Most Rentable Movie About the San Francisco Ethos

San Francisco (1936)

Vertigo could only have been made in this here city, but its themes are universal and nonspecific. The Maltese Falcon, while faithful to Dashiell Hammett's plot, isn't really about San Francisco the way the novel is. Bullitt has some wonderful time-capsule snatches of local color, but they're mostly surface. OK, San Francisco is half the movie these others are, but it's about the city -- albeit in a tidy, MGM sort of way. San Franciscan Anita Loos (of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes fame) based the hero of her screenplay on her buddy Wilson Mizner, a prospector-rogue-newsman of local legend. There's a Board of Supervisors race between this Barbary Coast scalawag (played by Clark Gable) and a Nob Hill snob; New Year's Eve revels at Lotta's Fountain; a drunken lout bounced from a saloon because he's from Los Angeles; and a grande dame's dark ruminations over her sinful city's inevitable smiting. The eventual smiting (via the 1906 fire and quake) is spectacular and rife with well-researched touches, and even Jeanette McDonald can't screw up our municipal anthem.

 
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