Tales of Manhattan is a star-studded movie that featured 46 supporting players as well as a main cast including Charles Boyer, Rita Hayworth, Ginger Rogers, Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Edward G. Robinson, W.C. Fields, Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, and Eddie Rochester Anderson. A film like this could never be made today because each star would demand so much money that the budget would be so high.
The film begins when a tailor and his assistants bring a tailcoat to the apartment of stage actor Paul Orman (Charles Boyer). They then inform him that the cutter put a curse on the suit, but he assures Mr. Orman¡Ēs that it will bring him happiness.
Paul¡Ēs next play is a smash hit, but he leaves as soon as he takes his bow. He tells Luther (Eugene Pallette), his servant, to drive him to Ethel Halloway¡Ēs (Rita Hayworth) home. He is in love with her, but she is married to John (Thomas Mitchell). He is supposed to go hunting tomorrow in Canada, so the two lovers plan to meet in town. At Ethel¡Ēs home, they discuss the plan, but the inquisitive John is always near. He decides to clean his gun when he begins to talk to Paul. While Ethel watches in horror, Paul is shot. But he gives a performance pretending he was missed. Paul manages to get out to Luther, who takes him the St. Luke¡Ēs Hospital.
Now that Paul doesn¡Ēt need the tailcoat any more, Luther brings it to his friend Edgar (Rolland Young). He is the butler for Harry (Cesar Romero) who is marrying Diane (Ginger Rogers) that evening. While in her own apartment, Ellen (Gail Patrick), Diane¡Ēs friend comes and tells her that when she was looking in her husband¡Ēs tailcoat, she found a comb with red hair. She knows her own husband has been cheating on her. They both go off the Harry¡Ēs together.
While waiting for him to get up, they find his tailcoat just lying on the back of a chair. Ellen coaxes Diane into looking through it. In the last pocket she looks in, she finds a love letter from ¡ÈSquirrel.¡É They read it out loud, and Harry hears them. He runs to the kitchen and calls his friend George (Henry Fonda) to come and get him out of the fix. George comes and says that he accidentally left his own tailcoat at the apartment last night when he came for a party and he gives Harry Paul Orman¡Ēs tailcoat saying its his.
There is also a big break for a musician (Charles Laughton) and another vignette in which Edward G. Robinson is transformed from a bum to a classy lawyer attending his college re-union. There is also a great segment with W.C. Fields. It was not included in the original release, but it is included in the new home video version. Finally, the coat falls on a poor sharecropper community with some stolen money in it. It provides the townspeople with a wonderful Christmas! The coat ends up as a scarecrow on the farm, a far way from the tailcoat of a wealthy actor!
This movie has something for everybody. My Dad¡Ēs favorite vignette was the Edward G. Robinson episode. He liked it because it was very deep, talky, and ironic. My mom disliked that version because of the very same reason. Her favorite was the episode with Charles Laughton because it was heartwarming and charming. My favorite was the Ginger Rogers/Henry Fonda version because it went so smoothly and all the actors were at their best! All in all, it was a fantastic film, and everyone, not just film buffs, should enjoy it!