school, childhood sweetheart leaves boy next door for fame and fortune only to discover true love is what she left behind, aging boxing manager with a heart of gold, and on and on. What stands out about this movie is we see it all coming but we enjoy it because it happens to be well made. Starting with James Cagney and acknowledging the contributions all the way down the line, we have a great cast of characters. Some, like Anthony Quinn and Arthur Kennedy, we catch early in their career. Heck, there's even Donald Crisp playing someone under the age of 70. Ann Sheridan continues to be the B movie's Rita Hayworth in her role as the girl next door. There are a lot of good scenes including some fancy foot work in the ring and on the dance floor. It works pretty good and it has the expected ending but even that works better than average.
All in all a decent movie. I gave it a "3" because there are a lot of "4" star movies in my book that are decidedly better than "City for Conquest". However, I came away from it with a tear on my cheek and a smile on my face and for that I thought it was worth reviewing."
Blinded by the Light
Martin Asiner | jersey city, nj United States | 04/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"CITY FOR CONQUEST could have been just one of those late 30s fight movies with an underdog battling for the title. But thanks to director Anatole Litwak and a sterling cast led by James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, and Arthur Kennedy, the result tells a timeless tale based on the adage that Broadway devours the very performers seeking to bask in its bright lights. This movie is not only a forum for Cagney, but it instead functions as a three way tale with Sheridan and Kennedy facing a similar destiny: how far can one go in pursuit of the Golden Dream? Their collective fates are intertwined as they seek the spotlight. Cagney is Young Samsom, a talented welterweight who fights only occasionally since he realizes that the fight business is likely to lead only to post-career punchiness. Kennedy is his brother Eddie, a pianist who dreams of someday conducting an orchestra at the Carnegie, but is instead reduced to banging out cheap jitterbug tunes to make a buck. Sheridan is Peg, a dancer whose eyes are filled with the glare of a Broadway that leaves no room for the love of a boxer who fights only to please her. Of the trio, it is only Kennedy who remains true to his talent. Cagney sells out to win back Sheridan, who in turn sells out by dumping Cagney for a smooth talking dance partner, (Anthony Quinn), in whose oily charm very nearly steals the show. The glare of the lights of Broadway does far more than light up the stage for wannabes. It functions as a metaphor that tests the ability of these star wannabes to recognize the twin-edged danger that stardom promises. For some, like Kennedy, those lights motivate them to try harder while not surrendering their basic selves to a glare that can destroy as easily as it can attract. For others, like Cagney and Sheridan, those bright lights produce a blindness that results in a near-tragic ending that resonates even many decades later."
Poetry in Motion
Buster49 | Utica, NY | 08/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For me, "City For Conquest" is so honest in its emotion that I totally accept what others might call over-the-top melodramatics. It mirrors, on the outside, what most of us feel on the inside, especially in the dynamics of relationships. Think about those times when you were in love with someone and all the positives and negatives that were part of it; remember the emotional level you felt. Then see if you can feel that in the outward expression of this movie. The Max Steiner score is almost non-stop and punctuates each scene with an added flair of romanticism. The acting, especially by Ann Sheridan, is heartfelt. My problem with the dvd version is that it's restored. Most of Frank Craven's "Greek Chorus" comments, though well placed in the context of the film, slows the rhythm and is totally superfluous. It adds nothing. The version, according to literature I have read, which we see on TCM or vhs tape, is the 1948 re-release edition which removed almost all of Frank Craven's scenes. I much prefer that version to the restored original although Craven's added scenes don't really hurt the heart of the movie. If you are not afraid to feel and you embrace the unabashed romanticism of that era, "City For Conquest" is a must-see. "
Cagney and Sheridan opus
Douglas M | 08/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"City for Conquest", a 1940 Warner Brothers release, is based on a pretentious novel published in the late thirties, a novel written to capture the heart of a great city, New York. The story traces the lives of a group of friends raised in poverty and striving in different ways to improve their lot. Cagney plays a good guy with no particular ambition other than to be happy. Sheridan plays his girlfriend, a ballroom dancer with aspirations to the big time. Arthur Kennedy plays Cagney's brother, a musician who writes serious music but teaches tenement kids the piano. There are other characters along the way including Anthony Quinn as Sheridan's odious dance partner and Elia Kazan as a small time crook who hits the big time.
James Cagney's best screen partner was probably Ann Sheridan. They complimented each other perfectly with their hard boiled sentiment. "City for Conquest's" greatest claim to fame is that at last they were teamed in a top flight A film. Cagney is superb as usual and Sheridan's part is very emotional and she rises to the challenge very well. This film contributed a lot to her stardom. Arthur Kennedy is perfectly cast as the intellectual and he is also excellent.
The film covers a lot of ground with prizefights, ballroom dancing, a symphony and good scenes of tenement life but Anatole Litvak's direction is slow so the film drags quite often. Elia Kazan adds a shot of energy in all his scenes. The climactic prize fight is harrowing. Sheridan and Quinn are limited dancers and the dancing sequences are unimpressive with an obvious use of a double for Sheridan in one scene. Also Frank Craven frames the story as a hobo. His corny philosophising could have been dispensed with and dates the film badly.
The DVD has many extras including a good commentary, a blooper reel from Warner Brothers and a radio version of the film with Alice Faye and Robert Preston. As part of the Warner's Tough Guy Collection, to which it is an uneasy fit, the DVD is good value but otherwise you may not want to revisit the film as part of your own collection."
Cagney scores a KO
Dr. James Gardner | California | 07/07/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
""City of Conquest" is a 1940 Warner Brothers film starring Jimmy Cagney and Ann Sheridan with dozens of excellent supporting actors including Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Elia Kazan (that's right, Elia Kazan), Frank McHugh, Frank Craven, Anthony Quinn, Ward Bond, Bob Steele, and George Tobias.
Cagney was one of the biggest stars of the 30s, was nominated for an Oscar for his work in "Angels with Dirty Faces" in 1938 and won for his 1942 portrayal of George M Cohan "Yankee Doodle Dandy". While he is best known for his gangster roles, the majority of Cagney's screen appearances were not as a gangster - he played an insurance salesman ("The Millionaire", 1931), engineer ("Other Men's Women", 1931), boxer ("Winner Take All", 1932), auto racer ("The Crowd Roars", 1932), Broadway producer ("Footlight Parade", 1933), etc. Indeed, Cagney often appeared in comedies (e.g., "Here Comes the Navy", "Hard to Handle", "Jimmy the Gent"), although it was his gangster films that earned the really big bucks. Here in 1940 he plays a truck driver turned boxer. Cagney's boxing scenes are convincing because Cagney himself was a runner up for the New York State boxing lightweight championship.
Anne Sheridan is Cagney's girl friend who is compelled to look for fame as a dancer, forsaking her relationship with Cagney. Sheridan appeared in more than 50 films, mostly in the late 30s and 40s, where she earned the nickname of the "Oomph Girl", before she made a move to TV. She appeared with Jimmy Cagney in `Angels with Dirty Faces" (1938), with Errol Flynn in "Dodge City" (1939), with Bogart in "They Drive By Night" (1940), with Ronald Reagan in "Kings Row" (1942), and with Cary Grant in "I Was a Male War Bride" (1949).
Arthur Kennedy plays Cagney's younger brother; a composer whom Cagney supports and who ultimately produces a symphony called "City of Conquest" that gives the film its name. This was Kennedy's film debut, and he went on to receive 5 Oscar nominations ("Champion", "Bright Victory", "Trial", "Peyton Place", "Some Came Running") although he never won (tying Claude Reins' record). He won a Golden Globe in 1955 for "The Trial" and the NY Film Critics Award in 1951 for "Bright Victory". He was one of the finest supporting actors in film history, appearing opposite Bogart in "High Sierra" (1941), Errol Flynn in "They Died with Their Boots On" (1941), Kirk Douglas in "Champion" (1949), and his good friend Anthony Quinn in "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962).
Anthony Quinn appears in the film as a dancer who tries to seduce Sheridan. In 1940 he was still a bit player although he had been in more than 20 films. His big break wouldn't come until 1952 opposite Marlon Brando in "Viva Zapata". Quinn, of course, left us a great legacy of more than 100 roles, with films like "Zorba the Greek" (1961), "Lust for Life" (1956), and "Wild is the Wind" (1957). He was nominated for an Oscar 4 times, winning twice for Best Supporting Actor.
Frank McHugh provided comic relief in over 100 films. He was part of the original "Irish Mafia" and appeared in a dozen films with fellow mafia member Jimmy Cagney and 13 films with mafia member Pat O'Brien. McHugh plays Cagney's lifelong friend.
Donald Crisp plays a good hearted fight promoter. He appeared in more than 150 films from 1908 through 1963. He won Best Supporting Actor for "How Green was My Valley" (1941) and gave memorable performances in films such as "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935), "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936), "Jezebel" (1938), "National Velvet" (1944), and "The Long Gray Line" (1955).
Frank Craven plays a narrator who appears throughout the film, often telegraphing future scenes. Craven was primarily a Broadway actor, but he did manage to appear in more than 30 films. He's best known for his role as the stage manager in "Our Town" (1940) and as the narrator in "The Horn Blows at Midnight" (1945).
Bob Steele makes a brief appearance as a boxer. Steele appeared In more than 200 films, and was a major western star for Republic in the silent and early sound era. He gave memorable performances as Curly in "Of Mice and Men" (1939) and as Lash Casino in "The Big Sleep" (1946), but he's perhaps best known as Trooper Duffy from "F Troop" (1965-7).
Elia Kazan appears as a hoodlum and long time friend of Cagney. This was one of only 6 films that Kazan appeared in as an actor, turning instead to directing ("A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", "Gentlemen's Agreement") and producing ("East of Eden", "A Face in the Crowd"). His otherwise distinguished career was spoiled by his role as an informer during the McCarthy era.
The film was directed by Anatole Litvak, a Ukranian born Jew. Litvak made several films with Edward G Robinson (e.g., "The Sisters", "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse", "Confessions of a Nazi Spy") and is best known for his work on "The Snake Pit" (1948) for which he was nominated for an Oscar and a DGA (he lost to John Huston for "Treasure of the Sierra Madre"). He was nominated for a second time for "Decision Before Dawn" (1951). Litvak directed several anti-Nazi films in his career (e.g., "Divide and Conquer", "The Nazis Strike", "The Battle of Russia", "War Comes to America", "Night of the Generals").
The film was produced by Bill Cagney, Jimmy's brother. This was Cagney's second film as a producer, and he would do a total of 13 films including "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942), "Blood on the Sun" (1945), and "A Lion is in the Streets" (1953). Brother Jimmy appeared, and on occasions, other members of the family.
The language in this film is superlative. Frank Craven's narration and many of the comments between actors are examples of the spoken word at its best. Truly poetic.
This same level of excellent in the script is translated into the photography by James Wong Howe, which is exceptional. Howe filmed more than 100 films and received 9 Oscar nominations and 2 wins ("Hud" and "The Rose Tatoo"), making him one of the most acknowledged cinematographers in film history. He often worked with Cagney on films such as "The Oklahoma Kid" (1939), "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941), and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942).
The music is terrific. Since Ann Sheridan is a dancer and Arthur Kennedy is a composer, we get to listen to several numbers throughout the film. Each one is compelling and serves to act as a musical score for the film as a whole. Austrian composer Max Steiner is responsible. Between 1935 and 1956 he was nominated for an Oscar 19 times, and won for "Since You Went Away" (1944), "Now Voyager" (1942), and "The Informer" (1935). He was so well known that he appeared on a 33 cent stamp (1999) along with Dimitri Tiomkin and Alfred Newman.
The film has everything. Great performances, great photography, a literate script with a profound message, and great music. What moré can you ask for? "