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The Fire Brigade (1926)

Terry O'Neill is the youngest of a family of Irish firefighters. He falls in love with Helen Corwin, but complications ensue when Terry learns that her father, a wealthy contractor, has cut... See full summary »


William Nigh


Kate Corbaley (story), Robert N. Lee (adaptation) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
May McAvoy ... Helen Corwin
Charles Ray ... Terry O'Neil
Holmes Herbert ... James Corwin (as Holmes E. Herbert)
Tom O'Brien Tom O'Brien ... Joe O'Neil
Eugenie Besserer ... Mrs.O'Neil
Warner Richmond ... Jim O'Neil
Bert Woodruff ... Capt. O'Neil
Vivia Ogden Vivia Ogden ... Bridget
DeWitt Jennings ... Fire Chief Wallace
Dan Mason ... Peg Leg Murphy
Erwin Connelly Erwin Connelly ... Thomas Wainright
James Bradbury Sr. James Bradbury Sr. ... (as James Bradbury)


Terry O'Neill is the youngest of a family of Irish firefighters. He falls in love with Helen Corwin, but complications ensue when Terry learns that her father, a wealthy contractor, has cut costs by putting his buildings in danger of fire. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Race of the Century! The old fire horses seem to live again the heroic days gone by, as slowly they forge ahead of the motor driven engine of today.... See more »









Release Date:

20 December 1926 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alarm See more »


Box Office


$249,556 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$506,150, 31 December 1928
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (2-strip Technicolor) (one sequence)| Color (Handschiegel Color) (some sequences)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Initially a domestic box office failure, this film eventually made a nearly $200,000 profit by the end of its international run. See more »


Featured in Hollywood: Pioneers (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

Their careers went up in flames
13 February 2003 | by F Gwynplaine MacIntyreSee all my reviews

I viewed the Turner-Time/Warner print of this movie. 'The Fire Brigade' is a firefighting drama which also manages to be a piece of propaganda for firefighters ... as if these brave souls needed any spin control. There are several firemen characters in this film, and without exception all of them are depicted as brave, resourceful and selfless. No pyromaniacs or cowards, as in the later 'Backdraft'. The fire-fighting sequences are exciting and well-staged, often making the actors seem to be in genuine danger ... and the film-makers are clearly pleased to show these fictional firemen using the very latest (genuine) fire-fighting equipment, vintage 1926. I fear, though, that modern viewers would laugh at much of this equipment, which of course is primitive by modern standards. Also, this movie's soap-opera subplot considerably dilutes the excitement.

Charles Ray plays the latest in an Irish-American family of firemen. He's engaged to marry Helen Corwin (May McAvoy), the daughter of a wealthy building contractor. Unfortunately, her dad (Holmes Herbert) is a crook: he has knowingly committed safety violations in several of his buildings; this increases his profit but it also means the buildings are firetraps. You can see where this is heading. The final scene is exciting, with Ray trapped on a burning rooftop with a golden-haired little girl. Tom O'Brien is excellent as Ray's older brother, who is a member of the same fire brigade. DeWitt Jennings, an underrated actor, is splendid as the fire chief whose job is made more difficult by conniving politicians.

'The Fire Brigade' saddens me because of the fate of its leading players. The very beautiful blond May McAvoy and the handsome Charles Ray were both stars in silent films, but they plunged into obscurity very quickly when talking pictures arrived. May McAvoy was the leading lady in the early part-talking film 'The Jazz Singer', although she had no dialogue on the soundtrack of that movie. But soon she had to face the microphone: her talkie roles revealed that she had a lisp and an indecisive manner, and the sound revolution proved she wasn't much of an actress. The tragic course of her career is summed up perfectly by two of her credits: in the 1925 silent classic 'Ben-Hur', May McAvoy was the leading lady ... and in the 1959 remake of 'Ben-Hur', May McAvoy was a faceless extra in the crowd scenes.

Charles Ray's career followed a less spectacular version of the same arc. He was a star in silent films, usually playing good-hearted country boys. His voice proved unsuitable for talking films, and soon enough he was working as a dress extra, wearing a tuxedo in nightclub scenes. That's show biz, I suppose. I'll rate 'The Fire Brigade' 5 points out of 10.

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