I actually watched this film last month but failed to write about it. I enjoyed it a lot, even if the dirty fighting in the final boxing match made me squirm. It's a similar film on some levels to Golden Boy, except where in Golden Boy, William Holden is both musician and pugilist, in City of Conquest, the roles are split. James Cagney goes the boxing route to support his younger brother, the ever wonderful Arthur Kennedy, in his bid to be a composer. This movie also throws in Ann Sheridan, Cagney's girl, as a dancer seeking fame and fortune with her feet. A lot of the conflict comes from her goals and what she is willing to do to get there, vs. the simpler life Cagney wants. Anthony Quinn plays a smooth-talking, but nasty dancer who takes her on as a partner.
The film has a perfect example of the best kind of escalation (in plot terms). When Ann is completely fed up with what she's been going through with Anthony Quinn as a dance partner, when she's decided to go back and marry James Cagney, when he's happier than the proverbial clam at the prospect -- then she finally gets offered everything she wanted in the dance world, but requires reneging on everything she just promised Cagney. Oh, the exquisite beauty of that moment for a plot-loving girl like me! Now that's how you up escalate the conflict and the stakes for the characters.
James Cagney is definitely growing on me. He's fabulous to watch. I particularly liked his scenes with Arthur Kennedy, when they discuss music and he asks for his favorite bit of music to be replayed. Those are the kind of scenes that will always get me, seeing that love of music portrayed onscreen. And, as I'm the elder sibling in my family (and my sister is a musician), it was really easy to relate to Cagney's character and the choices he made to help his brother's dreams come true.
Then, there's Arthur Kennedy, very young and playing a nice guy for once. It's a nice change to see him play a good guy, not hiding any deep dark secrets, and with no need to pull some devious betrayals on those who trust him. I was originally thinking he and Cagney would make unlikely brothers, but quite the contrary. They fit very well together. Kennedy does quite the convincing job with the piano, but his conducting skills... Ahem. No comment.
All in all, a good film that I'll definitely watch again.