Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

22 April 2008

In Old Chicago

Watched this old flick from 1937. Henry King's In Old Chicago is a kind of un-integrated musical flick about Ma O'Leary and her boys Dion and Jack. One is a gambler and runs a club in the seedy part of town (where all the buildings are made of pine... oh the foreboding) and the other is the mayor and a straightedged kind of guy. Ma O'Leary is played by Alice Brady and it's a lovely performance. The other actors are Tyrone Power (so pretty) as Dion, the gambler, his love interest Alice Faye (of course) who is a night club singer and his partner, and Don Ameche, who plays the brother. Power, Faye and Ameche would all come together again for the following year's Alexander's Ragtime Band (read my review of that here).

Anyway, the plot of In Old Chicago is not really important, but Alice Fay sings a bunch of songs (including "In Old Chicago," bizzarely sung in Old Chicago). These are interspersed with Irish-styled family songs sung around the O'Leary hearth. While these songs are mostly forgettable, the high point of the film is the big fire in 1871. It is directed splendidly. There are seemingly thousands of people on this set, and the fire looks real: none of this easy, fake-looking CGI stuff from nowadays. Of course, Mrs. O'Leary's cow knocks over a lantern, and that's how the fire starts, but there are amazing explosions and the fire burns the entire city. The shots of this are truly awesome. The movie goes total cheese in its final moments, but the big fire in this movie makes In Old Chicago worth the rental.