Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Tales of Manhattan is a sumptuous multipart film centered around a formal tailcoat. The coat is specially designed for stage actor Charles Boyer, who wears it during a rendezvous with his lady friend (Rita Hayworth). The lady's husband (Thomas Mitchell) shoots Boyer, thus the tailcoat is damaged merchandise and sold at a discount to a bridegroom (Cesar Romero). When the groom's peccadillos catch up to him, the bride (Ginger Rogers) chooses to marry the best man (Henry Fonda) instead, and the coat is shipped off to a second hand store. It is purchased by a would-be composer (Charles Laughton), who wears it the night that he is to conduct his first symphony; alas, the coat is too tight and tears apart, nearly ruining the conductor's debut. Stitched back together, the coat is donated to a skid row mission, wherein the kindly proprietor gives the coat to a down and out drunkard (Edward G. Robinson) so that the shabby gentleman can attend his 25th college reunion. Later on, the coat is stolen by a crook (J. Carroll Naish) in order to gain entrance to a fancy charity ball. The crook holds up the ball and stuffs the loot in the pockets of the coat, but while escaping in an airplane he loses the outer garment. The coat floats down to an impoverished African American shanty community; a farmer (Paul Robeson) decides to distribute the "money from heaven" amongst his needy neighbors. At the end, the tattered coat adorns the shoulders of a scarecrow. Tales of Manhattan is one of the best "portmanteau" dramas turned out by Hollywood; it was directed by French expatriate Julien Duvivier, a past master of the multi-story technique.
accusation, aerial, anger, bad-luck, ball [dance], benefactor, bishop, Black [race], bride, burn, charity, classmate, composer, conductor [music], curse, dress, employment, episode, extramarital-affair, farming, fashion, flight, friendship, gentleman, glory, groom [bridegroom], help, home, husband, lady, lawyer, letter, loot, love, love-letter, lover, luck, man, meeting, mission [quest], mistress, neighbor, office, owner, past, plans, priest, reunion, scarecrows, sharecropper, shop, shoulder, slice-of-life, stage, symphony, valet [servant], weapons, wound [injury], writing