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Tales of Manhattan

Tales of Manhattan

Director: Julien Duvivier

Cast: Charles Boyer, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers

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).


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.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
One of the better anthology films, Tales of Manhattan benefits from Julien Duvivier's assured direction, which confidently melds the disparate stories (and their different tones) together in an effortless and surprisingly satisfying manner. There are almost inevitably problems with multi-part films of this sort, and Tales certainly has them, including a tendency to sacrifice characterization to the mechanics of the plot and a "broad stroke" approach to dialogue. This accounts for excessive sentimentality in the Edward G. Robinson sequence, as well as for the fact that the climax on the Charles Laughton sequence comes across as somewhat corny and contrived; it isn't presented with sufficient nuance. On the whole, however, Tales's considerable assets make up for its flaws; chief among the assets, of course, is the all-star cast, many of which turn in especially fine performances. Laughton is particularly fine, employing a vulnerability that he often eschewed, and giving fine shadings to the character, despite the scant screen time allotted him. Robinson is also in fine form, making the most of his big confession scene, as well as his wordless final scene, and Henry Fonda and Ginger Rogers do extremely well with their mutual seduction scene (a scene in which Duvivier lingers obsessively over the sparkle in both actors' eyes.) Paul Robeson creates a toweringly gentle character, and he, Ethel Waters and Eddie Anderson somehow manage to keep the final sequence from crossing the line from folksy to stereotyped. Elegantly appointed, Tales is a delightful bauble for viewers in search of a light divertissement.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Fox Mod
[B&W, Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Charles Boyer Paul Orman
Rita Hayworth Ethel Halloway
Ginger Rogers Diane
Henry Fonda George
Charles Laughton Charles Smith
Edward G. Robinson Avery "Larry" L. Browne
Paul Robeson Luke
Ethel Waters Esther
Eddie "Rochester" Anderson Rev. Lazarus
Thomas Mitchell John Halloway
Eugene Pallette Luther
Cesar Romero Harry Wilson
Gail Patrick Ellen
Roland Young Edgar the Butler
Marion Martin Squirrel
Elsa Lanchester Elsa Smith
Victor Francen Arturo Bellini
George Sanders Williams
James Gleason Father Joe
Harry Davenport Professor Lyons
James Rennie Hank Bronson
J. Carrol Naish Costello
Frank Orth Secondhand Clothes Dealer
Christian Rub Wilson
Sig Arno Piccolo Player
Harry Hayden Soupy Davis
Morris Ankrum Judge Barnes
Donald Douglas Henderson
Mae Marsh Molly
Clarence Muse Grandpa
George H. Reed Christopher
Cordell Hickman Nicodemus
Barbara Lynn Mary
Adeline Reynolds Grandmother
Helene Reynolds Actress
Don Brady Whistler
Gino Corrado Spectator
Hall Johnson Choir Themselves
William Halligan Oliver Webb
John Kelly Monk
Johnny Lee Carpenter
Blue Washington Black Man
Olive Ball Woman
Don Beddoe Whistler
Buster Brodie Call Boy
Jack Chefe Tailor
Rita Christiani Woman
Frank Dae Elderly Man
Frank Darien Grandpa
Charles Gray Rod
Robert Greig Lazar
Esther Howard Woman
Philip Hurlic Jeff
Frank Jaquet Musician
Connie Leon Mary
Forbes Murray Dignified Man
Tom O'Grady Latecomer
Alex Pollard Waiter
Dewey Robinson Bar Proprietor
Archie Savage Man
Ted Stanhope Chauffeur
Charles Tannen Pilot
Charles Williams Paul's Agent
Eric Wilton Halloway's Butler
Will Wright Skeptic
Joseph E. Bernard Postman
W.C. Fields (in restored episode) (uncredited)

Technical Credits
Julien Duvivier Director
Edmund Beloin Screenwriter
Ben Hecht Screenwriter
Robert Bischoff Editor
Henry Blankfort Screenwriter
Alan Campbell Screenwriter
Oleg Cassini Costumes/Costume Designer
Richard Day Art Director
Sam P. Eagle Producer
W.D. Flick Sound/Sound Designer
Ladislas Fodor Screenwriter
Laszlo Gorog Screenwriter
Charles Hall Asst. Director
Roger Heman Sound/Sound Designer
Samuel Hoffenstein Screenwriter
Irene Costumes/Costume Designer
Sol Kaplan Score Composer
Buster Keaton Screenwriter
Boris Leven Production Designer
Thomas K. Little Set Decoration/Design
Ferenc Molnar Screenwriter
Boris Morros Producer
William Morrow Screenwriter
Bernard Newman Costumes/Costume Designer
Eddie Paul Musical Direction/Supervision
Guy Pearce Makeup
Donald Ogden Stewart Screenwriter
Robert Stillman Asst. Director
Dolly Tree Costumes/Costume Designer
Lamar Trotti Screenwriter
Laszlo Vadnay Screenwriter
Gwen Wakeling Costumes/Costume Designer
Joseph Walker Cinematographer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Tales of Manhattan
1. Chapter 1 [10:00]
2. Chapter 2 [10:00]
3. Chapter 3 [10:00]
4. Chapter 4 [10:00]
5. Chapter 5 [10:00]
6. Chapter 6 [10:00]
7. Chapter 7 [10:00]
8. Chapter 8 [10:00]
9. Chapter 9 [10:00]
10. Chapter 10 [10:00]
11. Chapter 11 [10:00]
12. Chapter 12 [8:23]

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