During one of their quarrels, Emma walked out on Rankin and moved in with us for a week or two. It was during that moody period that she took me with her to see Myrna Loy and Clark Gable in a lurid film noir called “Manhattan Melodrama.” Myrna Loy was Emma’s favorite motion picture actress. I had no opinion on Myrna Loy one way or the other. But I liked Clark Gable. And I remember that I thought the movie was terrific. I sat there goggle-eyed during that climactic scene when Gable, as “Blackie” the gangster, strode to the electric chair with a bemused smile on his face.
A few days later, Emma flashed in front of me the Portland Oregonian headline and front page story: John Dillinger, Public Enemy No. 1, had been gunned down the night before by the FBI as he came out of the Biograph Theater in Chicago with “the woman in red.” Agent Melvin Purvis and his men had been waiting outside for more than two hours. They’d been tipped off. When Dillinger emerged from the theater, the FBI agents closed in. His mysterious girl friend stepped to one side. Dillinger reached for his automatic. They shot him dead.
What was the movie that Dillinger and his girl friend had gone to see that fateful night at the Biograph Theater? Myrna Loy and Clark Gable in “Manhattan Melodrama!”
(Some years later, the biographers of Franklin D. Roosevelt reported that Myrna Loy also had been FDR’s favorite motion picture actress.)
The New Deal did not wipe out the Great Depression. Far from it. By the mid ’30s, nearly 63 percent of the population still lived below the poverty line. National income was still less than half of what it had been during the Roaring Twenties. Almost one-third of the workforce was still unemployed. And it was still tough going for our family and our neighborhood.
However, the New Deal did help to reduce the suffering. It helped some people get back to work, if only for awhile. It sparked a renewed spirit across America— a feeling that better days might be just around the corner.