In Old Chicago
Directed by Henry King
Written by Lamar Trotti and Sylvia Levien based on a story by Niven Busch
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation presents Daryll F. Zanuck Productions
I was not crazy about this big-budget answer to 1936’s smash hit San Francisco, despite some impressive special effects toward the end.
The story begins in the 1850’s as the O’Leary family is crossing the prairie en route to what will become Chicago. A tragic accident kills the father but not before he makes a speech about how his sons will go on to become great along with the city.
Segue to 1871. Ma O’Leary (Alice Brady) is running a laundry in “The Patch”, a rough immigrant part of town. Son Jack (Don Ameche) is a crusading lawyer, while his brother Dion (Tyrone Power) is a rapscalion out for a quick buck. Dion spies an opportunity to cash in by building a saloon where a new streetcar line is set to run and starts to woo the owner of the property, saloon singer Belle Fawcett (Alice Faye). Dion later backs Jack in a campaign for mayor but then falls out with him when Jack vows to clean up the Patch. But then comes the fateful night when Ma O’Leary forgets to tie up her cow … With Brian Donleavy as Jack’s opponent in the mayoral race.
This isn’t terrible but it is full of clichés and never grabbed me. It was interesting to see Alice Brady in a straight dramatic role after seeing her as all those dizzy dames! She was very good down to her Irish accent.
In Old Chicago garnered Academy Awards in the categories of Best Supporting Actress (Alice Brady) and Best Assistant Director. It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Writing (Original Story), Best Sound (Recording), and Best Music (Score). Brady was the first supporting player to be nominated two years in a row, following her nod for 1936’s Our Man Godfrey. She was not present to receive her statuette, which was collected by an unknown gentleman from the audience and never seen again.