Wayne Tribute: Flame of Barbary Coast (1945)

Wayne tribute: Honoring the Duke–Most Popular Star in Film History

Before becoming a major star, John Wayne appeared in many B-productions, such as “Flame of Barbary Coast,” a San-Francisco set tale, directed by Joseph Kane, in which the Duke competed with gambler Joseph Schildkraut over the love of Anne Dvorak.

The setting, San Francisco circa 1906, contains the obligatory earthquake sequence, but there is no comparison with the far more impressive one in MGM’s picture of that title.

Wayne plays Duke Fergus, a Montana cowboy who arrives in the big city of San Francisco and what it has to offer to a country boy, including gambling and roulettes tables. He is helped by Flaxen Terry (Ann Dvorak), a singer who knows how the gambles wheels turn.

Terry is the fiancée of Tito Morell, the black sheep of the Nob Hill aristocracy, owner of a casino called El Dorado, and king of the notorious Barbary Coast. Tito becomes jealous of Duke and he cheats him out of winning, sending him back to the Montana ranges.

But Duke can’t forget Terry and so he returns to the Barbary Coast, asking the professional gambler Wolf Wylie (William Frawley) to teach him the tricks of the trade.

No longer the naïve cowboy, the Duke begins a winning streak that leads to setting up a rival gambling called the Silver Dollar, and persuading Terry to sing there.

Just like Jeanette MacDonald in “San Francisco,” whose singing coincided with the disaster, Terry sings, and at the end of her song, the tremors begins. The devastating earthquake destroys the Silver Dollar, and injures Terry. Helping her to recover, the Duke asks Terry to come with him to the wilderness of Montana.

“Flame of the Barbary Coast” was meant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Republic studio, whose biggest star was John Wayne, going back to its beginnings, in 1935.

The action sequences were good, courtesy of Yakima Canutt.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Sound: Daniel J. Bloomberg
Scoring (Dramatic or Comedy): Dale Butts and Morton Scott

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Sound Oscar was Stephen Dunn for Leo McCarey’s “The Bells of St. Mary’s, and the Scoring Award to Miklos Rozsa for Hitchcock’s Oscar-nominated thriller “Spellbound.”