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In Old Chicago

In Old Chicago (1937)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 1



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Average Rating: 3.4/5
User Ratings: 1,150

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Movie Info

In Old Chicago was 20th Century-Fox's spin on MGM's San Francisco--a personal saga played out against the backdrop of a famous 19th Century disaster. Alice Brady plays Mrs. O'Leary, a widow who brings her two young boys to the sleepy village of Chicago. As the city grows in prominence and prestige, so do the boys: One son (Tyrone Power) becomes a rascal who dreams of creating his own entertainment empire, while the other son (Don Ameche) matures into an honest, straight-laced lawyer. Both boys

Aug 9, 2005

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All Critics (9) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (6) | Rotten (3) | DVD (9)

As a film entertainment it is socko.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With a star-filled cast and a fitful sense of drama, it's pretty much the same old recipe as the equivalent cycle of megabudget '70s exploiters, but the climactic conflagration is certainly worth the wait.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mr. King's direction, occasionally, is inspired, and the photography has unusual style and dramatic impact.

March 25, 2006 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Under Henry King's direction there is little of the old Fox pep.

August 9, 2005 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Chicago makes up in atmosphere and color what it lacks in historical accuracy.

January 31, 2012 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Zanuck's disaster film, part of cycle that includes Ford's superior Hurricane, is not as entertaining as MGM's San Francisco, but the set-pieces of crowds, riots, and cattle stampedes during the fire are impressive.

March 6, 2008 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

can't hold our interest for much more than five minutes

August 26, 2005 Full Review Source:

Nothing extraordinary in retrospect, but it is genial enough.

August 9, 2005 Full Review Source: Film4

Like San Francisco, events sort of just happen and allegiances just sort of shift around to stall time before the grand finale.

August 5, 2005 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Audience Reviews for In Old Chicago

This film feels somewhat lost among the Hollywood gems of the thirties, though it was nominated for several Academy Awards, and lent to one of the biggest mysteries concerning Alice Brady's Oscar trophy. The story revolves around the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. There is a large myth that purports that a cow in Mrs. O'Leary's barn set it off a fire, destroying most of the town. In this story Mrs. O'Leary is a widow with three sons living in Chicago. She works night and day as a washer woman to support Jack, a lawyer, Dion, a gambler, and Bob, a newlywed. Most of the plot follows the story of Jack and Dion, played by the wildly popular Don Ameche and Tyrone Power. Before we even get to the tragedy aspect of the film, the first hour or so follows Dion's rise to power in The Patch, the crime riddled section of Chicago, filled with gambling, alcohol, and loose women. Dion falls for and manipulates Belle Fawcett, a performer who sets up a new club with him to the disdain of her former boss, Gil Warren. The romance between Dion and Belle is abusive at best, many scenes showing him pinning her down, catching her before she can run away, and ambushing her several times while she and her maid scream for the police. Of course, in thirties fashion, she sees his roguish charm and falls in love with him. Weaving through are the politics of the mayoral race, in which Jack is a candidate against Gil Warren. This leads to a bout of conflict between the two brothers, one trying to clean up the city, the other trying to make a quick buck. Then, after Dion tricks both Jack and Belle, the barn is set aflame, and we get to watch some really amazing special effects for the time period. There is so much illness, and depression as we watch people get stampeded, families split apart, and others dying young in the flames. This film doesn't hold back, or play out to any cliches when it comes to the ensuing action, making it both a character study of the disenfranchised O'Leary clan, and particularly Dion, the man without ethics who everyone keeps giving the benefit of the doubt. A strong film from a strong era of moviemaking.
October 9, 2011

Super Reviewer

Sure it's an epic historical movie, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring! Good actors, but the movie could have been a lot better.
September 15, 2010

Super Reviewer

The story of a cow and all the problems it caused by burning down a major city. This was an early attempt to create a disaster film and there simply wasn't the technology available to make a decent go of it.
October 25, 2013
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • In Old Chicago (1937) (DE)
  • In Old Chicago (1937) (UK)
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