In Old Chicago [DVD]
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Based on the novel by Niven Busch, Tyrone Power stars in this classic drama, detailing the events that led up to the great fire in Chicago towards the end of the 19th century.
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Two feuding brothers are at the heart of the film, manipulative Dion O'Leary (Tyrone Power) who exploits the shady side of Chicago for fame and fortune, and Jack O'Leary a hard but caring lawyer with a conscience who becomes a reforming mayor. There is also a good family background with their tough mother Molly (Alice Brady)
Also there is a tempestuous love affair between Dion and Belle Fawcette (Alice Faye) a famous vaudeville singer; this film shows a welcome tougher side to the adorable Alice Faye particularly in the scene where she throws jars and vases at Dion and he wrestles her to the ground.
Great direction by Henry King and fine acting all round in this epic production presented in a pristine transfer and excellent sound, wonderful example of what could be achieved in the mid thirties.
Tyrone's part eventually saw him as the handsome rogue brother of Don Ameche. Alice Faye was quoted as saying of leads "All they did was change Don (Ameche) over here and Ty (Power) over there". Playing with friends and an understanding director, Henry King, the film became a huge success. It required a dramatic role for Alice. Her singing prowess was never in question.
Political rivalry between brothers Tyrone Power (Dion) as a likeable scoundrel and brother Don Ameche (Jack O'Leary) as good guy is the basis of the plot. Alice Faye is introduced as Belle Fawcett, a saloon singer who adds to the love friction between the brothers (and their mother) and financial interests of the excellent and devious Brian Donlevy.
Arriving as Irish immigrants to America, the boys did well under mother Molly O'Leary (Alice Brady) who set up her own domestic business before the growth and ambitions of her sons. After political intriguery and romance between Alice and Tyrone (forced but consensual!) the clashes between the brothers head to a climax. This leads to the famous cow and lantern kick over and the fire of Chicago.Read more ›
Big budget, big stars and a completely big production, In Old Chicago may be deemed as a Zanuck cash in on the previous years MGM eye opener, San Francisco, it is however a wonderful picture that features two differing halves of worth. Casting aside historical accuracy (lets really not go down that road in cinema history), this Henry King directed piece firstly engages us as a jaunty family character piece, only to then pull the rug from underneath us to let in political intrigue, deception, down right ugliness and a near $2 million fire besieged Chicago!
Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Faye, Alice Brady (Best Supporting Actress Academy Award) and Brian Donlevy all line up to entertain the viewers, all possibly aware that they are merely the starter course for the extravagant main course that will be the 20 minute final reel of panic and burning disaster. Yet to focus merely on the fire itself, and the effects that some 70 years later still impact smartly, is to do the first half a disservice, characters are formed and the story is fully fleshed to make the wait for the fire completely worth our time. It's no history lesson for sure but the devilment of some characters, and the ineptitude of some others, more than make this an essential watch for fans of 30s cinema. 7.5/10
It has to be said that in its uncut version, In Old Chicago plays like an even more obvious ripoff of San Francisco, merely substituting Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Faye and the Chicago fire for Clark Gable, Spencer Tracey, Jeanette MacDonald and the San Francisco earthquake and adding more twee Oirish antics than are healthy. The musical numbers are a step down too, particularly Faye's rendition of Carry Me Back to Old Virginny complete with `massa' lyrics, and the finale isn't as grand on screen as it is in your memory: the scenes of the crowds of refugees on the banks tend to be far more effective than the backlot chaos. Still, any film that features Rondo Hatton can't be all bad, but it's easy to see why Zanuck ordered the film trimmed. However, it's worth picking up the US NTSC disc to give you the chance to make up your own mind as to which is the better version.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved this film and so did my daughter. Excellent cast and good story plus great effects considering the age of the film.Published 9 months ago by Jeannette
Again, a first class used DVD. Really excellent value. Really enjoyed this great filmPublished 14 months ago by Philip Samuels