This story of the San Francisco Tenderloin and the 1906 earthquake centers on four strongly drawn characters played by four major stars. The lead, of course, is Clark Gable as Blackie Norton. The prototype for Gable’s role was Wilson Mizner, a gambler from the Barbary Coast and a close friend of Miss Loos. Mizner embodied the “imagination and braggadocio” that Loos saw as characteristic of San Francisco. Gable is perfect. His Blackie Norton is a gallant rogue, witty, full of vitality. San Francisco is a lusty celebration of life.
Jeanette MacDonald as Mary Blake is an innocent young beauty who enters Norton’s iniquitous den and emerges unsullied, who in fact cleans up both den and denmaster. She is an opera singer forced to belt out bawdy songs in the Tenderloin. She triumphs, mostly through the support of Spencer Tracy, who plays Father Tim Mullin. Tracy’s Mullin is tough, full of life, big enough to love good more fiercely than he condemns evil. And evil in the screenplay is not really so bad. It is Jack Holt as slumlord Jack Burley, whose major crime is puniness of spirit.
Like the previous books in the Screenplay Library series—Raymond Chandler’s Blue Dahlia and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s screenplay for Erich Maria Remarque’s Three Comrades—the script published here is the original version and includes all added scenes and retakes. Its publication is intended for the general reader interested in the film as literature and for students of film and film writing.
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