The heartbreaking but hopeful tale of Danny Kenny and Peggy Nash, two sweethearts who meet and struggle through their impoverished lives in New York City. When Peggy, hoping for something better in life for both of them, breaks off her engagement to Danny, he sets out to be a championship boxer, while she becomes a dancer paired with a sleazy partner. Will tragedy reunite the former lovers?
I'm unashamedly a James Cagney enthusiast--in fact, he's my very favourite actor (like me, he's at least part-Irish, and he's more versatile than Orson Welles), so yes, I tend to be overly generous when I'm watching his films. But I really enjoyed this gangster/boxing hybrid film from the early 40's that, not only sported great acting by Cagney but also had wonderful performances by Ann Sheridan (I'm rather fond of redheads too), Anthony Quinn and a rare acting role for top-notch director Elia Kazan. Yes, it was melodramatic, a tearjerker and overly predictable--people talk about those qualities as if they were bad things. Also being an aficionado of many types of music, particularly jazz and classical, I found it highly compelling of the filmmakers to utilize music as a way of communicating the inexpressible (the trials and tribulations, dreams and pitfalls). Highly recommended for anyone who likes seeing filmmakers think outside of the box for once, and dare to try something different. Especially if you love Cagney and classic cinema as much as I do, I highly doubt you'll be disappointed.
Powerhouse Cagney in melodramatic heart-tugger. If taken purely on script alone the film only amounts up to the usual fare we have seen a zillion times over the years. The basic formula being that two brothers are taking different paths in career choices and the elder brother is doing all he can to help realise his younger brother's dream of being a composer, yet thankfully here the film has a great deal more to offer outside of the usual standard fare. The elder brother boxes to support his young bro's dream but he's tragically almost blinded in a gruelling 15 round fight where foul cheat tactics are used against him. The film then follows the love interest slant of the family & girlfriend closest to our stricken boxer, where thankfully the film manages to stay clear of drowning in a bowl of sickly syrup. Playing out with a very deep emotional heart the film functions so well because of the lead actor. James Cagney was 42 when he made this film, yet he looks like a lithe athletic man in his twenties, such was his commitment to the role. He imbues such gusto into the role of Danny Kenny that he alone demands you watch this film. Cagney is also staunchly supported by Ann Sheridan, Arthur Kennedy, and by a very brash turn from Anthony Quinn. It's a film that tugs on your heart strings at times, and yes it has the audience begging for an uplift in the final reel, but it's done well and delivers all that you had hoped for at the start of the film. The back story doesn't read so well though, Cagney & director Anatole Litvak were continually at war during filming, and most of Cagney's input into the film was cut out. Cagney was so annoyed and sad with the final outcome, he wrote to Aben Kandel (the writer of the novel the film is adapted from) and apologised with sincerity, he need not of worried though for the final result is a very rewarding experience indeed. 8/10