San Francisco (1936)

111 or 115 mins | Drama | 26 June 1936

Director:

W. S. Van Dyke

Cinematographer:

Oliver T. Marsh

Editor:

Tom Held

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

Following the opening credits, a written prologue reads: "San Francisco--guardian of the Golden Gate stands today as a queen among sea-ports--industrious, mature, respectable. But perhaps she dreams of the queen and city she was--splendid and sensuous, vulgar and magnificent--that perished suddenly with a cry still heard in the hearts of those who knew her, at exactly Five-Thirty A. M. April 18, 1906," the actual time and date of the quake. Although onscreen credits list actor Bert Roach's character name as "Freddie Duane," within the film, a billboard spells the first name "Freddy." According to information contained in the story file for the film in the M-G-M collection at the University of Southern California Cinema-Television Library, Herman J. Mankiewicz submitted the first script based on Robert Hopton's original story on 18 Jan 1935. That script was very different from the produced film. The first Anita Loos script, submitted on 23 Apr 1935, was somewhat closer in content to the produced film, but still different. Several other drafts submitted by Loos over the course of the few months evolved into the produced film.
       A 25 Apr 1936 memo in the story file indicates that at one time an epilogue was planned for inclusion in the film in which an older "Blackie" and "Mary," accompanied by their children, are seen in contemporary San Francisco. The memo also indicates that a "modern day" setting was being considered for the beginning of the film as well, thus placing the main story entirely in flashback. John Hoffman, credited onscreen with "Montage effects," worked as the second unit director for the opening "New Year's Eve" sequence that appears in the film, ...

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Following the opening credits, a written prologue reads: "San Francisco--guardian of the Golden Gate stands today as a queen among sea-ports--industrious, mature, respectable. But perhaps she dreams of the queen and city she was--splendid and sensuous, vulgar and magnificent--that perished suddenly with a cry still heard in the hearts of those who knew her, at exactly Five-Thirty A. M. April 18, 1906," the actual time and date of the quake. Although onscreen credits list actor Bert Roach's character name as "Freddie Duane," within the film, a billboard spells the first name "Freddy." According to information contained in the story file for the film in the M-G-M collection at the University of Southern California Cinema-Television Library, Herman J. Mankiewicz submitted the first script based on Robert Hopton's original story on 18 Jan 1935. That script was very different from the produced film. The first Anita Loos script, submitted on 23 Apr 1935, was somewhat closer in content to the produced film, but still different. Several other drafts submitted by Loos over the course of the few months evolved into the produced film.
       A 25 Apr 1936 memo in the story file indicates that at one time an epilogue was planned for inclusion in the film in which an older "Blackie" and "Mary," accompanied by their children, are seen in contemporary San Francisco. The memo also indicates that a "modern day" setting was being considered for the beginning of the film as well, thus placing the main story entirely in flashback. John Hoffman, credited onscreen with "Montage effects," worked as the second unit director for the opening "New Year's Eve" sequence that appears in the film, and was assigned to direct the modern epilogue, which apparently was not filmed. Information in the file confirms that James Basevi, at that time the head of M-G-M's special effects department, was responsible for the creation and direction of the "Earthquake" montage. According to a HR news item on 28 Sep 1936, Basevi left M-G-M, along with his first assistant, Robert Layton , to work for United Artists, following completion of his work on The Good Earth (see entry). His next production was Samuel Goldwyn's The Hurricane (see entry).
       According to a HR news item, Bruce Cabot was at one time tested for the lead, although screenwriter Loos said that she wrote it with Clark Gable in mind. Another news item notes that Mickey Rooney was supposed to play a role in the film, but he did not appear in the completed film. Another cast sheet includes Moyer Bupp , Henry Hanna, Jasper Sock, Marilyn Harris, Elaine Von and Helen Westcott in the cast as "boys" and "girls," but their participation in the released film has not been confirmed. According to a 17 Feb 1936 HR production chart, Nat Pendleton and Duncan Renaldo were initially in the cast, but they were not in the released film. News items during production noted that former M-G-M "prop man" Dave Marks was to appear in the picture, as were former silent film stars Al Shean, Mary MacLaren, Jean Acker, Harry Myers, Myrtle Stedman and Rosemary Theby; however, only Shean's appearance in the released film has been confirmed. Actor Jack Holt was loaned to M-G-M from Universal for the picture. According to the film's pressbook, D. W. Griffith, for whom San Francisco director W. S. Van Dyke had been an assistant on The Birth of a Nation, visited the set on the final day of shooting and was coerced into directing the orchestra during the "San Francisco" number sung by Jeanette MacDonald just prior to the earthquake sequence. The presskit also related that actor Walter Huston, an old friend of Van Dyke's, sang bass as a member of the chorus backing up MacDonald in "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" number. The role played by MacDonald's character in the San Francisco Opera House was "Marguerite" in Faust by Charles-François Gounod.
       The picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, but lost to M-G-M's The Great Ziegfeld. Other nominations included Best Director for Van Dyke, who lost to Frank Capra for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Best Actor for Spencer Tracy, who lost to Paul Muni for The Story of Louis Pasteur and Best Original Story for Hopkins, who lost to Pierre Collings and Sheridan Gibney for The Story of Louis Pasteur. The picture was named one of the Top Ten films of the year by FDYB and was one of the top box office hits of the year. A news item in DV noted that Warren Shannon, a member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, had requested that M-G-M change the name of the picture or else remove the earthquake scenes which he deemed "libelous to the city." The title song has remained popular since the film's release. According to news items, it was adopted as the city of San Francisco's official song by Mayor Angelo J. Rossi in Jun 1936, and by the University of San Francisco in Oct 1936. In 1984, San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Quentin Kopp proposed re-adopting it as the official song, replacing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," which had been adopted in 1969, but then mayor Dianne Feinstein opposed the idea and the change was not made. M-G-M re-issued the picture in 1948. Many films and television plays have used San Francisco at the time of the earthquake for a setting. Another film made during the 1930s in which the quake was featured prominently was the 1938 Warner Bros. film The Sisters (see entry), directed by Anatole Litvak, and starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn.

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PERSONAL & COMPANY INDEX CREDITS
HISTORY CREDITS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1936
p. 3
Daily Variety
16 Jul 1936
p. 15
Film Daily
26 Jun 1936
p. 21
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 1935
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 1935
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 1936
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 1936
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1936
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1936
p. 14
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1936
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 1936
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jun 1936
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 1936
p. 18
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 1936
p. 2
Los Angeles Times
28-Sep-48
---
Los Angeles Times
21-Apr-84
---
Motion Picture Daily
24 Jun 1936
p. 4
Motion Picture Herald
4 Apr 1936
p. 51
Motion Picture Herald
4 Jul 1936
p. 45
MPSI
1 Jan 1937
p. 7
New York Times
27 Jun 1936
p. 21
Time
6 Jul 1936
pp. 48-49
Variety
1 Jul 1936
p. 12
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Warren B. Hymer
Nigel de Brulier
Adrienne d' Ambricourt
Myas Berry
Jim Farley
Jane Barnes
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A W. S. Van Dyke production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
3rd unit dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
Robert Hopkins
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Arnold Gillespie
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Operatic seq staged by
SOUND
Rec eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Mont eff
Earthquake seq
DANCE
Dances staged by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Press agent
Vocal instructor
French diction instructor
SOURCES
SONGS
Selections from the opera Faust , music by Charles Gounod, libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier; "San Francisco," music and lyrics by Gus Kahn, Bronislau Kaper and Walter Jurman; "Would You," music and lyrics by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," music, under the title "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah," ascribed to William Steffe, lyrics by Julia Ward Howe; "Nearer, My God, to Thee," words by Sarah Adams, music based on the hymn "Bethany," arranged by Lowell Mason. "Jerusalem," music by Henry Parker, lyrics by Nella.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 June 1936
Production Date:
14 Feb--14 May 1936
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
22 June 1936
LP6457
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
111 or 115
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
2180
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In San Francisco, the new year of 1906 is ushered in with a fire along the Barbary Coast, interrupting the revelries of Blackie Norton, owner the the Paradise Cafe, who rushes to the blaze to help. Blackie returns to the Paradise and meets out-of-work singer Mary Blake, the daughter of a country preacher. Although Mary's only experience has been singing in a church choir, Blackie is attracted to her and offers her a two-year contract. Soon after, a citizens' group, angered at the New Year's Eve fire, urges Blackie to run for supervisor on a ticket of reforming the outdated fire ordinances. Blackie, encouraged by his boyhood friend, Father Tim Mullin, accepts the challenge. Blackie's candidacy prompts Jack Burley, a Nob Hill patrician who owns tenements along the Barbary Coast, to visit Blackie and advise him against running for office. Burley, who also owns the Tivoli Opera house, is accompanied by the Tivoli's maestro, Señor Baldini, who hears Mary sing and offers her an audition. Although Mary aspires to be an opera singer, Blackie will not release her from her contract. One night, between shows, Blackie sends Mary to Tim's church to sing at the unveiling of its new organ. Tim tells Mary about his boyhood friendship with Blackie and expresses the hope that some day Blackie will act as a force of good rather than evil. Soon Burley offers to buy Mary's contract, and Blackie leaves the choice to Mary. When, out of loyalty, Mary decides to stay, Blackie responds that he is crazy about her. He then decides to throw a party of celebrate their new relationship, but ...

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In San Francisco, the new year of 1906 is ushered in with a fire along the Barbary Coast, interrupting the revelries of Blackie Norton, owner the the Paradise Cafe, who rushes to the blaze to help. Blackie returns to the Paradise and meets out-of-work singer Mary Blake, the daughter of a country preacher. Although Mary's only experience has been singing in a church choir, Blackie is attracted to her and offers her a two-year contract. Soon after, a citizens' group, angered at the New Year's Eve fire, urges Blackie to run for supervisor on a ticket of reforming the outdated fire ordinances. Blackie, encouraged by his boyhood friend, Father Tim Mullin, accepts the challenge. Blackie's candidacy prompts Jack Burley, a Nob Hill patrician who owns tenements along the Barbary Coast, to visit Blackie and advise him against running for office. Burley, who also owns the Tivoli Opera house, is accompanied by the Tivoli's maestro, Señor Baldini, who hears Mary sing and offers her an audition. Although Mary aspires to be an opera singer, Blackie will not release her from her contract. One night, between shows, Blackie sends Mary to Tim's church to sing at the unveiling of its new organ. Tim tells Mary about his boyhood friendship with Blackie and expresses the hope that some day Blackie will act as a force of good rather than evil. Soon Burley offers to buy Mary's contract, and Blackie leaves the choice to Mary. When, out of loyalty, Mary decides to stay, Blackie responds that he is crazy about her. He then decides to throw a party of celebrate their new relationship, but she soon realizes that she is just another conquest to him and leaves for the Tivoli. Some time later, on Mary's opening night at the Tivoli, Burley proposes, but she does not accept. Meanwhile, Blackie enters the opera house accompanied by a process server whom Blackie has brought to enforce Mary's contract. During the opera, however, Blackie is so moved by Mary's singing that he physically prevents the process server from stopping the performance. After the finale, Blackie visits Mary in her dressing room and she proposes to him. He accepts, but makes it contingent upon her return to the Paradise. As Mary soon prepares to go onstage at the Paradise in a revealing new costume, Tim visits and denounces Blackie for exploiting her. When Tim refuses to allow Mary to go onstage, Blackie strikes him, after which Mary quits and leaves with Tim. Mary finally accepts Burley's proposal, after being convinced by his mother that Blackie is not good for her, but Burley, not satisfied with winning Mary, arranges for the Paradise's liquor license to be revoked and Blackie's performers jailed. The raid occurs on the night of the "Chickens Ball," an entertainment competition that Blackie has won every year. With his entertainers jailed, Blackie has no hope of obtaining the prize money that he badly needs to finance his campaign. Blackie is then given another blow when his friend Mat reveals that the citizens group is withdrawing their support because his campaign has become "too personal." When Mary and Burley go to the Chickens Ball, Della Bailey, an old friend of Blackie's, denounces Bailey for closing down the Paradise. Hearing this, Mary announces that she is going to represent the Paradise and sings a crowd-pleasing rendition of "San Francisco." Della sends for Blackie to witness Mary's performance, but just as Mary is proclaimed the winner, Blackie angrily goes onstage and refuses to take the award when she tries to give it to him. Humiliated, Mary prepares to leave with Burley when the ground quakes and the building starts to crumble. Mary and Blackie call to each other, but are separated in the chaos. Within a few moments, San Francisco is destroyed as buildings tumble and streets open-up. When the shaking stops, Blackie pulls himself from the rubble and searches for Mary. After finding Burley's dead body, Blackie goes to the Burley mansion, where Mrs. Burley, who is being evacuated so that her home can be dynamited to stem the tide of fires now raging through the city, tells him that they both need "God's help." Wandering through the desolation of the city, Blackie finally finds Tim, who is comforting the injured. Recognizing Blackie's contrition, Tim then takes Blackie to a refugee camp, where Mary is leading the dispossessed in a hymn. As Blackie kneels down to thank God for finding Mary, she sees him and goes to his side. They are reunited just as word comes that the fires are out. Blackie and Mary then join others marching back to the city singing "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah."

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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