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TALES OF MANHATTAN (director: Julien Duvivier; screenwriters: Ben Hecht/Ferenc Molnar/Donald Ogden Stewart/Samuel Hoffenstein/Alan Campbell/Ladislas Fodor/L. Vadnai/L. Gorog, Lamar Trotti/Henry Blankfort; cinematographer: Joseph Walker; editor: Robert Bischoff; music: Sol Kaplan; cast: Charles Boyer (Paul Orman), Rita Hayworth (Ethel), Ginger Rogers (Diane), Henry Fonda (George), Charles Laughton (Charles Smith), Edward G. Robinson (Browne), Cesar Romero (Harry), Eugene Pallette (Luther), Eddie (Rochester) Anderson (Rev. Lazarus), Ethel Waters (Esther), Paul Robeson (Luke), John Kelly (Monk), Roland Young (Edgar), Thomas Mitchell (Halloway), James Gleason (“Father” Joe), George Sanders (Williams); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sam Spiegel/Boris Morros; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1942)
“Charming episodic urban comedy drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French expatriate filmmaker Julien Duvivier (“Pepe Le Moko”/”The Great Waltz”/”Anna Karenina”) directs this charming episodic urban comedy drama. There are enough writers to field a football team and almost as many stars in it as are in the sky. It centers around a formal tailcoat made for a Broadway stage star (Charles Boyer), that the tailor says is cursed. The tailcoat will get passed onto four other diverse owners through various means and it takes five episodes to cover the alternatively ironic, poignant and frivolous things that happen to those who possess the tailcoat

Charles Boyer wears it during an assignation with his married lady friend Rita Hayworth. Her hubby (Thomas Mitchell) plugs Boyer and the damaged with a bullet hole tailcoat is sold on the cheap to a bridegroom (Cesar Romero). His past philandering catches up with him, so the bride (Ginger Rogers) ditches him to marry instead the best man (Henry Fonda). This leads to the tailcoat given to a second hand store. It is purchased by a composer (Charles Laughton), who wears it the night that he is to conduct his first symphony. But the coat is too tight and tears apart. It’s stitched back together and donated to a skid row mission, wherein it’s donated to a down and out drunkard bum (Edward G. Robinson) so that he can attend his 25th college reunion. This episode is the best in the film. The coat is subsequently stolen by a crook (J. Carroll Naish) in order to gain admittance to a fancy gambling club. The crook holds up the ball and stuffs the loot in the coat pockets, but while fleeing in an airplane he loses the tailcoat and it falls from the sky to an impoverished Southern Negro farm community. The farmer who finds it (Paul Robeson) decides to distribute the “manna from heaven” to his needy neighbors and, in the end, the tattered coat is placed on the shoulders of a scarecrow.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”