June 26, 1936
San Francisco is one of the classic movies from the Golden Age of MGM that you have to see if you are a movie fan. It stars big name actors in its cast – Clark Gable as the bad boy Barbary Coast club owner Blackie, Spencer Tracy as Father Tim and long time friend of Blackie, and beautiful singer Jeanette MacDonald. It is also a beautiful early black and white disaster film.
Following in the tracks of other great films of the 30’s there is a heavy musical element to this film. While I love these types of films, the opera in this film became a little much at times. I know that opera is important to the history of San Francisco and appreciate it in the film, but I could have done with less of it. Apparently, when the film was originally release people loved the music and the opera aspect of the film – so maybe it is just a generational thing.
The plot of the film was well done. The film begins on New Year’s Day of 1906 and wraps up shortly after the earthquake disaster is over. The first 2/3rds of the film focuses on the lawless, corrupt, party atmosphere of the Barbary Coast in the very early 1900’s. You get the expected romance storyline and the girl new to the city storyline. It really sets you into the life so that you feel the impact of the earthquake disaster. The last third of the film is in relation to the earthquake and its damage. The disaster sequence is one of the best for its time. We see buildings shaking and crumbling, water in glasses shaking, people being crushed (in a blood and gore-less manner) and dying, resulting aftershocks, problem of putting out the fires, and people being shot for looting among other things. My one complaint is that they made it feel as if the time from the earthquake to the fires being put out is about 20 minutes as opposed to several days.
Overall this was a great film from the 1930’s that any fan of the period or of the great actors in it should see.
Check out this trailer:
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