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