San Francisco (1936)

Goal Progress: 80/485

Walking out of the theatre, my friend Erin said “Well that was entertaining, though probably not for the reasons the studio intended.”

Oh Erin, how true….how true. The movie is very funny today, much funnier I’m sure than when it premiered in 1936. Some films from this era age so gracefully that they might have been made a week ago (see future blog entries on Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz). Sadly, San Francisco is not one of those films….(and yes, I did say theatre…a local movie theatre has a summer classic film series so I got to experience this film on the big screen from the balcony of an old theatre).

The story involves club owner, Rhett Butler Blackie Norton…. (played by the handsome Clark Gable) signing a new talent, the pure and gentle Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald), who dreams of being an opera star. Eventually, she is noticed by a man who owns a theatre and he wants to buy her contract from Blackie. The problem? Blackie loves Mary and doesn’t want to lose his star. Eventually, he lets her go to be happy (a la Beauty and the Beast), only to have her return to him, just to leave again when she is persuaded that he is taking advantage of her for her talent. She gets engaged to the opera owner….blah blah blah….somewhere in there she has a discussion over whether its better to settle for love or money…..blah blah blah….theres a scene about choosing love over a successful career in there too somewhere….blah blah blah….San Francisco earthquake….blah bl….wait what?????

Yes, the main selling part of the movie (besides the stars). The last fifteen minutes involve the Great Earthquake of 1906. I have to say, that for a movie that’s 85 years old…..there were some damn good effects. Legend says that survivors of the real event attended the film’s premiere and that the accuracy of the scene literally made them sick. The film is worth watching for this scene alone.

Afterwards, Blackie walks around the rubble for days (literally….without stopping) looking for Mary. Eventually, he finds her, and the whole city sings “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and they rebuild the city. The End.

I only recommend seeing this movie if you’re trying to watch all of the Oscar nominated films. If not, just watch this clip of the first part of the earthquake sequence and you’ll be set for life.


Posted on June 1, 2011, in 1934. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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