Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
USA 1936


Mary Blake arrives at Blackie Norton's Paradise gambling hall and beer garden looking for work as a singer. Blackie embarrasses her by asking to see her legs, but does hire her. She faints from hunger. Nob Hill Socialite Jack Burley and Maestro Baldini of the Tivoli Opera House see her singing and offer her a chance to do opera, but Blackie has her under a two-year contract which she sorrowfully stands by. Later, when he makes up posters featuring Mary in tights, she does leave for the Tivoli. Blackie gets an injunction against Burley, but knocks out the process server when he hears Mary's performance as Marguerite in "Faust". She asks her to marry him and she agrees to go back to the Paradise as his kind of singer, but Blackie's childhood chum Father Tim intervenes. After Blackie slugs the priest, Mary leaves. She is soon the star of the Tivoli and Blackie's place is closed down. She sings a rousing "San Francisco" on behalf of the Paradise at the annual "Chicken Ball" and wins the $10,000 prize which Blackie throws to the floor. As she storms out of the hall a terrible rumble betokens the famous San Francisco earthquake. Buildings collapse, streets split wide open, the city burns, the army dynamites whole sections of town. After staggering around in a stupor Blackie finds Father Tim and the two of them find Mary at a Salvation Army camp. Backed by hundreds of others, they look out over the ruins which are gradually replaced by the shining new city with a reprise of the title song.


Sort of the Titanic of its day, this smash-hit romance sees MacDonald as the would-be singer caught in a love triangle between Holt and Gable, the former offering a life of respectability as an opera star, the latter coaxing her into a bawdier career entertaining the masses at his gambling house. It takes a tragedy for her to decide, and indeed it comes in the shape of the San Francisco earthquake, giving rise to the kind of scenes that you know the effects department would have a field day with if this film were ever remade, but even for its time were impressive and disturbing enough.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE


Theatrical Release: June 26th, 1936

Reviews    More Reviews    DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Warner Home Video - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC

DVD Box Cover


CLICK to order from:

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC
Runtime 1:55:12 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.74 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Mono), DUB: French (Mono) 
Subtitles English, French, Spanish, None

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• 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

DVD Release Date: June 20th, 2006

Keep Case
Chapters: 32




This transfer can be quite dirty at times - it exposes the contrast as being weak as well. There are some moments of strong clarity but on the whole it suffers from the poor condition of the master. Artifacts and damage marks are plainly visible. Of course, I wish it were as good as Boom Town, but it, at least, is well represented in the supplements department with a good documentary on Gable, some vintage TravelTalk shorts and even a classic cartoon. Fans of film history will be excited by the Alternate Ending sequence although it is only 45 seconds long.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. This is a perfect addition to the Gable Boxset, which we strongly recommend.  

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus


Subtitle Sample




Screen Captures














DVD Box Cover


CLICK to order from:

Distribution Warner Home Video - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC


Hit Counter












DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Mississauga, Ontario,


Thank You!