Starting in September of 2011, I’ve been fortunate enough to regularly view classic films with a neighbour of mine. I’m going to attempt to chronicle those sessions in a new section that I’m calling “Sundays at Seven”.
I haven’t been keeping up to date with my Sundays at Seven postings at all, but I’ve got a list of the films we’ve watched and we’ve definitely watched some really great stuff over the past year and a half.
Tonight, we watched a movie called City for Conquest. It starred James Cagney in it, who I’ve never been a huge fan of, but the theme of the movie really hit me.
The film follows a group of children who grow up in a rough end of New York as they grow up and chase after a better existence. There’s Peggy, a girl who loves to dance and Danny, a boy who loves Peggy and fights at the drop of the hat. Danny’s brother is Eddy, who has a love for music and they have a friend Googi, who is the poorest of them all and has to steal in order to get food to eat.
We then jump forward to the group as adults. Danny and his best friend Scotty are truck drivers, Eddy is trying to put himself through music school, Peggy is trying to put herself through dance classes and Googi has already been in and out of jail. They all wait success, they all want to reach a level of conquest, to rise above.
But that success doesn’t come easy and it comes with some brutal sacrifice. Peggy has to sacrifice her love for Danny in order to reach success as a dancer. Danny needs to sacrifice his body and become a boxer in order to get money together for Eddy to finish school. Eddy then needs to sacrifice his love for the art and play popular music in order to get the attention he requires. And Googi makes the ultimate sacrifice, dying in a gangster shootout on the dockyards.
Inevitably, the individual sacrifices pay off, but perhaps not in the happy ending the characters hope for. Googi’s death redeems himself, standing up for what is right one last time. Eddy reaches a level of success that then enables him to make the music he wants. Peggy’s dance career falls apart, but she reunites with Eddy, who despite being broken and blinded, is happy because they’re together.
I guess that concept of sacrifice resonated with me, because it’s the feeling I was trying to capture when talking about failure. To get a little, you have to give a little. If you want to get a lot, you have to be prepared to give up a lot, perhaps more than you’d normally be willing to give up. That’s the cost.