San Francisco (1936)

San Francisco (1936)

“How does it feel to feel like a woman and be afraid of it?”

Shortly before the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, a tough saloon owner (Clark Gable) falls in love with a talented singer (Jeanette MacDonald) who is simultaneously wooed by an opera impresario (Jack Holt).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Career-Versus-Marriage
  • Clark Gable Films
  • Disaster Flicks
  • Historical Drama
  • Jeanette MacDonald Films
  • Musicals
  • Opera
  • Romance
  • Singers
  • Spencer Tracy Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “old-fashioned Hollywood hokum” — “an amazingly elaborate M-G-M production” nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award — employs “numerous theater and saloon sets and hundreds of extras”, leading to director W.S. Van Dyke presenting “a properly rowdy San Francisco of 1906 (does that year worry you?).” He notes that MacDonald “is the moral daughter of a country parson” who would “like to sing opera, but settles for a job singing popular tunes in the dance hall” owned by Gable’s “well-meaning but roguish character”, who she “falls in love with… despite his being an atheist and allowing gambling in his joint.”

He points out that the script by Anita Loos “is one of the first… to deal with a woman experiencing a man-vs.-profession conflict”, and argues that MacDonald “makes a lovely lead” but Gable is just “okay playing his typical tough guy” and Oscar-nominated Spencer Tracy — playing “a priest and Gable’s boyhood chum” — “doesn’t have enough to do.”

He correctly argues that the film’s highlight is its “stunning earthquake sequence, which is famous for its impressive special effects and great montage work” — though he asserts that this “enjoyable film is almost spoiled by a silly finale, in which earthquake victims get carried away with religious fervor.” I’m essentially in agreement with Peary’s review, though I find it more tolerable than “enjoyable” over all, and would simply add that film fanatics should simply be sure to seek out the remarkable earthquake sequence on its own.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • The impressive final earthquake sequence

Must See?
No, though the final scene is certainly worth a look.


One thought on “San Francisco (1936)

  1. Not must-see.

    I’d seen this once before – and am rather in agreement with the entire assessment given, so I’ve nothing to add.

Leave a Reply