In Old Chicago (1937)

Still no big screen TV, still plenty of full frame movies to watch. The choice of the night, In Old Chicago. This film is basically a dramatization of the characters involved in starting the Chicago fire. Although not much of the story really ties to the great fire other than a family member has a bar in area that burned. The story starts with a family headed to Chicago to make a new life. The father passes away on the trip leaving a mother and her two sons. Upon arriving in Chicago, Mrs. O’Leary opens a laundry mat, while there is a sibling rivalry brewing, with one brother opening a saloon and the other running for mayor, and trying to  clean out the saloons and dance halls. Of course everything culminates with the big fire….didn’t think I was giving away anything surprising there, yep Chicago burns.

Of course the best performance comes from Alice Faye (Alexander’s Ragtime Band), who won the supporting actress Oscar for role as Belle. (The side note on her Oscar is she was unable to attend the Oscar presentation, and when her name was called, an imposter went up, accepted the award and was never seen again. Unfortunately she passed away before the Academy could get her another one.) She was wonderful, full of attitude, and being able to show off as a great singer didn’t hurt a bit either. The Brothers are played by Tyrone Power (The Mark of Zorro, Alexander’s Ragtime Band) and the great Don Ameche (Cocoon, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Coming to America). Their performances are decent, but not anything to write home about . Ameche seemed to be saddled with playing the “good” brother which didn’t lend to much drama in his character. Power of course was the debonair gentleman who gets the girl. His character is at least a little more interesting since he is in what was then a shady business, a saloon owner.

Overall, I was entertained by this movie. It wasn’t one that I would watch over and over, but worth a look once in a while. The one thing it did make me want, was a modern movie about the Chicago fire. With today’s special effects, I would love to see a detailed story of what happened and all the steps that everyone went through and the strategy for trying to put the fire out.

Boy, am I ready to watch a widescreen movie with lots of explosions!

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