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In Old Chicago (1937)

Approved  |   |  Action, Drama, Musical  |  15 April 1938 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,451 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 16 critic

The O'Leary brothers -- honest Jack and roguish Dion -- become powerful figures, and eventually rivals, in Chicago on the eve of its Great Fire.



(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Won 2 Oscars. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Belle Fawcett
Pickle Bixby
Gil Warren
Phyllis Brooks ...
Ann Colby
Senator Colby
June Storey ...
Paul Hurst ...
Edward (Mitch) Mitchell
Tyler Brooke ...
Specialty Singer
J. Anthony Hughes ...
Patrick O'Leary
Gene Reynolds ...


Story of the great fire of 1871. Fictional story of two sons of Mrs. O'Leary (the owner of the cow which started the fire), one a rogue (Power) the other a lawyer (Ameche). One of the most expensive films of its time ($1.8 million). Written by Ed Stephan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The great American motion picture!


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

15 April 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Chicago  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,800,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (roadshow)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A lantern manufacturer wrote to the studio insisting that the fire must have been started by a lamp, not a lantern. They claimed a lantern would extinguish itself if tipped over, but that claim was found to be false by an actual experiment performed by two assistants at Twentieth Century-Fox. Soon after the fire started, the barn where the fire was supposed to have originated was thoroughly investigated, and no evidence of a lamp or lantern was found. See more »


At 1:26:10, Gil's position on the house changes. See more »


Dion O'Leary: Nothing can lick Chicago!
See more »


Referenced in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) See more »


Strolling with My Lady Love
(1937) (uncredited)
Music by Lew Pollack
Lyrics by Sidney D. Mitchell
Written for the movie but not used
See more »

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User Reviews

Well It's the Best Film I've Ever Seen About the Great Chicago Fire
27 October 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The historical drama In Old Chicago is directed by Henry King and stars Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, and Don Ameche. The film takes place in 1870s Chicago.

The film starts out with a family heading to Chicago in 1854. On the way to Chicago the father decides to race a train after his children ask him to do so and he loses control of the cart and ends up badly injuring himself, so much so it leads to his death. When the remainder of the family enter Chicago two of the children accidentally dirty a woman's dress and the mother offers to clean it for her. The mother is so good as cleaning she starts a business and then it is cut to 1870. All the boys are grown up one is a lawyer, one is involved with gambling and other frowned on affairs, and the final one does not really have that much of a part so it doesn't matter. The son that is a lawyer, Jack (Ameche), is convinced to run for mayor and Dion (Power) is one of the heads of a somewhat crime organization. The two are rivals, but then the great fire starts burning...

The writing for this film is decent. It is an interesting concept having the two brothers pitted against each other, I like that part a lot. But every relationship involving a woman of romance just seemed so unnatural and forced. It was just like if anyone talked to a woman in a few minutes they would be in love. I liked towards the end everything that had to do with the fire, I thought that was very interesting and kept my attention. After the film ended though not much was very memorable.

Henry King's direction for this film was quite good. One shot in particular I liked was when it was in the bar and the camera dollied backwards and I saw all the bartenders serving beer to the large crowd of people. This shot was so much more efficient than just an overhead shot displaying the large amount of people because it felt like I was actually there. Also King directed everything with the fire brilliantly as well. He got solid performances from all his leads as well.

The editing for this film was equally as good as the direction. One thing I liked in particular was when the mother was washing the clothes and all the years passed by over her washing. I thought that was much smarter than just going to the next shot and putting 1870 on the bottom of the screen. Again with the fire scenes everything was edited perfectly, especially involving the special effects.

The acting was solid by most of the cast. I thought Tyrone Power played his part very well, he was likable even though his character was devious. I did think the parts where he was with any woman besides his mother were ridiculous, but that wasn't his fault it was the writers and director. Alice Faye did not give that great of a performance but I thought her role was somewhat useless so it was hard for her to be good. Don Ameche basically just read his lines and furrowed his brow during the whole film so nothing remarkable. Alice Brady won an Oscar for her role as the mother and she deserved it. She was basically a caring mother that did not want her sons to be running around and being with women who were not of class. She played the part perfectly and really could not have improved.

Overall I give this film a very weak 7/10. My main issue is that after the film I almost immediately forgot it but during the film it was quite an experience. I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys historical dramas.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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