City for Conquest (1940)

Genres - Drama, Sports & Recreation, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Release Date - Sep 21, 1940 (USA)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Bruce Eder

There are three key characters in Anatole Litvak's filmization of Aben Kandel's novel City for Conquest, as opposed to the six or more in the book -- but the real star, to a large extent, is New York City and its entire population. For purposes of the movie, however, the dramatic arc is linked to James Cagney, as honest, unpretentious truck driver Danny Kenny, whose life is involved with two other people -- his kid brother, Ed (Arthur Kennedy), a gifted musician trying to survive in the rough-and-tumble world of New York's Lower East Side, and Peggy Nash (Ann Sheridan), the neighborhood girl from the Lower East Side whom he's loved, one way or another, since he was a kid. Danny is happy doing what he does, driving a truck, but when Ed's scholarship is cut in half, he reluctantly takes an offer of a boxing match to raise the cash he needs, going into the ring under the fighting name "Young Samson." At about the same time, Peggy -- who loves to dance -- has her head turned by Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn), an ambitious but sleazy aspiring professional dancer. Eventually Peggy goes into partnership with Murray and is ultimately driven by her own ambition to leave Danny after she accepts his marriage proposal. By now, he's getting up in the boxing world, and in his bitterness over losing Peggy he accepts a bout for the world's welterweight championship. He's not overmatched as a boxer, but the money involved in this fight is just too big for it to be honest, and Danny is left all but blinded when his opponent's handlers slip resin dust onto his gloves. Danny is left seemingly a shell of a man, though he's content with his lot in life as far as it goes. He doesn't want any special attention or favors from anyone; the only thing he would like, though he's too proud to admit it, would be for Peggy to come back. But by now her dancing career with Murray has fallen apart, and she's too tortured by guilt, over the sequence of events she helped start, to come near Danny. It falls to Ed, who has never given up composing, to express the inexpressibles that each of these characters feels through his music. His first major classical work is a symphony ostensibly about New York City, which he conducts in its premiere at Carnegie Hall; but it's also about Danny and his life, and his dreams.



blindness [physical], boxing, brother, handicap, violinist, dance-team, gangster, revenge