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Duke falls for Flaxen in the Barbary Coast in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. He loses money to crooked gambler Tito, goes home and PL: learns to gamble, and returns. After he makes a fortune he opens his own place with Flaxen as the entertainer. The 1906 quake destroys his place. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Republic Pictures attempt at a prestige picture, for their tenth anniversary, is a dismal failure. In 1936 MGM made a marvellous film called "San Francisco" about a saloon owner and his romance with a singer set around the 1906 earthquake. In 1945 "Flame of Barbary Coast" takes the same characters and even the same setting. But this time instead of Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald, we have John Wayne and Ann Dvorak. And instead of spectacular special effects for the earthquake we have one chandelier fall down and lots of stock footage of fires!
Why did they do this? Wayne is awful playing a character called "Duke", but he is "Olivier" in comparison to the woeful Dvorak. Someone seems to have told Miss Dvorak to smile - and she does throughout the movie, whether she's facing an earthquake, a duel between her lovers, or permanent paralysis. And she couldn't sing, but she is given several dreary and hideously choreographed numbers. Poor Joseph Schildkraut is there as the baddie and provides a couple of moments of wry humour.
Mind you how could anyone act with this appalling dialogue. For example:
After the earthquake Wayne meets Schildkraut in the tent city that has been set up. Both love Dvorak but she has been hurt and has been asking for Schildkraut. Wayne fills him in on her condition.
Wayne: She's paralyzed.
Pause. Music swells.
Schildkraut: It's gonna be tough.
Some cliched camera angles (the stage seen through the holes in the wheel of fortune) are used ad nauseum and the plot makes no sense at all. Wayne, for example, runs for mayor and gets into a massive fight with Schildkraut's boys who are destroying ballot papers. Having finally regained the correct tally sheets that elect him mayor he announces he is going back to Montana! Dvorak takes Wayne on a tour of all the gambling houses and, despite the protests of all the owners, only has to wink at the dealers for them to allow Wayne to win $16,000. And the dealers aren't even reprimanded.
What was everyone thinking? Or weren't they?
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