Thursday, June 25, 2009

City for Conquest (1940)

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.


  1. I'm not a fan of boxing films (though Cinderella Man was EXCELLENT). Just too violent for me, I guess.

    And here's a shocker - I don't know if I've ever watched a James Cagney film. I definitely need to remedy that!!!

  2. It's weird. I love brawls and fist fights and gunfights and all sorts of movie violence, but boxing and boxing movies tends to make me squeamish. Probably makes me quite the hypocrite. I own Cinderella Man but I actually haven't watched it yet. From what you say, it sounds like I need to watch it sooner rather than later!

    As of a couple months ago, I had only ever seen one complete James Cagney film and some of the more famous snippets from his films on tv. Now I've seen a few movies, and he really impresses me. I still love "Each Dawn I Die" the best of the ones I've seen, and not just because George Raft is in it. LOL! :-D

  3. Hello! I tagged you for a "10 random facts about me" thing :)

  4. I'm so glad you're impressed with Cagney!!

    I tell you, I think he's the absolute best. :)


    As mentioned, I've seen the first part of this movie, and have always wanted to finish it.

    As for their playing brothers: I've actually thought, while watching Arthur Kennedy, that he and Cagney sort of favor each other!


    You might want to re-check the title... ;)

    Here on your blog, I once called THE OX-BOW INCIDENT the 'OX-BOX'. :)

  5. Hah! Thanks, Ginger! This is what I get for writing about the film a month after I see it and forgetting to pull it up on IMDb to check the title. I'll fix that! LOL!

    And yes, I noticed that too, that Cagney and Kennedy bore an unexpected resemblance to each other. They really did look like brothers.

    I also didn't realize that this was Arthur Kennedy's first film, or I would have mentioned that. :-D