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With: Edward G. Robinson, Miriam Hopkins, Joel McCrea, Walter Brennan
Written by: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur
Directed by: Howard Hawks
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 90
Date: 10/13/1935

Barbary Coast (1935)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Gold Standard

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Howard Hawks tangled with producer Samuel Goldwyn for the first time in 1935, and the result, Barbary Coast (1935), was more or less a tie. Hawks was a bawdy action director, focused on character camaraderie and clarity of space and time. Goldwyn was a prudish perfectionist, devoted only to the creation of "great art." But working with some of his favorite writers, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Hawks found a way to make the story breathe a little. Edward G. Robinson (who had previously worked with Hawks in Tiger Shark) plays Louis Chamalis, a powerful, villainous businessman in the early, gold rush days of San Francisco. Clad in frilly shirts and one dangling earring, he runs the town with an iron fist. A gold-digger (Miriam Hopkins) arrives by boat hoping to meet her rich husband, only to find that he's dead and that his gold has been otherwise distributed. She takes up with Chamalis but quickly finds herself in love with a na�ve prospector (Joel McCrea), causing a major showdown. Hawks played out one of his pet themes in the character of a newspaperman who attempts to print the truth about the ruthless gangster and is punished for his trouble. Otherwise, the primitive San Francisco is imbued with a lusty spirit, comprised of mud in the streets, tinkly pianos and crooked card games.

DVD Details: MGM/UA released this United Artists classic on DVD once before, but it quickly went out of print. Here it is again, in 2005, in much the same version, with no extras.

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