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For The Love Of A Star

On the night of June 22, 1934, the FBI received word from a source that Public Enemy No. 1, John Dillinger, was to go out and see a film. Two of Chicago’s prominent movie theaters were given — The Biograph or the Marbro. The FBI would stake out both but the infamous bank robber would be at the Biograph theater to see “Manhattan Melodrama” as his last picture show before he was gunned down in the theaters’ alleyway..

“Manhattan Melodrama” (1934) stars Clark Gable, William Powell and Myrna Loy. It is about two childhood friends, Edward J. “Blackie” Gallagher (Gable) and “James W. “Jim” Wade, growing apart, each taking the opposite side of the tracks. “Blackie” finds a life in illegal casino clubs while “Jim” works his way to becoming district attorney and “Eleanor Packer” (Loy) is the gal who is
caught between the two.

The film’s ironic plot pointed to some of the real-life events Dillinger was facing. For instance, “Jim” makes a poignant speech in court about proclaiming that society has numbered the days of criminals like “Blackie.” And “Blackie”’s demise, that is perpetuated by “Jim”’s selfish betrayal, would be the same for Dillinger. The FBI’s source was one Anna Sage, a Madam who Dillinger took into confidence after he arrived in Chicago. Sage told the FBI of Dillinger’s movements in hopes of avoiding deportation back to her homeland. Despite giving up the most wanted man in America, Sage would be deported.

One of the reasons Dillinger went to see “Manhattan Melodrama” that night was because his favorite actress was Myrna Loy and never wanted to miss a picture of hers. In “Public Enemies” (2009), Director Michael Mann cleverly inter-cuts clips of Myrna Loy from “Manhattan Melodrama” to draw the audience in on the theory that what Dillinger saw in Myrna Loy, was in fact his jailbird girlfriend Billie Forchette. When Myrna Loy heard that Dillinger was a fan of her’s and was shot after seeing her film, Loy said, “That poor man.” Later in her autobiography titled, “Myrna Loy: Being and Becoming”, Loy expressed how she always felt a little guilty of Dillinger’s death because he saw the picture for Loy.

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