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Old San Francisco

Overview

It's hard to believe that Darryl F. Zanuck, producer of such anti-prejudice films of the 1940s as Gentleman's Agreement and Pinky, wrote the incredibly racist screenplay of Old San Francisco. After a lengthy prologue detailing the establishment and settlement of San Francisco by the Spanish aristocracy, the story proper begins in 1906 at the hacienda of Don Hernandez Vasquez Josef Swickard and his lovely daughter Dolores Dolores Costello. Having fallen upon hard times, Don Hernandez nonetheless refuses the ...
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Note: This product is manufactured on demand using DVD-R recordable media. This disc is expected to play back in DVD Video "play only" devices and may not play back in other DVD devices including recorders and PC drives.

Overview

It's hard to believe that Darryl F. Zanuck, producer of such anti-prejudice films of the 1940s as Gentleman's Agreement and Pinky, wrote the incredibly racist screenplay of Old San Francisco. After a lengthy prologue detailing the establishment and settlement of San Francisco by the Spanish aristocracy, the story proper begins in 1906 at the hacienda of Don Hernandez Vasquez Josef Swickard and his lovely daughter Dolores Dolores Costello. Having fallen upon hard times, Don Hernandez nonetheless refuses the entreaties of wealthy businessman Michael Brandon Anders Randolf to purchase his property. Originally hired by Brandon to persuade the Vasquez family to move out, young lawyer Terrence O'Shaughnessy Charles E. Mack changes his mind when he falls in love with Dolores. Meanwhile, Chris Buckwell Warner Oland, in charge of all illegal activities in Chinatown, offers himself as the "champion" of the Vasquez clan, all the while plotting to grab their land for himself and claim Dolores as his bride. Able to indulge in his skullduggery without fear of retribution from his Chinese victims because of his Caucasian status, Buckwell makes the mistake of revealing to Dolores that he actually has Oriental blood. When Dolores threatens to expose Buckwell as a "half-breed," he kidnaps the girl and attempts to sell her into white slavery. Surrounded by lustful Chinese merchants, Dolores prays for salvation -- whereupon the San Francisco Earthquake destroys everything around her, including Buckwell's criminal empire! Miraculously, both Dolores and Terrence escape from the earthquake unscathed, and in the final scene they are shown arm in arm, overlooking the rebuilt and "redeemed" San Francisco. Though beautifully photographed and consummately produced, Old San Francisco is no classic, nor will it ever be mistaken as a monument for racial tolerance.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Technically a silent film, Old San Francisco was actually a Vitaphone film, meaning it featured a musical soundtrack and some sound effects, but no dialogue. That's probably all for the best, as much of that dialogue would likely have been steeped in a racism that modern audiences would find difficult to swallow. As it is, the portrayal of the Chinese characters in the film will likely offend many. The screenplay in general is quite lurid, presenting a melodramatic story that has little credibility as drama but that is nonetheless entertaining on its own terms. Old San Francisco is not an especially good film, but it does stand as an example of the standard level of expertise that the makers of silent films had achieved just as their decline was being brought on by the talkies. Director Alan Crosland's work is not exceptional for the time, but it very effectively tells the story it has to tell through its visuals, showing how the silent film vocabulary was capable of a very special kind of beauty and intensity. By modern standards, the climactic earthquake -- which is ludicrously set up in terms of story -- is artificial, but it was pretty impressive for 1927. The cast is quite good, with the striking Dolores Costello and noble Josef Swickard very valuable, and Warner Oland appropriately evil.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/16/2009
  • UPC: 883316165218
  • Original Release: 1927
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Full Frame
  • Time: 1:29:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 98,124

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Dolores Costello Dolores Vasquez
Warner Oland Chris Buckwell
Charles Emmett Mack Terrence O'Shoughnessy
Josef Swickard Don Hernandez Vasquez
John Miljan Don Luis
Anders Randolph Michael Brandon
Angelo Rossitto Chang Loo
Anna May Wong Chinese Girl
Kamiyama Sojin Lu Fong
Lawson Butt Captain Enrique de Solano Y Vasquez
Martha Mattox Mother Vasquez
Walter McGrail Vasquez grandson
Tom Santschi Captain Stoner
Otto Matiesen Vasquez grandson
Technical Credits
Alan Crosland Director
Ben Carre Art Director
Anthony Coldeway Screenwriter
Harold McCord Editor
Hal Mohr Cinematographer
Hugo Riesenfeld Score Composer
Darryl F. Zanuck Producer
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