22 October 2006 | bkoganbing
The Duke Takes On The Barbary Coast
Flame of Barbary Coast finds John Wayne as a visiting cowboy from Montana who makes and loses a fortune in a night and goes home busted. He also finds the love of his life in Ann Dvorak, an entertainer at Joseph Schildkraut's place on the Barbary Coast.
Schildkraut figures that Dvorak is his personal property. But the Dvorak romantic angle is a side issue because Wayne is figuring on not getting mad, but getting even. He's learned a bit about gambling from an oldtimer at the trade in William Frawley.
Of course Wayne and Schildkraut's rivalry is interrupted by the famous earthquake of 1906. As this is Republic Films and not Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer, the special effects are nice, but not near as good as those from MGM. As this was Republic's prestige film of the year, I'm sure it was the best that miserly old Herbert J. Yates could afford.
The most interesting member of the cast is Schildkraut, a scion of the old Spanish aristocracy who's chosen to make his living on the Barbary Coast in the dens of iniquity there. He's as in love with Dvorak as Wayne is, but likes his power and notoriety more.
Yates took some liberties with San Francisco history in this one. The MGM San Francisco did not bother mentioning any of the local political figures of the day, but Flame on Barbary Coast did and got it wrong. Wayne and Schildkraut square off in an election in 1906 that never took place between Mayor Eugene Schmitz and James D. Phelan. Phelan was in fact Schmitz's predecessor in office and Schmitz didn't lose an election. He got himself impeached for setting a standard of corruption that has had some urban historian calling him the worst big city mayor in American history. Now THAT would be an interesting film.
Still the Duke's legion of fans will love him in this one and others will like Joseph Schildkraut.