Spencer Tracy Movies: 'San Francisco' Earthquake & Early Humphrey Bogart

Spencer Tracy, Jeanette MacDonald, San Francisco
Spencer Tracy, Jeanette MacDonald, San Francisco

Spencer Tracy is the star of the evening on Turner Classic Movies.

My two major recommendations are W. S. Van Dyke's San Francisco (1936), corny to the bone but enjoyable all the same, and Up the River (1930), one of Tracy's earliest efforts, directed by John Ford and also featuring a young Humphrey Bogart.

Tracy, as a tough-talking priest, earned an undeserved Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category for San Francisco – the best performance in that movie belongs to the earthquake, though Jeanette MacDonald's kitschy saloon singer is fun to watch.

Now, Tracy's Oscar nod 22 years later for The Old Man and the Sea (1958) was more deserving if you ignore the fact that the actor is supposed to be playing a Cuban fisherman. But then again, at least his Cuban fish-catcher doesn't mug nearly as much as his Portuguese one in Captains Courageous.

The Devil at Four O'Clock (1961) features a volcano eruption that feels as phony as the film's dialogue and characters. But it's kinda curious that Devil comes to life only when death is about to engulf most everyone on screen. Mervyn LeRoy, the guy who brought you all those cool Warner Bros. movies of the early '30s, directed this papier-mâché dud.

Clarence Brown's Plymouth Adventure (1952) offers the fairy-tale version of the Pilgrim's voyage to North America. In addition to Tracy, the cast includes Gene Tierney, Van Johnson, and Dawn Addams.

Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:

5:00pm San Francisco (1936)
A beautiful singer and a battling priest try to reform a Barbary Coast saloon owner in the days before the big earthquake.
Cast: Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, Spencer Tracy, Jack Holt Dir: W. S. Van Dyke BW-115 mins

7:00pm Up the River (1930)
Two convicts break out to help an ex-con friend stay straight.
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Warren Hymer, Humphrey Bogart, Claire Luce Dir: John Ford BW-85 mins

9:00pm Plymouth Adventure (1952)
Epic dramatization of the Pilgrims' journey to the new world on the Mayflower.
Cast: Lowell Gilmore, Tommy Ivo, John Dehner, Noel Drayton Dir: Clarence Brown C-106 mins

11:00pm Old Man and the Sea, The (1958)
A Cuban fisherman believes his long dry spell will end when he catches a legendary fish.
Cast: Felipe Pazos Jr., Harry Bellaver, Spencer Tracy, Don Diamond Dir: John Sturges C-87 mins

12:30am Devil At Four O'Clock, The (1961)
A drunken missionary and three escaped convicts try to save a group of children from a South Seas volcano.
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Frank Sinatra, Kerwin Mathews, Jean-Pierre Aumont Dir: Mervyn LeRoy C-126 mins

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