- SKU: 7821084
- Release Date: 06/20/2006
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- Documentary profile on San Francisco
- Vintage musical and dramatic shorts
- Classic cartoons
- Closed Captioned
The MGM historical "spectacular" San Francisco was allegedly based on a three-sentence synopsis, submitted verbally to producer B.F. ZEIDMAN by studio troubleshooter Bob Hopkins. The story begins on the Barbary Coast on New Year's Eve, 1906, as rakish but likeable political boss Blackie Norton (Clark Gable) hires demure young singer Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald) to perform at his rowdy Paradise gambling house. Local priest Father Mullin (Spencer Tracy), Blackie's best friend, disapproves of the exploitation of the lovely Mary, feeling that she's suited for classier surroundings. Jack Hurley (Jack Holt), Nob Hill socialite and Blackie's political rival, agrees with Father Mullin and offers the girl the opportunity to sing with the San Francisco Opera. Blackie, who's fallen in love with Mary but won't admit it to himself, jealously holds on to her contract, forcing Mary to walk out on him. For the rest of the film, Mary is torn between the "respectable" lifestyle offered her by Hurley and the baser creature comforts provided by Blackie. It looks for a while that Hurley has won out, but fate takes a hand in the form of the devastating San Francisco Earthquake of April 18, 1906 (a special effects tour de force for art directors Arnold Gillespie and his uncredited associate James Basevi). Hurley is killed in the holocaust, while Blackie, desperately searching for Mary in the rubble, at long last finds religion and prays to God for his sweetheart's salvation. At the end, an unidentified bit player shouts defiantly "We'll build a new San Francisco!" -- and by golly, they do! The Hollywood censors were not so much bothered by the sexual subtext of San Francisco or its harrowing earthquake finale as they were by a scene in which Father Mullin is knocked down by an unrepentant Blackie. To "purify" this potentially blasphemous sequence, screenwriter Anita Loos quickly added an earlier scene in which Mullin and Blackie, both dressed in turtleneck sweaters, genially duke it out at an exercise gym, whereupon the priest cold-cocks Blackie with the greatest of ease. By establishing that Mullin could have punched out Blackie, but chooses not to in the controversial later scene, not only allows that scene to pass, but also strengthened the priest's character. San Francisco proved to be one of MGM's biggest hits, remaining in almost constant reissue for the next three decades. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Virtually everybody except President Roosevelt was in the lavish MGM backstage musical Dancing Lady. Joan Crawford stars as Janie Barlow, an impoverished dancer reduced to working in a seedy Manhattan burlesque house. While on a slumming party with his society friend, wealthy young Tod Newton (Franchot Tone) spots Janie in the burleycue chorus line and immediately falls in love with her. When the joint is raided, Tod pays Janie's bail, but she resists his entreaties to become his mistress, promising instead to pay back every cent she owes him "honestly." With Tod's help, Janie is able to secure work in a big-time Broadway musical being staged by Patch Gallegher (Clark Gable), who is certain that the girl is an untalented opportunist and does everything he can to sabotage her audition. When he realizes that the girl "has something," he refuses to admit it but does, grudgingly, hire her for the show. Through a combination of skill and damned hard work, Janie ends up as the star of the show, whereupon Tod, worried that he'll lose the girl to the Great White Way, buys the show and promptly closes it. But Janie, who's fallen in love with Patch, teams with her new sweetheart to restage the show with their own meager savings -- and surprise of surprises, it's a smash hit. Truly an embarrassment of riches, Dancing Lady introduced Fred Astaire to the movie-going public, solidified the popularity of MGM's new tenor Nelson Eddy, and offered a wide berth for the comedy antics of Ted Healy and his Three Stooges -- Moe Howard, Curly Howard and Larry Fine (Larry, performing his role in a Jewish dialect, has a wonderful double-take bit with a jigsaw puzzle which turns out to be a portrait of Adolf Hitler). As a bonus, the film offers spectacular musical production numbers, not to mention the enduring song hit "Everything I Have is Yours." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
China Seas proved that the recently imposed Hollywood production code had little if any effect on the popularity of MGM sex symbols Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. Gable plays the captain of a tramp steamer chugging between Singapore and Hong Kong. Harlow is Gable's ex-main squeeze, a "woman of the world" who books passage on the steamer at the same time that another of Gable's former loves, aristocratic Rosalind Russell, shows up. Wallace Beery plays Gable's supposedly lovable first mate, who is actually in league with a gang of pirates who plan to steal the gold shipment being carried in the hold of the steamer. Harlow tumbles to Beery's secret, but is unable to convince Gable, who is sore at Harlow for mean-mouthing Russell. Out of pique, Harlow casts her lot with the crooked Beery, but when the pirates attack the steamer, she returns to Gable's side. A subplot involves the regeneration of ship's mate Lewis Stone, who has been cashiered out of the navy for cowardice and who redeems himself during the final battle. Based on a novel by Crosbie Garstin, China Seas is a programmer at heart, but is decked out with full A-picture trappings by MGM producer Irving Thalberg. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Clark Gable is "Big John" and Spencer Tracy is "Square John"; both "Johns" seek their fortunes in the Texas oil fields. They simultaneously fall in love with Claudette Colbert, but it's "Big John" who wins out. When both Johns grow rich on oil, "Big John" lets money go to his head, and he begins neglecting wife Colbert for Hedy Lamarr, the "been around" companion of businessman Lionel Atwill. "Square John", who still carries a torch for Colbert but doesn't want to see her heart broken, tries to buy off Lamarr; when this fails, he decides to ruin "Big John" financially. But when "Big John" is charged with violating anti-trust rules by the crooked Atwill, "Square John" rushes to the side of his old pal. Both men end up where they started--broke but happy. "Big John" returns to faithful Colbert, while "Square John" stands by with an ear-to-ear grin. Boom Town was the last film to co-star Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy; though Tracy was fond of Gable, he resented playing "eunuch" in their on-screen romantic triangles. Claudette Colbert's scenes with Clark Gable are pleasant enough, but the sparks that had ignited their scenes in It Happened One Night are largely absent here. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The 1953 Clark Gable film Mogambo is a remake of Gable's 1932 seriocomic adventure Red Dust. Where the earlier film was lensed on the MGM backlot, Mogambo was shot on location in Africa by director John Ford. Gable is safari leader Victor Marswell, who plays "host" to stranded Eloise Y. Kelly (Ava Gardner, who is no better than she ought to be but is just right for our raffish hero -- the Gardner role was originally played along franker pre-Code lines by Jean Harlow). Anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) hires Victor to lead him into the deepest, darkest jungle. Along for the ride is Donald's wife, Linda (Grace Kelly), outwardly cool as a cucumber but secretly harboring a lust for Victor. Scorned, Kelly tries to kill Victor, but true-blue Eloise takes the blame for the shooting. Reportedly, Grace Kelly carried on an off-camera romance with Clark Gable, which ended when the differences in their ages proved insurmountable. Even so, it is the easy rapport between Gable and Ava Gardner which stole the show in Mogambo. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Cast & Crew
- Clark Gable - Blackie Norton
- Jeanette MacDonald - Mary Blake
- Spencer Tracy - Father Tim Mullin
- Jack Holt - Jack Burley
- Jessie Ralph - Mrs. Burley