Tales of Manhattan

Rita publicity shot for Tales of Manhattan

A 20th Century-Fox Picture (1942)

Produced by Boris Morros and Sam Spiegel (as S. P. Eagle)
Directed by Julien Duvivier

Screenplay and Stories by Henry Blankfort, Alan Campbell, Ladislas Fodor, László Görög, Ben Hecht, Samuel Hoffenstein, Ferenc Molnár, Donald Ogden Stewart, Lamar Trotti and László Vadnay

"A Tale of Manhattan," "A Journey to Your Lips," "Fare Thee Well to El Dorado,":
by Paul Francis Webtser and Saul Chaplin;
"Glory Day": by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger

Costumes by Oleg Cassini, Irene, Bernard Newman, Dolly Tree and Gwen Wakeling

Black and White, 119 mins. running time

Rita made two consecutive films for Fox studios in the early part of 1942. While My Gal Sal was released first, her scenes in Tales of Manhattan were filmed before My Gal Sal. Fresh from her success opposite Fred Astaire in You'll Never Get Rich, Rita was Hollywood's most exciting new star, and this all-star production put her on the screen with a slew of Hollywood veterans. Originally, there was an additional sequence starring W.C. Fields that was cut from the final print after the first previews. However, if you purchase the movie on VHS, the missing sequence is included. Tales of Manhattan is a five episode film which tells the journey of one very special tailcoat -a tailcoat which manages to change the lives of all who encounter it.
Sequence 1:

Charles Boyer         Rita Hayworth         Thomas Mitchell

The Stars:

Charles Boyer: Paul Orman
Rita Hayworth: Ethel Halloway
Thomas Mitchell: John Halloway
Eugene Pallette: Luther

The journey begins at a classy 5th Avenue high rise where a custom made tailcoat is brought up for Broadway star Paul Orman (Charles Boyer) for the opening of his latest show. While inspecting the coat, the tailor tells Paul that it has been "cursed" by a cutter he'd had an argument with. Enraged, the cutter declared that anyone who owned the tailcoat would be cursed with bad luck. The tailor laughs it off, telling Paul it's sure to bring him good luck. That night, he wears the coat for opening night and the show is a hit.

Afterwards, Paul rushes to the home of his lover, Ethel Halloway (Rita Hayworth). Thinking she's devoted to him, Paul doesn't take into account the fact that Ethel has a husband and makes plans for her to run away with him to Brazil. But she is not particularly excited about the arrangement. When Ethel's husband, a game hunter, John Halloway (Thomas Mitchell) enters the scene, he coolly takes Paul to his trophy room to show off his gun collection. Talking to Paul while polishing his favorite gun, it "accidentally" goes off and Paul is shot. Sprawled on the couch, he realizes Ethel is not actually in love with him. She is more worried about what might happen to her and her husband than the fact that Paul is dying. She even promises to stand up for John to the end, even though she knows that it was no accident.

Then, just as they think Paul is about to die, he springs to his feet, says John's bullet missed him and laughs, explaining his "death scene" was just an act. But we soon find out that the real acting was what he'd just done. Paul really has been shot. Yet he mustered up enough strength to fool the Halloway's. He then leaves. By the time he reaches his car, however, he can no longer stand the pain. After telling his driver, Luther (Eugene Pallette), to take him to the hospital, he instructs him to tell everyone it was an accident. That way there won't be any publicity, and the Halloway's will never know that he had indeed been shot.

Sequence 2:

Ginger Rogers         Henry Fonda         Cesar Romero

The Stars:

Ginger Rogers: Diane
Henry Fonda: George
Cesar Romero: Harry Wilson
Roland Young: Edgar

The tailcoat's next stop is the home of Mr. Harry Wilson (Cesar Romero). It was brought there by Luther who takes it to his friend Edgar (Roland Young), a member Harry's household staff. When Harry's fiancée Diane (Ginger Rogers) looks through his tailcoat pocket, she finds a love letter to him from another woman. To get him out of this jam, his friend George (Henry Fonda) pretends Harry's tailcoat is his, and the one Luther had brought, is Harry's. While Harry showers and shaves, a suspicious Diane tries to see if George is telling the truth. Somewhere along the way, being alone, the two find themselves falling in love. The other woman in Harry's life, the writer of the love letter, soon shows up and the truth comes out. Diane leaves her philandering fiancé for George. Soon after, Luther and Edgar take the tailcoat to a second hand clothing shop, hoping to make a few dollars.

Sequence 3:

Charles Laughton         Elsa Lanchester

The Stars:

Charles Laughton: Charles Smith
Elsa Lanchester: Elsa Smith

The third sequence is about a musician named Charles Smith (Charles Laughton). He auditions for an orchestra and makes such an impression on the conductor that he gives him his big break, a chance to conduct the orchestra. That night, he is prepared to go but doesn't have a proper suit to wear. His wife Elsa (Elsa Lanchester) goes to the second hand store and buys the tailcoat. The problem is, it's much too small for Charles. With no alternative, he wears it anyway. During the performance, the coat begins to come apart at the seams and makes him a laughing stock. It turns into a blessing however, when to put Charles at ease, all the men in attendance remove their tailcoats. Charles is a great success. Ecstatic, feeling the tailcoat has brought him luck, he throws it to a woman collecting for the poor so that it might bring luck to someone else. From there it winds up at a local mission.

Sequence 4:

Edward G. Robinson

The Stars:

Edward G. Robinson: Larry Browne
George Sanders: Williams
James Gleason: Father Joe

A poor man named Larry Browne (Edward G. Robinson) receives an invitation for his college reunion at the grand Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. His friend, Father Joe (James Gleason), who runs the mission where the tailcoat had been brought, convinces him to get spruced up and go to the reunion. He lends the tailcoat to Larry for the evening. All goes well until one of his former classmates says his wallet is missing. As a joke, they all say they'll allow themselves to be searched, but when they get to Larry, he won't let them. One of the former classmates, Williams (George Sanders), is suspicious of Larry, so in a mock trial against Larry, he acts as prosecuting attorney. In his defense, Larry tells them the truth about himself, that he's a bum and a thief, then he walks out, leaving everyone to assume he stole the wallet. As he makes his exit, the driver of the man whose wallet is missing enters and says he had left it in the car. The next day, one of Larry's successful ex-classmates offers him a job, and he's on his way out of the gutter. That day, the tailcoat is donated to a store.

Sequence 5:

Paul Robeson         Ethel Waters

The Stars:

Paul Robeson: Luke
Ethel Waters: Esther
Eddie "Rochester" Anderson: Reverend Lazarus

From there, the tailcoat is stolen by two crooks who use it to get into a high class casino. Once in, they rob the place and stuff the money in the tailcoat's pockets. While they make their getaway in a plane, the tailcoat catches fire and it is thrown out the window, it's pockets full of money. It lands in a poor community at the feet of farmers Luke (Paul Robeson) and Esther (Ethel Waters). The townspeople see it as a gift from God and Reverend Lazarus (Eddie "Rochester" Anderson) distributes the money to all the people to buy whatever they had prayed for most. There are over $40,000 left over afterward, and it is saved to fix up the community. As for the tailcoat -it's used for what an old man of the town was praying for most of all, a scarecrow.

Tales of Manhattan had it's gala premier at Grauman's Chinese Theater in August, 1942 and Rita arrived on the arm of her then boyfriend, actor Victor Mature. The film was very successful. In connection with the movie, five of the stars were invited to the Chinese Theater to immortalize their hand and footprints in cement. To this day, Rita Hayworth, Edward G. Robinson, Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton and Charles Boyer hold the record for the most number of squares imprinted at the Theater on the same day.

Rita and her Tales of Manhattan co-stars
Henry Fonda, Charles Boyer, Rita, Charles Laughton and Edward G. Robinson
putting their handprints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater. Behind
them is theater owner Sid Grauman.

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