Movie Mirrors Index

Old San Francisco

(silent 1927 b 88')

En: 5 Ed: 4

A Spanish family may lose their ranch to a greedy businessman and his lawyers, but the beautiful granddaughter escapes their plot.

The Vasquez family has held land from the beginning of San Francisco. In 1848 a Vasquez says the discovery of gold means the ranches will be deserted. Captain Stoner (Tom Santschi) and his men steal horses. When Vasquez tries to stop them, Stoner shoots him; but his brother avenges him.

In 1906 San Francisco is prospering. Don Hernandez de Vasquez (Josef Swickard) watches his granddaughter Dolores Vasquez (Dolores Costello) dance. Michael Brandon (Anders Randolf) is a successful lawyer and has made his nephew Terrence O'Shaughnessy (Charles Emmett Mack) a partner. Brandon wants to buy the ranch, but Hernandez refuses to sell. Terrence sweet-talks Dolores.

Chris Buckwell (Warner Oland) tells the Chinese that he will have their land outside of Chinatown. Brandon and Terrence report to him, and Buckwell tells them to get the ranch. At a Chinese shrine the dwarf Chang Loo (Angelo Rossitto) prays and dares Buckwell to kill him. Flower of the Orient (Anna May Wong) tells Buckwell that Chinatown is upset with him.

Terrence goes to warn Hernandez, who shows him his sword. Don Luis courts Dolores, and Hernandez says his money is needed; but Luis leaves. A café prophet warns Buckwell about his evil ways of making money. Dolores finds Terrence drunk in a room with women and leaves.

Buckwell goes to the ranch and prays. Hernandez says his ranch is condemned, and Buckwell offers to help. Dolores wishes for Terrence, and he is there. He thought she was engaged, but she says she is not.

Hernandez shows his land grants to Brandon. Terrence warns he will lose them, and Hernandez takes them back. Buckwell calls on Dolores while she is alone. Terrence comes in and fights Buckwell, who leaves.

Hernandez orders surveyors to get out and scares them away with his sword. At night Hernandez stops Buckwell, who threatens to have him arrested and pushes him down. Hernandez has a heart attack. Dolores grieves and tells Buckwell God will avenge him. Buckwell is terrified, and she realizes he is Chinese.

Chang Loo knows that Buckwell sinned. Terrence takes Dolores to see Lu Fong, and she tells them Buckwell's secret. He denies it, and Dolores admits she spoke in jealousy falsely. Then she says Terrence would have died. They rescue Terrence and see Buckwell's Chinese shrine and brother Chang Loo. Flower causes the lights to go out, and Buckwell abducts Dolores. They go to a secret place for the Chinese. Dolores appears in an evening gown, tries to escape, and prays. An earthquake causes panic and destruction. Buckwell recalls the prophecy and is dying. Terrence finds Dolores. In the final scene they look over rebuilt San Francisco.

This melodrama reflects the prejudice against the Chinese in early California as well as the attempts to displace the Spanish landowners.

Copyright © 2006 by Sanderson Beck

Movie Mirrors Index

BECK index