City for Conquest

City for Conquest is a 1940 American drama film directed by Anatole Litvak and starring James Cagney, Ann Sheridan, and Arthur Kennedy.[2][3] The picture is based on the novel of the same name by Aben Kandel. The supporting cast features Anthony Quinn, Elia Kazan, Donald Crisp, Frank McHugh, Frank Craven and Lee Patrick.

City for Conquest
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnatole Litvak
Jean Negulesco (uncredited)
Produced byWilliam Cagney
Anatole Litvak
Hal B. Wallis (uncredited)
Written byAben Kandel (novel)
John Wexley (screenplay)
StarringJames Cagney
Ann Sheridan
Arthur Kennedy
Frank Craven
Anthony Quinn
Elia Kazan
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyJames Wong Howe
Sol Polito
Edited byWilliam Holmes
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 21, 1940 (1940-09-21)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,794,000[1]


James Cagney plays a truck driver named Danny Kenny who was once a New York City Golden Gloves boxing champion. To help put his brother Eddie (Arthur Kennedy) through music school, Danny starts to box professionally under the name of Young Samson. He quickly rises through the welterweight ranks to become a title contender. Ann Sheridan plays Danny's longtime girlfriend, Peggy, a talented dancer. One night while at a dance club with Danny, Peggy is swayed by Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn), a local dancing champion. Murray asks Peggy to become his professional dance partner, but is insulting to Danny as he does it. Nevertheless, Peggy agrees and quickly learns that Murray is domineering and brutish. The arrangement was supposed to be short-term, but just as she is about to marry Danny, Peggy coldly rejects Danny's proposal in a letter as her dancing career is advancing rapidly. Embittered by Peggy's change of mind, Danny continues to thrive in the ring and gets a chance to fight for the world welterweight title. In the title fight in which he was winning, Danny is deliberately blinded by his opponent's unscrupulous seconds who have placed rosin dust onto the champion's gloves. Peggy listens to the fight on the radio, which Danny loses and absorbs terrible punishment in the process. She is so distraught she cannot go onstage to dance that night. Her career as a big-time dancer ends and she is reduced to dancing in local New York City shows for small wages. Danny, his eyesight permanently damaged, can barely see shadows. With the help of his boxing manager, however, Danny begins working as a newsstand operator where he has many regular customers. Meanwhile, Eddie has become a successful composer of Broadway scores, but his true love is classical music. Danny persuades Eddie to pursue his true calling and continue to work on creating a symphony about New York City. Eddie dedicates his first major symphony at Carnegie Hall to his brother, who is proudly listening to the concert on the radio from his newsstand. The movie ends with Peggy tearfully reuniting with Danny at his newsstand after attending Eddie's very successful concert.



George Raft was meant to appear opposite Cagney but was unable due to scheduling reasons.[4]

The tramp who "hosts" the film is played by Frank Craven as a sort of parody of his role as The Stage Manager in Our Town, which he had filmed just prior to this picture.

Box Office

According to Warner Bros records the film earned $1,156,000 domestically and $638,000 foreign.[1]


City for Conquest was released to DVD by Warner Home Video on July 18, 2006 as a Region 1 fullscreen DVD and also on October 12, 2010 as a part of the 'TCM Greatest Gangster Films Collection: James Cagney' with City for Conquest on the first disc of a four-disc set.


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 21 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. Variety film review; September 11, 1940, page 14.
  3. Harrison's Reports film review; September 28, 1940, page 154.
  4. Timely 'I Wanted Wings' Set for Early Shooting: Retrenchment Urge On Quinn Tested for 'City' Dual Ouspenskaya Duty Bancroft in 'Daltons' 'Deerslayer' Hastened Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 27 May 1940: A10.
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