Mother O’Leary and her brood arrive in Chicago just as it is beginning to transform into a metropolis. Her sons grow up to become the amoral Dion (Tyrone Power), who never misses a bet and hooks up with the similarly canny cabaret performer Belle (Alice Faye), and the idealistic lawyer Jack (Don Ameche). Betraying political boss Brian Donlevy, Power arranges for his brother to become mayor, but then finds himself in the targeting sights of Ameche’s reforms. The family feud builds to the nigh… when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow makes that fateful kick.
Though the story stops dead too many times for Faye to sing a song (and the spectacle of a leggy blonde woman mournfully belting out “Carry Me Back to Old Virginie” is not to mbe missed), the drama still builds up an engaging head of steam until the Great Fire breaks out. At that point, the film shifts into overdrive, delivering a spectacle of destruction that still holds its own against the disaster FX of today. Cult movie fans take note: look for Rondo Hatton in a small role as a bodyguard.
The usual 2.0 and mono options here. There is some minor distortion on the dialogue, but this is a 1937 film, and overall the sound is quite clear. Even the surround voices problem is much less than on other Studio Classics.
The print is in very good shape. The grain is, for the most part, almost absent, though some shots are rougher than others (these are often the ones that are part of the extended, Road Show cut of the film). The black-and-white tones are excellent, and the print is in pristine shape, with nary a speckle in sight. The menu is basic.
The film comes in two different versions: the theatrical and 15-minute-longer Road Show edition. Beyond that, you have the A&E Biography episode on Don Ameche, and two Movietone clips. Not much, in other words. Still, extra points for including the extended version of the movie.
It seems to me that the extras in this series are becoming fewer and fewer, but this is a great-looking transfer, and the fire sequence is absolutely jaw-dropping.
Special Features List
- A&E Biography: Don Ameche
- Movietone News Footage
- Extended and Theatrical Versions of the Film