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In Old Chicago

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In Old Chicago stars Don Ameche and Tyrone Power as two sons of the infamous Margaret O'Leary, whose ill-fated cow started the 1871 inferno that brought the entire city of Chicago to ruin. The brothers grow up on opposite sides od the law and their fraternal struggle reaches an incendiary crescendo mimicked by the flames that engulf the city.


In Old Chicago was 20th Century Fox's grandest production of 1938, and it's still worthy of classic status. Along with MGM's 1936 earthquake drama San Fracisco, it ranks among the finest of the early disaster films, and the climactic depiction of the great Chicago fire of 1871 is still impressive, with some shots that are just as amazing as the digitally rendered disaster effects of present-day Hollywood. It's a highly fictionalized account of the O'Leary family, whose legendary milk-cow kicked over the lamp that set Chicago ablaze, and the teaming of Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, and Alice Faye (as O'Leary brothers Dion and Jack, and Jack's showgirl wife Belle) proved so popular that they were reunited, along with director Henry King, in Darryl F. Zanuck's follow-up production of Alexander's Ragtime Band. They lead a lively cast (including Andy Devine and Brian Donlevy) that delivers all the entertainment value that Zanuck could muster, focusing on the rivalry between Jack and Dion as they clash over their political ambitions and future plans for "The Patch," the beloved Chicago slum district in which they were raised. Their mother (played by Alice Brady in an Oscar®-winning performance) struggles to hold her brood together, and the sibling rivalry reaches a fever pitch just as the city's about to go up in flames. Along the way we're treated to Faye's silky-smooth performances of vintage show tunes (like the title song), and movie buffs will appreciate the early appearance of Rondo Hatton, a bit player who suffered from acromegaly, a deforming pituitary condition (similar to gigantism) that caused him to have one of the most unique faces in the history of movies. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Alice Brady, Andy Devine
  • Directors: Henry King
  • Writers: Lamar Trotti, Niven Busch, Sonya Levien
  • Producers: Darryl F. Zanuck, Kenneth Macgowan
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Black & White, Dubbed, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: March 1, 2009
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009NZ2NS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,151 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "In Old Chicago" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 61 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Click on May 27, 2005
Format: DVD
Theatrical Version (96 min.)

Roadshow Version (109 min.)
Additional Release Material:
Bonus Shorts - MovieTone News (4 Segments)
Biography - Don Ameche

As much as I have always loved this Best Picture Oscar nominee, I have always been very disappointed never to have seen the original, longer "roadshow version", which includes almost fourteen minutes of additional footage. Finally, after years of waiting, it appears that my chance to see the entire movie in all its glory will be coming with the DVD release of this movie from Fox Home Video. As noted above, the disc will be two-sided, and will contain both versions of the film ... the familiar "Theatrical" version which has played on television all these years, and the rarely screened original "Roadshow" edition which was a box office smash ... and earned Alice Brady the Best Supporting Actress Oscar back in 1937. Thank you in advance, Fox Home Video ... this is exactly the type of consumer-friendly offering that will earn you the loyalty and financial support of classic movie connoiseurs!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Simon Davis on April 17, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
By late 1937 Tyrone Power was rapidly climbing towards being the top Box Office King of Twentieth Century Fox Studios. After a string of romantic comedies with costars Sonja Henie and Loretta Young the studio showed their absolute faith in him by mounting the first of a series of very elaborate costumes dramas with this spectacular version of the (fictional),lead up to the great fire of Chicago in "In Old Chicago". Conceived by Darryl F. Zanuck as a spectacular effort to out class MGM's "San Francisco", he had earlier failed to borrow Clark Gable and Jean Harlow for the roles eventually taken by Tyrone Power and Alice Faye. That failure however really provided Tyrone Power with his "A" class breakthrough role, playing against his usual type here in a production that cost a staggering 2 million dollars which also included in its final 20 minutes some of the most spectacular effects depicting the fire raging through Chicago, that had yet been seen on screen.

Based on the story by Niven Busch, "In Old Chicago", centres it's story around the O'Leary family in particular brothers Dion (Tyrone Power), and Jack (Don Ameche). The two brothers are as different as night and day with Dion becoming a shady business man running a gambling saloon in Chicago's non respectable area called The Patch, while Jack becomes a respectable lawyer determined to improve the image of Chicago by removing it's unsavoury elements. Dion falls for singer Belle Fawcett (Alice Faye), who also has the eye of corrupt businessman Gil Warren (Brian Donlevy), and after sweepign her off her feet involves her in running a new business in direct opposition to Gil. Gil however wants to gain political power and engages Dion's support in his race to be mayor.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Douglas M VINE VOICE on September 3, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"In Old Chicago" was a blockbuster movie made in 1937, a box office smash which contributed significantly to the emergence of 20th Century Fox as a major studio. The film mirrored MGM's 1936 smash hit "San Francisco" and while Tyrone Power, Alice Faye and Don Ameche do not have quite the weight of personalities of Clark Gable, Jeanette Macdonald and Spencer Tracy, they were 10 to 15 years younger in Faye and Power's case so this is understandable.

Seeing the roadshow version of the film makes one wonder why Fox bothered to put the shorter version on the DVD because you may never view it again. All of a sudden, the dramatic portions of the film make better sense, with the smooth continuity of a Henry King directed film and notably missing from the shorter version. All the principals' performances improve too because what seemed quite superficial now has more depth. For example, instead of being told Don Ameche is an honest lawyer, we SEE him in action; instead of being told Tyrone Power is a crook, we SEE him offering bribes. Power, in particular, is very convincing as the charming Irish rogue.

The story is a corny tale of the Irish O'Leary family and has that hokey quality which undermined a lot of Fox's big productions. By the time you have heard for the third time that "We O'Learys are a strange tribe", you can almost hope that they suffer some unspeakable death when the fire starts! Alice Faye plays Belle Fawcett, the dance hall attraction whom the crooked Power marries. This was Faye's bid for major stardom when she replaced Jean Harlow who died just before production began. Faye is diffident at first but Henry King coaxed her along and her confidence grows. The film was a great success for her.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. Jones on October 3, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This movie is worth seeing for the fire alone. But in a buildup of love and loss, we are given four very human souls to cherish throughout the calm and the chaos.
Alice Brady won an Academy award for her portrayel of Mrs. O'Leary, the owner of the infamous cow and mother of the O'Leary clan. Her performance is sentimental and tough, and her award richly deserved.
The trio of Tyrone Power, Don Ameche and Alice Faye hit it off with memorable characters. Ameche is the honest, hard-working brother who means to make Chicago as good a place as he can. Power gives a splendid performance as the charming but rotten brother whose power in Chicago is both impressive and abused. Faye is the singer caught between them, alternately loving and hating Power along with the rest of us.
This is a wonderful example of the universal tale in which rascals can always be redeemed and cities are never burnt forever. A classic from the silver screen era, with lovely music and an unforgettable climax. Haunting in its tragedy, inspiring for the human story behind it.
A must-see, for any silver-screen fan.
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