Sunday, September 11, 2005

Tonight's Movie: In Old Chicago (1938)

IN OLD CHICAGO is the engrossing story of political machinations in 1870s Chicago involving the O'Leary family. Dion O'Leary (Tyrone Power in an unusual antihero role) is a roguish businessman and political puppeteer, while brother Jack (Don Ameche) is a crusading attorney who runs for mayor. Alice Faye plays a dancehall performer who becomes Dion's business partner and wife. Political, family, and romantic problems are resolved after Mother O'Leary's cow kicks over a lantern and starts the Great Chicago Fire, a memorable, lengthy sequence which ends the film. Alice Brady won a Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Mrs. O'Leary.

Fox Classics has put out an outstanding DVD which includes both the standard theatrical version and the original "roadshow" version, which is considerably longer. I wish Fox had included a commentary track (information on the filming of the fire's special effects and on Chicago history would have been most welcome), but the prints are excellent and the inclusion of a BIOGRAPHY episode on Don Ameche was a nice extra.

Recommended as an example of solid '30s filmmaking by Hollywood legends and durable character actors. Directed by Henry King.


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