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The owner of a San Francisco saloon yearns to rank among the upper crust of Nob Hill. When he begins romancing a wealthy socialite it looks like he may have his entry into high society. The pretty star of his saloon's show, however, wants to make sure he stays on the Barbary Coast. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
This Technicolor semi-musical seems an odd assignment for Henry Hathaway, but perhaps it's his direction that keeps the tough side of San Francisco tough even with showgirls, rich dames and little girls traipsing around. Hathaway was one of the few directors who understood
from experience on earlier great films with him - how effective a
broken George Raft could be, and when that moment comes in this film it is quietly Raft's best scene. Raft plays Tony Angelo, owner of a popular saloon in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, a saloon that is more of a three-ring circus with shows, boxing matches and drinking going on simultaneously. He's got an undefined romance with his star showgirl Sally Templeton (young Vivian Blaine) and his political opinions carry a lot of weight in that rough part of town. In walks little Irish girl Katie (Peggy Ann Garner) expecting to meet her uncle, only to find he has died. Tony, who was his boss, agrees to take her in for a couple of months until the next boat leaves for Ireland. She introduces him to Miss Carruthers (Joan Bennett), who lives on Nob Hill. Her brother Lash Carruthers is running for office, and brother and sister both realize working up a relationship with Tony could bring in much-needed votes from the lower part of town. Though knowing full well that those down below don't mix with those on the hill, Tony is drawn into the propaganda of her sweet talk. In this sense, he is as naive as Katie as to their true intentions, and he alienates his fellow bar owners with his new political stand. Only after the election does he get a reality check. Strange to say, but parallels can be drawn between Tony and Shakespeare's Proteus in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona." One look at a beautiful new girl and he seems to completely forget about his true love down the hill. And when he is ultimately rejected he becomes disturbingly aggressive. Blaine, who has all the musical numbers, is a lovely entertainer but one would not guess from this role what marvelous comic chops she had. That would really come to the fore years later in "Guys and Dolls," which also featured B.S. Pulley, who plays a barman in "Nob Hill." (Another link to that film is the fact that the production design was fashioned after the Raft trademark gangster style, coin-flipping and all -- too bad he wasn't in it.) Garner was one of the true great child actors, always earnest and natural even when putting on an Irish accent. She's the heart of the story, always thinking the best of the grownups around her. Bennett (who starred with Raft 10 years earlier in the screwball comedy "She Couldn't Take It") has a rather thankless part, an admittedly split personality who does not seem to know what she really wants. There is nothing particularly special about this film. But to see this particular mix of actors has historical interest, and it would be nice to see it available on DVD.
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