7.3/10
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San Francisco (1936)

A Barbary Coast saloonkeeper and a Nob Hill impresario are rivals for the affections of a beautiful singer, both personally and professionally in 1906 San Francisco.

Director:

W.S. Van Dyke (uncredited)

Writers:

Anita Loos (screen play), Robert E. Hopkins (from the story by) (as Robert Hopkins)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Clark Gable ... Blackie Norton
Jeanette MacDonald ... Mary Blake
Spencer Tracy ... Father Tim Mullin
Jack Holt ... Jack Burley
Jessie Ralph ... Mrs. Maisie Burley
Ted Healy ... Mat
Shirley Ross ... Trixie
Margaret Irving ... Della Bailey
Harold Huber ... 'Babe'
Edgar Kennedy ... Sheriff
Al Shean ... Professor
William Ricciardi ... Signor Baldini
Kenneth Harlan ... 'Chick'
Roger Imhof Roger Imhof ... 'Alaska'
Charles Judels ... Tony (as Charles Judells)
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Storyline

Mary Blake arrives at Blackie Norton's Paradise gambling hall and beer garden looking for work as a singer. Blackie embarrasses her by asking to see her legs, but does hire her. She faints from hunger. Nob Hill Socialite Jack Burley and Maestro Baldini of the Tivoli Opera House see her singing and offer her a chance to do opera, but Blackie has her under a two-year contract which she sorrowfully stands by. Later, when he makes up posters featuring Mary in tights, she does leave for the Tivoli. Blackie gets an injunction against Burley, but knocks out the process server when he hears Mary's performance as Marguerite in "Faust". She asks her to marry him and she agrees to go back to the Paradise as his kind of singer, but Blackie's childhood chum Father Tim intervenes. After Blackie slugs the priest, Mary leaves. She is soon the star of the Tivoli and Blackie's place is closed down. She sings a rousing "San Francisco" on behalf of the Paradise at the annual "Chicken Ball" and wins the ... Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She Fell In Love . . . with the toughest guy on the toughest street in the world ! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Musical | Romance

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 June 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Cidade do Pecado See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,300,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$3,248,291, 31 December 1948

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$13,122,717, 31 December 1936
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The character of Blackie Norton was inspired by Wilson Mizner, a fellow writer of Robert E. Hopkins and Anita Loos, who had worked on Broadway and at Warner Brothers and had died several years earlier, He was a notorious huckster, con artist and womanizer, with connections in gambling and underworld circles. See more »

Goofs

When Blackie is looking at the facade of a building crumbling, you can quickly see the giant hand of an FX technician pushing the facade away from the miniature building at the top right. See more »

Quotes

Jack Burley: [referring to Mary Blake] Well, there's no law against an opera singer being slender, young and beautiful.
See more »

Connections

Edited into Joaquin Murrieta (1938) See more »

Soundtracks

A Hot Time in the Old Town
(1896) (uncredited)
Music by Theo. A. Metz
Played during the ringing in of 1906 and at the saloon
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Gable, MacDonald, and Tracy as San Francisco topples around them
5 May 2006 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

As in the '70s, disaster films were all the rage in the '30s, with "Hurricane," "The Rains Came," "In Old Chicago," and, of course, 1936's "San Francisco" which certainly sent the other studios running to destroy anything they could. The film stars Clark Gable, Jeannette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy as three citizens of that beautiful city on April 18, 1906, when the big earthquake struck.

Gable plays Blackie Norton, a quintessential role for him - a tough, charming rogue who runs The Paradise Club. MacDonald is the lovely and talented Mary Black who arrives there looking for work, and Spencer Tracy is Father Tim, who is Blackie's conscience (so he ignores him) and Mary's moral compass. Mary is torn between two loves - her love for Blackie and her love for opera. Burley (Jack Holt) wants her contract from Blackie so he can star her at the Tivoli Opera, but in all things, she suppresses her own desires so that she can stay with Blackie. She finally does leave but returns...only to leave again after an ugly confrontation between Blackie and Father Tim. Things get a lot uglier at an annual contest - and that's when the chandelier starts moving back and forth.

It's amazing what the films in the pre-computer age were able to do with special effects because the earthquake in "San Francisco" is dazzling, spectacular, and downright scary. Given the horrors of 9/11 and Katrina, one is drawn into the devastation and suffering as people search for loved ones, watch their houses fall, go crazy, and see their beloved city dynamited because there's no water to stop the raging fires. 70 years later, it's all way too close to home.

As good as he always was with Gable, Spencer Tracy did not have much of a role as the good father, but he's excellent. MacDonald poses a problem. Normally, she plays a diva or spitfire, and she did those roles beautifully. But Mary Blake is a modest and religious woman who speaks softly and sublimates her own desires for the man she loves. It doesn't ring true, and it doesn't work opposite the volatile Blackie of Gable's. If Mary had been more like other roles she played, MacDonald probably would have had good chemistry with him. As it is, they don't make much of a couple. Her singing is pretty until she hits the opera stage - with the combination of the tinny sound system in those days and the way women were trained on high notes then, the end result isn't good. She sings "The Jewel Song," which she often did in concert, the finale of "Faust," and "Sempre Libera." MacDonald was a lyric coloratura and suited to the demands of the opera stage in the '30s, but today she sounds dated as standards have changed.

This is a great film to see to appreciate the artistry of the early technicians. The effects in "San Francisco" hold up against anything that came 40 years later. The ending is pure Hollywood hokum, but very stirring. It gave this viewer goosebumps. Don't miss Hollywood at its very best.


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