ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN. Columbia, 1936. Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Reginald Owen, Thomas Mitchell. Suggested by the story “Purple and Fine Linen” by May Edginton. Director: Edward Ludwig.

   There are actually two stories involved in this moderately entertaining crime-romance trifle. The first is kind of a story within the story, if you will, and it’s the one by May Edginton listed in the credits. But I’ll back up a little, though, before saying more.


   Hot shot crime reporter George Melville (Joel McCrea) is one of those fellows the rest of the guys on the beat love to hate. While he gets along with them fine, he’s by nature smug and self-possessed, and for good reason. He gets scoops that no one else does, not by chance, but by pure intellect and a dispassionate viewing of the facts.

   If a good-looking woman comes along when he’s working on a story, she’d just be another clue, he is ribbed, and he good-heartedly agrees. But when a good-looking woman does come along (Jean Arthur), he falls for her story hook, line and sinker, just like every other guy would. Or is it a story? Well, it’s the one I mentioned by May Edginton above, and it’s a good one.

   You can even read the entire story online right here. It will suck you in too, I guarantee, a tale of a young woman down on her luck who has to resort to picking pockets in order to see her young girl who’s been living with her father and whom the mother has not seen since the divorce went through.

   This first part of the movie takes up no more than twenty minutes of the film, and while I hate to say it, given that I like both Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea as actors, but it goes downhill from here. I also say that even though the second half of the film is one of those grand high-stakes art theft movies I was talking about in regard to crime caper fiction not so long ago.

   What the segue is, and how the story makes the switch from the first part of the movie to the second, I will leave for you to watch (and enjoy) on your own.

   I think what the problem is, relative to the second half of the film, though, is that there’s too much story and not enough plot — and there’s somehow not enough time left to explain (convincingly) what the attraction between the two leading players is, other than that she’s a woman and he’s a man, and of course the twain have to meet.

   Nonetheless, moderately entertaining is what I said up above, and I’ll stand by what I said. But in terms of simple comparisons, if you’re a fan of romantic comedies, The More the Merrier (1943), with (quite coincidentally) the same two stars, this movie is not. Given a choice and a chance, I’d watch that one instead — any time — even if there’s no crime in it.