• Warning: Spoilers
    The Fire Brigade casts our hero Charles Ray as the youngest in a large and rambunctious family of Irish-American firemen. These men are filled with laughter, the love of life and horse-play which balances out the danger they face when the alarm bell rings. Retired fire captain Grandpop O'Neil conducts a rookie school, complete with horse drawn a fire wagon which includes his grandson Terry (Ray). While his two older brothers busy themselves with extinguishing blazes, (their father had already died in a fire before our story began) Ray spends his time in training. Innocent Ray is stunned speechless by lovely May McAvoy, the daughter of a wealthy absentee landlord at a public event where firemen compete in feats to test their skill and bravery. The flame of love at first sight will soon smolder into a blaze as they spend more time together. McAvoy invites Ray to a society party and they soon confess their love to each other but her father's guilty conscience forces him to separate them. SPOILERS: The blaze in which one of Terry's brothers loses his life leads Fire Chief Wallace to suspect the building was flimsily erected by a contractor favored in bidding for city jobs. When he protests the contractor's working on a new orphanage, the chief is removed by the town political boss. But before the chief's last day he ask Terry to investigate the construction of the new orphanage which leads Terry to shocking discoveries and to tell the town's philanthropist (McAvoy's father again) of the shoddy construction. This dramatic scene contains several surprise punches this reviewer cannot reveal. Later, a gigantic fire sweeps the city, and Terry is called into action with the antiquated horse-drawn equipment. Ray makes a valiant rescue even though his brother, Joe, dies from the flames. The climax of The Fire Brigade is a spectacular conflagration, expertly blending authentic fire footage, double exposures, and flawless miniature work. As a bonus, the final scene boasts a bizarre vignette in which the ghosts of firemen killed in the line of duty urge Ray on to rescue a helpless child stranded on the roof! The thrilling shot from this film of the fire engines racing thru the streets of New York was extracted and used in the opening montage sequence used in the opening credits of every episode of the Kevin Brownlow documentary HOLLYWOOD (1980) a 13 part mini-series.