I have a funny feeling that many if not all of the films from the 1930s will follow a similar pattern: a type-cast and suave leading man will confront himself and his peers in pursuit of a beautiful woman or a lofty dream – two sides of the same coin, if you will.
This man will have conflicts, both internal and external. He will be a rapscallion, but will show sensitive tendencies. His supporting cast of friends, acquaintances, enemies, nemeses, lovers and extras each will bring out a certain quality in him to move some semblance, or in the best cases, a very clear plot along from Point A to Point B and sometimes to point C or D. There will be a series of obstacles, some grand in nature, a few subtle, for this flawed hero to overcome to achieve his goal.
Nineteen thirty six’s San Francisco fits this mold with some minor edges. For this iteration, Clark Gable in pre-Gone With The Wind form pairs with Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy and Jack Holt to form a lovers’ tango in 1905 San Francisco. The plot plays out thusly: MacDonald whisks into the Bay Area as a simple pastor’s daughter, Mary Blake, with a magical voice looking for work as an entertainer of sorts. After little to no luck for several weeks, Blake stumbles into Gable’s saloon/cabaret/bar The Paradise Club, where said club’s proprietor, Gable as “Blackie” Norton, hires her on the spot, because, see, Norton is a natural talent scout and an everyman’s man with an infallible “code.” The movie does a particularly good job in painting two of its leads within the first interaction: Continue reading