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Nob Hill (1945) was one of three films released in 1945 that featured
Peggy Ann Garner, one of the best - if not the best - child actors ever
to grace the screen.
George Raft shares the spotlight with Garner but deservedly gets top billing. He was a big name at the time and the story centers around his character a bit more than Garner's. Also featured are two very pretty women: Vivian Blaine and Joan Bennett. Too bad Blaine didn't appear in many films. She would have been well-known.
The biggest "too bad," however, is that this movie has never been available on VHS or DVD. It should get the DVD treatment if for no other reason that the gorgeous Technicolor. This is one of the prettiest classic films ever, believe me!
If you enjoyed Miss Garner in her famous role as "Francie" in "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn," you'll like her here, too. She's even more likable and sweeter in this film, start-to-finish, and does a pretty fair job with an Irish accent.
Actually, everybody in this sugary-sweet film is likable, even tough--guy Raft. Blaine supplies the song-and-dance routines and handles them well. There are almost a handful of them so some consider this a musical. I thought it was more of a drama. The story has a good mix of drama, romance, music and comedy. Since it's a Raft film, there are even a few punches thrown.
The color and the nice feel-good people and storyline are what make this film worth watching......and owning, if someone would please put this on DVD!
Nob Hill is a significant milestone in the career of George Raft. This
film marks the last time he would be starring in a A film product. From
now on his films would be B films in which he would star or they would
be A products like Some Like It Hot where he was in the supporting
cast. Not a milestone I'm sure Raft counted with any kind of relish.
In the George Raft biography by James Parrish, Raft's co-star Joan Bennett wrote the forward and this film marked the fourth and last time she was in a film with him. Raft was not happy making this film and did walk off the set for a short time. He felt that 20th Century Fox was building up Vivian Blaine and Peggy Ann Garner at the expense of him and Joan Bennett. She was inclined to be more philosophical than he about the vagaries of the film business. As we know he did come back and finish the movie.
Raft plays the owner of one of the more upscale clubs on the Barbary Coast at the turn of the last century and Vivian Blaine is his chief attraction. One day into his life comes young Peggy Ann Garner who is fresh from Ireland because her uncle sent for her, her uncle being a bartender at Raft's joint. But in the meantime he's passed on.
Nevertheless Garner's one Irish charmer and Raft decides he'll take care of her as does Blaine.
Raft has ambitions however to get beyond the Barbary Coast and crash the genteel society on Nob Hill which Blaine calls Snob Hill. Fueling those ambitions is Joan Bennett with her brother Edgar Barrier running for District Attorney.
His romantic and political entanglements get kind of mixed and his fellow entertainment barons on the Barbary Coast aren't happy with Raft's new friends. How Raft resolves all these personal and political problems is the basis for Nob Hill.
If Raft was worried about who was being showcased, he was right. Peggy Ann Garner steals this film right out from under her adult co-stars. Maybe if Vivian Blaine had gotten some memorable songs from the team of Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson she might have been better served by the film as well.
I've a feeling this film might very well have been intended for Betty Grable to co-star with Raft. She and Raft were an item back in the day before she married Harry James, maybe Darryl Zanuck thought he could have gotten some box office mileage. In any event Grable didn't do Nob Hill, not that her career would have been helped or hurt had she been in the cast.
Joan Bennett's forward says that at all times George Raft was a classy gentleman and a terrific dancer. She recalled that many times she and husband Walter Wanger were out on the town and if Raft was in the same club, she inevitably got to dance with him.
Nob Hill is a decent enough film that doesn't quite measure up to some of the other nostalgic type films that 20th Century Fox was putting out then that usually starred Betty Grable or Alice Faye. Still it's not bad and a must for fans of the winsome Peggy Ann Garner.
While not an exact remake of 1943's "Hello Frisco Hello", 1945's "Nob
Hill" borrows heavily from the earlier film, and the opening street
scene is film footage lifted directly from the earlier film right down
to the song "San Francisco" as the soundtrack.
The basic plot is the same: Barbary Coast ruffian thinks he can crash high society on Nob Hill. Well, it's not the first time that a movie script got remade, and with WW II budget constraints, you really can't fault 20th Century Fox for taking some economies. At least they made it in Technicolor.
I also understand that WWII created a shortage of leading men, so the lead in this film went to George Raft, about age 50 at the time this film was made, well beyond draft age. However, considering the movie parts he played, he is suitable to portray a saloon keeper. Although Raft did some dancing in his film career, and also in a film a year prior to this (Follow The Boys), he is not given any dance performance in this film. Nor does he do any singing, although they could have dubbed him as they did for others. Well, perhaps a singing George Raft would have been too far away from his on-screen persona.
All of the musical performance in this film is given to Vivian Blaine. Since she portrays the entertainer at the saloon, the musical segments make some sense. They showcase Blaine's fine singing (no dubbing needed here). As a redhead in this film, Blaine is lovely in Technicolor.
Blaine is given two new ballads to introduce, composed by well-known composers Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh (see IMDb soundtrack listing for details). It's strange that neither of these songs became standards, for they are as good as any other songs written by the composers, and good as others from 20th Century Fox movies of the time.
Blaine also has three production numbersall using older songs: "On San Francisco Bay" (1907); the perennial "What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For" (1916); and the third, "San Francisco, The Paris of the U.S.A." (1912).
Although it's not on VHS or DVD, this film comes up on Fox Movie Channel's schedule from time to time.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
San Francisco, at the turn of the last century, was a city with a lot
to offer. It has attracted the big money that was made during the gold
rush; new neighborhoods for the well to do were being developed in one
of the prime areas of the city that later became Nob Hill. It stood in
contrast with the rougher districts of the city in that most of the
people who chose to live there wanted to distance themselves from
people they considered inferior in every sense of the word.
It is into this atmosphere we come into the story. Tony Angelo, the owner of a popular saloon, The Gold Coast, in the less affluent part of town, was involved with influential people that came into his joint. His place was frequented by people seeking entertainment, which he provided nightly. The star of his night club was Sally Templeton, a beautiful singer and dancer. The two enjoyed a loving relationship, which was going to be put to a hard test after the arrival of a little orphan girl from Ireland, Katie Flanagan.
When Katie arrives at Tony's place looking for an uncle, she is told he had died. All her dreams about finding a home in America almost vanished but Sally convinced Tony to let her stay. Katie had made friends with the wealthy socialite Harriet Carruthers, who was on board the ship that brought them to San Francisco. Harriet's brother, who is an aspiring politician, has ambitions for becoming the city attorney. Ms. Carruthers, who goes looking for Katie, draws Tony into helping her sibling in a subtle way by showing a love interest that dazzles Tony.
Henry Hathaway directed this 20th Century release, of 1945. It was a mixture of other films about the city, basically Alice Faye's vehicles that had been popular. "Nob Hill" is a dramatic comedy with songs, because it never pretended to be a musical. Somehow, the story feels contrived and not too plausible. The result was a Technicolor spectacle that capitalized on the beauty of the two female main characters and the appeal of a younger actress that had become popular with the public.
George Raft plays Tony Angelo. It was a departure from the tough guys he was used to play. Joan Bennett was perfect as Harriet, the gorgeous socialite that gets between Tony and Sally. Vivian Blaine is effective as the red headed beauty that has been the star of Tony's saloon and loves him unconditionally. Lovely Peggy Ann Garner made an impression of her Katie.
"Nob Hill" is a worth a viewing because what Henry Hathaway was able to do with the film.
My angel Peggy Ann Garner was, is and always will be the greatest
actress who ever lived. Her immortal performance in A Tree Grows in
Brooklyn will live forever, but her performance in Nob Hill ranks right
along side Tree. Peggy Ann's cute little Irish accent will never be
forgotten. Even George Raft knew how great Peggy Ann was when he
co-starred with her in Nob Hill. This movie is very hard to find today-
It is never shown on television but it can be found on Ebay if you are
lucky. I love Peggy Ann Garner and she will always be my little angel!
Peggy Ann is not with us anymore having died on Tuesday, October
16,1984 but she will always live in my heart through her great
GOD BLESS YOU,SWEETHEART!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nob Hill versus the Gold Coast of San Francisco at the turn of the
century. As the film went along, I thought for sure that everything
would turn with the coming of the 1906 earthquake. This never did
materialize but we have a very good film nonetheless.
For a charge, George Raft isn't his usual gangster self. He runs a hall at the Coast and is even against corruption and when he falls for Joan Bennett, a classy dame from Nob Hill, he is fooled to support her brother for District Attorney, and therefore alienates the others of the town, and loses the affection of Vivian Blaine, who sings for him while having great love for him.
In the same year that she made the memorable A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Peggy Ann Garner made this film as well and she steals it as the Irish lassie who came over to be with her bartender uncle only to learn of his death upon her arrival. By a quirk of fate, she introduces Raft to Bennett who had traveled with her and the picture goes on from there.
The set designs are absolutely opulent and the color of Natalie Kalmus was never better. Beautifully realized view of a wonderful point in history.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"San Francisco, the Paris of the U. S.A. Gay every night and day!" And
so gay they say oooh la la I might add from the mouth of Barbary Coast
headliner Vivian Blaine. She's desperately in love with the owner of
the Gold Coast, the biggest night spot in town, played by George Raft.
But once he befriends friendly Nob Hill socialite Joan Bennett, Blaine
is furious, certain that Bennett is using Raft to get her brother
elected to public office.
Bennett claims to have two sides to her: the upper-crust child of Boston elitists and the granddaughter of one of the original Barbary Coast founders. Peggy Ann Garner is excellent as a little Irish waif who is sent to find her uncle, discovers that he has died, and ends up being taken in by Raft while finding mother figures in both Bennett and Blaine despite their rivalry.
Much more substantial than many other period musicals, this has lots of laughs, tons of great tunes from the American songbook and touching drama, all in that glorious 20th Century Fox Technicolor. Fans of Blaine from "Guys and Dolls" won't see Adelaide in Vivian Blaine's performance. That is a testament to her talent that she could be so unrecognizable from one performance to another, only doing her Adelaide persona in one other movie, "Skirts Ahoy", made on the heel of "Guys and Dolls" on Broadway and several years before the film.
Like another movie about San Francisco, this is a political drama in addition to the musical side, with corruption obvious and Raft a rough character with a conscience. His first scene has him wrestling a thieving bartender and disarming him of a knife. Bennett is lovely and simultaneously cold and calculating while loving towards Garner and filled with a zest for life. Musicals like thus stand the test of time because they strive to be something more than just an entertaining distraction.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Joan Bennett was certainly correct when she said that the studio promoted Peggy Ann Garner and Vivian Blaine at the expense of George Raft and herself in this film. Peggy Ann should have been there just to introduce the Raft character of Tony Angel and show that he was a nice guy. Instead, the first fifteen minutes of the film and the last fifteen minutes are devoted to Peggy Ann adopting her new American family. It was a wise decision. She's terrific. In the main story, Wealthy Joan Bennett battles showgirl Vivian Blaine for the love of enterprising and well liked saloon owner George Raft. Blaine gets to sing and dance in four numbers. She does well, but it is a little unfair to Bennett, who only has her acting to rely on. Fortunately, she's a great actress, so she makes a good rival for Blaine. Raft apparently walked off the set at some point, because he didn't like his role. It is easy to see why. He plays it a little too dramatic for this light comedy and he takes himself too seriously. In the beginning, he beats up a cheating employee, but he does it in an unnecessarily brutal manner. It shows him to be a tough guy, but it is a little disturbing to the tone of the film. Certainly, someone with a softer comical touch like Jimmy Stewart, Joel McCrea or Cary Grant would have been a much better choice for the part. The Technicolor is beautiful and so are the sets and costumes. Director Henry Hathaway moves the camera and cuts the film in a smooth and seamless style. It is pretty much a pleasure to watch all the way through. See it for Peggy Ann Garner's wonderful performance, some good singing and dancing by Vivian Blaine and nice acting by Joan Bennett.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
20th Century Fox was well known for remaking their stories over and
over again. Nob Hill is a remake of Hello Frisco Hello! which was a
remake of King of Burlesque also starring Alice Faye and Jack Oakie.
The setting is the same, San Francisco in the early 1900's Even the intro is the same sequence used in Hello Frisco Hello! And even though the story is based on the same Pacific street character who wants to have a taste of Nob Hill, this story has a different twist.
Little Katie Flannagan (Peggy Ann Garner), an Irish girl who is sent to America to stay with her uncle. She soon discovers he has passed away, leaving her with no place to stay. Luckily she is well received at the "Gold Coast" by the owner Tony Angelo (George Raft) and his lovely girlfriend (Vivian Blaine).
The movie is entertaining and everybody is likable, even the snobbish Miss Carruthers (Joan Bennett). A mix of comedy, musical and drama with some great musical numbers showcasing Vivian Blaine's amazing voice.
Bottom line it's a nice film, worth watching and adding to your collection!
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