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San Francisco

4.6 out of 5 stars 194 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

San Francisco (DVD)

Academy Award winners Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy star as best friendsand rivals, rogue and priest, fighting for the soul of a beautifulwoman--and for the soul of one of the world's greatest cities, SanFrancisco.1906. In the beautiful, brawling city spawned by the California GoldRush, party boss and dance hall owner Blackie Norton (Gable) refuses torelease singer Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald) from her contract withhim. Blackie's best friend, Father Tim Mullin (Tracy), urges him to letMary sing for the city's opera, but Blackie can't admit to anyone thathe won't let Mary go because he's in love with her. But when the 1906earthquake destroys the city, Blackie and Mary discover what is trulyimportant, and together they vow to rebuild their lives and theirbeloved city.

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"San Francisco, open your Golden Gate...." If the classic city anthem isn't part of your life already, it will be after a viewing of this 1936 hit, a wonderful blend of cornpone, spectacle, and song. It's set in 1906, the year the earthquake flattened much of Baghdad by the Bay. Like the disaster movies that followed (including In Old Chicago, a Fox cash-in from a couple of years later), San Francisco slowly establishes its characters before unleashing the destruction. Clark Gable is Blackie Norton, a cocky and ruthless Barbary Coast character whose heart is--well, not softened, but at least dented by the arrival of an opera singer (Jeanette MacDonald) looking for a job. He hires her for his rowdy club, while his childhood chum, Father Tim Mullin (Spencer Tracy), disapproves. As they would subsequently demonstrate in Test Pilot and Boom Town, Gable and Tracy have great he-man rapport together (Blackie's rampant maleness is challenged only by the fact that he knows the priest could punch him out). Director W.S. Van Dyke (The Thin Man) keeps everything cracking along, except for those moments when Cultcha rears its head and MacDonald sings an aria. When the quake hits, and the fire follows, the movie uncorks some really quite awesome special effects, including the unforgettable image of a street heaving up and separating under people's feet--much superior to the disaster effects in The Last Days of Pompeii, made just a year earlier. Needless to say, this could only be MGM in its heyday, laying on the big budget, an acceptable level of naughtiness, and a dose of religious turnaround in the end. It worked then; it still does. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Alternate ending sequence
  • Documentary profile: "Clark Gable: Tall, Dark & Handsome" hosted by Liam Neeson
  • Vintage Fitzpatrick TravelTalk shorts: "Cavalcade of San Francisco," "Night Descends on Treasure Island"
  • Classic cartoon: "Bottles"
  • Theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy, Jack Holt, Jessie Ralph
  • Directors: W.S. Van Dyke
  • Producers: John Emerson, Bernard H. Hyman
  • Format: Full Screen, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0), French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • 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: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: June 20, 2006
  • Run Time: 115 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (194 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000F7CMQI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,317 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "San Francisco" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Benjamin J Burgraff VINE VOICE on August 11, 2006
Format: DVD
"San Francisco", MGM's 'Showcase' film of 1936, demonstrates why no other studio could 'touch' Metro at it's prime. Take the biggest star in Hollywood, team him with the 'Queen' of 1930s MGM musicals, add the greatest film actor of a generation in support, then top things off with a 'no-expense-spared' recreation of the most famous earthquake in American history, and an instant Classic was born!

Seventy years later, the film has lost little of it's luster; certainly the 'Message' is a bit heavy-handed, the long opera sequences may make some viewers cringe, and some of the effects (involving double exposures) seem quaint in an era of CGI...but Clark Gable still projects his signature cockiness and virility, Jeanette MacDonald is still radiant (and can sure belt out "San Francisco"), and Spencer Tracy is still magnificent (it is easy to see why he received a 'Best Actor' nomination, in what was obviously a supporting role; he easily steals the film, in every scene he's in).

Directed by the remarkable W.S. ('Woody') Van Dyke, a consummate craftsman, and one of MGM's fastest directors (contradictory terms, but he combined speed and style, effortlessly), with a screenplay, surprisingly, by future "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" author, Anita Loos (from a story by Robert Hopkins), "San Francisco" exudes confidence, from the riotously decadent New Year's Eve, 1905, opening scene, to the finale, as Gable, MacDonald, Tracy, and, apparently, most of the survivors of the earthquake and fire march to a hilltop, vowing to build a 'better' city, and singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", as they view the smoking ruins, which dissolves into the 'modern' San Francisco of 1936.

Corny? Certainly! But undeniably rousing, as well!
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Unfortunatley I can only give this DVD transfer 3 stars. I have been patiently waiting for this film to be available on DVD so that I can toss out my old videocassette. Instead I think I am going to keep the videocassette and toss out the DVD. MGM's high production values are evident throughout this film. The special effects, for their time, are convincing even by today's standards. The problem with this transfer is that it is too "heavy." The facial tones are all "plugged up" and the shadows are way too saturated. I know this movie, despite it's somewhat contrasty sytle of cinemetography, was not originally shot (exposed) that way. Even if the original negative is permanently damaged this fine film is deserving of the most expensive, time-consuming restoration effort money can buy.
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From the mid 20s till the mid 50s, METRO-GOLDWYN MAYER(MGM) boasted they had more stars than there are in the heaven. MGM was the first studio to release a film with more than two stars(it was in 1932 - the Academy Award winning GRAND HOTEL starring Garbo, Beery, Crawford and Lionel Barrymore). SAN FRANCISCO proved to be one of the finest that ever came out of Hollywood. 3 Stars; Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy; strong story containing drama, music, song, romance A N D disaster; set decorations by Cedric Gibbons, special effects that has never dated, realistic scenes from ol`Frisco, though everything was shot in the MGM studios at Culver City. SAN FRANCISCO is a film that will never lose its appeal because of all these ingredients. This film is a MUST-SEE. One of the best that was ever made.
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"San Francisco" is the epitome of excellent 1930's filmaking at its best. Boasting a rousing story scripted by Anita Loos, crackling direction by the prolific W.S. Van Dyke (a director unfairly neglected in Hollywood history), and beautiful costumes and sets, the film is most justly famous because of the unforgettable special effects depicting the famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906. These sequences have gone down in Hollywood folklore as possibly the finest of their kind ever created.
The film offers a top notch cast in Clark Gable as Blackie Norton the rough around the edges entrepeneur in the dance hall area of the Barbary Coast, Spencer Tracy in the first of his famous priest roles as the caring Father Tim Mullin, a childhood friend of Blackie's, and last but not least Jeanette McDonald as Mary Blake the singing sensational torn between her strict upbringing and her love for Blackie. They make a memorable trio of performers in their only film together. Gable and Tracy would go on to make two more films together, "Test Pilot" and "Boom Town". Despite it being well known that Gable and McDonald did not get along during shooting they combine well in their acting depite their very different personalities. Spencer Tracy is on screen for less time than is desirable and certainly his father Tim is not as well written a character as the priest he played so wonderfully 2 years later in the classic "Boy's Town". Tracy always had a way with no frills sympathetic characters and he brings conviction and feeling to his role as the self appointed protector of Mary in Blackie's world of dancing girls, card sharps and crooked deals.
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