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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tales Of Manhattan (1942)

A formal tailcoat has a curse placed on it by the tailor who cut it. The film follows the tailcoat as it's handed down from owner to owner and how the coat affects their lives: an actor (Charles Boyer) attempts to talk his mistress (Rita Hayworth) into leaving her jealous husband (Thomas Mitchell), a bridegroom (Cesar Romero) cons his best friend (Henry Fonda) into helping him hide an affair from his fiancee (Ginger Rogers), a struggling composer (Charles Laughton) gets his big break to perform at Carnegie Hall, a down on his luck alcoholic attorney (Edward G. Robinson) attends his college reunion, a shyster (W.C. Fields) peddles coconut water laced with booze, a poor farmer (Paul Robeson) and his wife (Ethel Waters) find $41,000 in the coat. As with most portmanteau films, the quality varies according to each individual story. Directed by Julian Duvivier (who would do another anthology film FLESH AND FANTASY the following year), only two of the stories hold up. The Edward G. Robinson and Charles Laughton segments which have some poignancy, the others stumble. When the film was first released, the W.C. Fields segment was cut out and as far as I'm concerned, it could have stayed cut out. The final segment is difficult to sit through as the black stereotypes make it borderline cringe worthy, enough to cause Robeson to give up films entirely. Others in the large all star cast: George Sanders, Phil Silvers, Elsa Lanchester, Eugene Pallette, Roland Young, J. Carrol Naish, Marcel Dalio, Gail Patrick, Mae Marsh and Margaret Dumont.

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