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James Cagney is at his dynamic best as a Gotham truck driver who boxes to support his brother, Kennedy (in his film debut), while he tries to make it as a composer. Cagney's girlfriend Sheridan struggles to gain fame as a dancer, though he objects to her partner, unctuously portrayed by
Anthony Quinn. CITY FOR CONQUEST is an often heavy melodrama, but it has consistently good dialogue, a sprightly style, and a captivating powerhouse performance by Cagney, who drew on his experience as a longtime fight fan. He was 42 when he made the film and, training like a fighter, shed 30
pounds for the role. His fight scenes are realistically photographed by veteran cameramen Sol Polito and James Wong Howe, and in many cases hard blows were actually exchanged between the actor and his opponents. Director Anatole Litvak and Cagney argued over just about every scene, and most of
Cagney's ideas, including much of his fight choreography, were edited out of the final version. Moreover, Cagney felt that the story had been ruined and sent a note of apology to its author, novelist Aben Kandel. But Litvak's careful poduction overcomes any flaws. Watch out for Elia Kazan as a
neighborhood kid gone gangster.