FLAME OF BARBARY COAST: John Wayne is "Duke," a good-hearted rancher from Montana who comes to San Francisco to collect a debt owedto him by Tito (Joseph Schildkraut), slick owner of a casino. He falls in love with Flaxen (ann Dvorak), the beautiful saloon singer engaged to Tito! Duke loses his hard-earned bankroll at Tito's casino forcing him to leave town. But not for long! The next time he comes to town, his luck radically changes. In fact, he's so lucky that he almost cleans out Titl's casino. With his winnings, Duke builds a casino across the street from tito, hiring Flaxen to star in his floor show. All goes well until the great San Fransisco earthquake forces Duke, Flaxen and all the residents of the city to regroup and rebuild. William Frawley also stars in this exciging drama featuring "the Duke" at his larger than life finest.
Republic Pictures could be downright bewildering when they tried for sophisticated entertainment (mostly the studio specialized in B-movie-with-a-plus knockabout). Exhibit A is this San Francisco
wannabe that, despite the presence of John Wayne in a Stetson, is not
a Western because it's all citified, takes place six years into the 20th century (when is
that earthquake due?), and spotlights romance, capitalism, and civic virtue instead of gunplay. Montana cowhand Duke Fergus (Duke Wayne), effectively robbed by big-time gambler Tito Morell (Joseph Schildkraut), studies up on gambling and returns to beat the simpering Continental at his own game and wrest away his beloved chantoosie Flaxen Tarry (Ann Dvorak). At regular intervals, two of these three people will have a scene in which they express major hostility, come to an understanding, indicate mutual admiration, then get mad all over again--within the space of eight lines of dialogue. None of this makes sense, so it must be sophisticated. --Richard T. Jameson