In Old Chicago was 20th Century-Fox's spin on MGM's San Francisco--a personal saga played out against the backdrop of a famous 19th Century disaster. Alice Brady plays Mrs. O'Leary, a widow who brings her two young boys to the sleepy village of Chicago. As the city grows in prominence and prestige, so do the boys: One son (Tyrone Power) becomes a rascal who dreams of creating his own entertainment empire, while the other son (Don Ameche) matures into an honest, straight-laced lawyer. Both boys woo a beautiful singer (Alice Faye), who favors the more reckless of the two. As the headstrong son gains control of the more disreputable forms of Chicago entertainment, the serious son becomes the city's Mayor. The requisite rivalry between the two reaches a fever pitch just before their mother's cow knocks over a lantern and sets off the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The O'Leary boys unite in trying to fight the conflagration and rescue the populace; the mayor dies, and the wastrel son vows to mend his ways and help build a "new" Chicago. In Old Chicago is climaxed spectacularly by the famous fire, a masterwork of special effects courtesy of 20th Century-Fox's Fred Sersen. The film, which originally ran 115 minutes, is currently available only in its shorter (and better paced) reissue version.
by Hal Erickson synopsis