In Old Chicago (1937) - Rotten Tomatoes

In Old Chicago1937

In Old Chicago (1937)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

In Old Chicago Photos

Movie Info

In Old Chicago was 20th Century-Fox's spin on MGM's San Francisco--a personal saga played out against the backdrop of a famous 19th Century disaster. Alice Brady plays Mrs. O'Leary, a widow who brings her two young boys to the sleepy village of Chicago. As the city grows in prominence and prestige, so do the boys: One son (Tyrone Power) becomes a rascal who dreams of creating his own entertainment empire, while the other son (Don Ameche) matures into an honest, straight-laced lawyer. Both boys woo a beautiful singer (Alice Faye), who favors the more reckless of the two. As the headstrong son gains control of the more disreputable forms of Chicago entertainment, the serious son becomes the city's Mayor. The requisite rivalry between the two reaches a fever pitch just before their mother's cow knocks over a lantern and sets off the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The O'Leary boys unite in trying to fight the conflagration and rescue the populace; the mayor dies, and the wastrel son vows to mend his ways and help build a "new" Chicago. In Old Chicago is climaxed spectacularly by the famous fire, a masterwork of special effects courtesy of 20th Century-Fox's Fred Sersen. The film, which originally ran 115 minutes, is currently available only in its shorter (and better paced) reissue version.

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Tyrone Power
as Dion O'Leary
Alice Faye
as Belle Fawcett
Don Ameche
as Jack O'Leary
Alice Brady
as Molly O'Leary
Andy Devine
as Pickle Bixby
Brian Donlevy
as Gil Warren
Phyllis Brooks
as Ann Colby
Tom Brown
as Bob O'Leary
Sidney Blackmer
as Gen. Phil Sheridan
Berton Churchill
as Sen. Colby
June Storey
as Gretchen O'Leary
Tyler Brooke
as Specialty Singer
J. Anthony Hughes
as Patrick O'Leary
Gene Reynolds
as Dion as a Boy
Bobs Watson
as Bob as a Boy
Billy Watson
as Jack as a Boy
Rondo Hatton
as Rondo, Bodyguard
Thelma Manning
as Carrie Donahue
Ruth Gillette
as Miss Lou
Harry Stubbs
as Fire Commissioner
Gustav von Seyffertitz
as Man in Jack's Office
Russell Hicks
as Man in Jack's Office
Frank Dae
as Judge
Joe King
as Ship's Captain
Robert Murphy
as Police Officer
Wade Boteler
as Police Officer
Rice and Cady
as Specialty
Harry Hayden
as Johnson, Secretary
Vera Lewis
as Witness
Ed Brady
as Wagon Driver
Minerva Urecal
as Frantic Mother
Scotty Mattraw
as Beef Baron
Charles Lane
as Booking Agent
View All

Critic Reviews for In Old Chicago

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (4)

As a film entertainment it is socko.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

With a star-filled cast and a fitful sense of drama, it's pretty much the same old recipe as the equivalent cycle of megabudget '70s exploiters, but the climactic conflagration is certainly worth the wait.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Mr. King's direction, occasionally, is inspired, and the photography has unusual style and dramatic impact.

March 25, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Under Henry King's direction there is little of the old Fox pep.

August 9, 2005 | Full Review…

...quite a sociological punch, and a real Chicago flavor. Dirty politics, saloon gangs, slums, tricked elections, fake reform parties. Why old Chicago?

April 16, 2020 | Full Review…

The sincerity of all the actors still surprises. [Full Review in Spanish]

September 3, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for In Old Chicago

The story of a cow and all the problems it caused by burning down a major city. This was an early attempt to create a disaster film and there simply wasn't the technology available to make a decent go of it.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

This film feels somewhat lost among the Hollywood gems of the thirties, though it was nominated for several Academy Awards, and lent to one of the biggest mysteries concerning Alice Brady's Oscar trophy. The story revolves around the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. There is a large myth that purports that a cow in Mrs. O'Leary's barn set it off a fire, destroying most of the town. In this story Mrs. O'Leary is a widow with three sons living in Chicago. She works night and day as a washer woman to support Jack, a lawyer, Dion, a gambler, and Bob, a newlywed. Most of the plot follows the story of Jack and Dion, played by the wildly popular Don Ameche and Tyrone Power. Before we even get to the tragedy aspect of the film, the first hour or so follows Dion's rise to power in The Patch, the crime riddled section of Chicago, filled with gambling, alcohol, and loose women. Dion falls for and manipulates Belle Fawcett, a performer who sets up a new club with him to the disdain of her former boss, Gil Warren. The romance between Dion and Belle is abusive at best, many scenes showing him pinning her down, catching her before she can run away, and ambushing her several times while she and her maid scream for the police. Of course, in thirties fashion, she sees his roguish charm and falls in love with him. Weaving through are the politics of the mayoral race, in which Jack is a candidate against Gil Warren. This leads to a bout of conflict between the two brothers, one trying to clean up the city, the other trying to make a quick buck. Then, after Dion tricks both Jack and Belle, the barn is set aflame, and we get to watch some really amazing special effects for the time period. There is so much illness, and depression as we watch people get stampeded, families split apart, and others dying young in the flames. This film doesn't hold back, or play out to any cliches when it comes to the ensuing action, making it both a character study of the disenfranchised O'Leary clan, and particularly Dion, the man without ethics who everyone keeps giving the benefit of the doubt. A strong film from a strong era of moviemaking.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Sure it's an epic historical movie, but that doesn't mean it has to be boring! Good actors, but the movie could have been a lot better.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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