Fog over Frisco


1h 8m 1934
Fog over Frisco

Brief Synopsis

A San Francisco heiress discovers her sister is hanging out with gangsters.

Film Details

Also Known As
Fog over San Francisco, The Gentleman from San Francisco, The Golden Gate
Genre
Mystery
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 2, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
First National Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
First National Pictures, Inc.; The Vitaphone Corp.
Country
United States
Location
San Francisco, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Five Fragments by George Dyer (Boston, 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

A man rushes from the San Francisco airport to Jake Bello's nightclub to deliver some stolen bonds, cautioning Bello to get rid of them quickly because he suspects that he is being followed by detectives. Later socialite Arlene Bradford arrives at the club with her fiancé, Spencer Carlton, and her stepsister Val. Everyone greets Arlene, who used to be a regular at the club, but who has not been going out much since her engagement. While reporter Tony Sterling sits down at Arlene's table, Bello transfers the stolen bonds to Arlene's car. At home, Arlene removes the bonds and puts them in the safe. Everett Bradford, Arlene's stepfather, accuses her of having "bad blood" just like her mother, but Val leaps to her defense. Angry at Bradford's lecture, Arlene leaves the house and goes directly to Bradford's office, where Spencer works. When she hands Spencer the latest batch of bonds, he begs her to return them, but she talks him into selling the bonds one more time. Later, detectives arrive at the Bradford house to look for the bonds. Thorne, the butler, listens in on phone conversations and overhears Arlene make a date to meet a man. She then returns Spencer's engagement ring to him in a letter and packs a bag. Bradford summons Spencer to the house, revealing that they have discovered his involvement in the bonds racket. At Bello's, Arlene announces that she is finished with the racket and he threatens her. Uncaring, she leaves for a rendezvous with Mayard, the Honolulu manager of Bradford's company and the instigator of the racket. He asks Arlene to return his love letters, saying that he does not love her anymore. She insists that she is going to the Hawaiian Islands with him. At home, Val hears the house elevator and, expecting Arlene, runs out to look for her. Seeing no one, she returns to her room. After she hears the elevator a second time, she and Thorne investigate. They discover Arlene's car in the garage and see a taxi pull away. The next morning, Val finds a note from Arlene saying that she has left home. Val is determined to find her stepsister and calls Tony at the paper to ask him to keep the story quiet. Despite Val's request, the news hits the papers and she blames Tony. He and Izzy, a photographer, meet Val in the garage, but she will not talk to them. After Izzy finds Arlene's body in the trunk of her car, Tony calls Val on the house phone. When she again refuses to talk to him, he phones the story in to the paper. Val then receives a telegram, signed by Arlene, asking her to bring the car and the envelope with her letters, which she had given to Val for safekeeping. Unaware that Arlene is dead, Val drives to the meeting place and is captured by Bello and his men. The police lose Bello's boat in the fog. Later, they discover that Spencer has committed suicide and learn that Arlene has left her possessions to her husband, Arthur Burchard. Tony and Izzy find Bello's yacht and the harbor detail finds his body. Now the police suspect Bradford. Thorne reveals that he is a secret service officer working on the stolen bonds racket. He recognizes Mayard's voice and identifies him as Burchard. Val is rescued and explains that Arlene's letters were written in a code that implicated Mayard. The murder solved, Tony proposes to Val.

Film Details

Also Known As
Fog over San Francisco, The Gentleman from San Francisco, The Golden Gate
Genre
Mystery
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 2, 1934
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
First National Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
First National Pictures, Inc.; The Vitaphone Corp.
Country
United States
Location
San Francisco, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Five Fragments by George Dyer (Boston, 1932).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 8m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Fog Over Frisco


There's more mystery surrounding Fog Over Frisco (1934) than its title and plot. What's intrigued film buffs almost since its release in 1934 is why Bette Davis is so fond of this film. Director William Dieterle never saw anything special in this story of a society girl (Davis) who gets mixed up with the mob as much for the thrill of it as for any monetary reward. As far as he was concerned, it was just another of the potboilers he'd made while waiting for his big break at Warner Bros. And co-star Lyle Talbot, cast as Davis' unlucky fiancÈ, had few kind things to say for the picture. As Talbot would tell Lawrence Quirk, the author of Fasten Your Seatbelts: The Passionate Life of Bette Davis, Davis studied the script endlessly, "as if she had been handed a Shaw or Shakespeare assignment. Her absolute dedication was unnerving." Of course, Davis would go on to win two Oscars for Best Actress while Talbot would end up starring in Plan Nine From Outer Space (1959), so maybe her dedication wasn't such a bad idea.

Part of one's curiosity about Davis' affection for the film comes from her relatively small role. She doesn't even make it to the final reel, and in a film that's only 68 minutes long, that's little screen time indeed. In fact, co-star Margaret Lindsay is the picture's real leading lady. Of course, Davis never objected to smaller roles if they had enough meat to them. Two years after Fog Over Frisco, she fought unsuccessfully to play the one-scene role of Nana, the prostitute who inspires the notorious novel named for her in The Life of Emile Zola(1937). Clearly she saw something in Fog Over Frisco she could sink her teeth into.

But there really was more than that behind her dedication. For one thing, this was her happiest film with Dieterle, a director she had long admired. They had teamed already for the disastrous musical Fashions of 1934 and would get together again for the second version of The Maltese Falcon, Satan Met a Lady, a 1935 film so bad it led her to walk out on her Warner Bros. contract. Their only other teaming was Juarez, in which Davis played Mexico's mad Empress Carlotta, but that film was so dominated by male star Paul Muni that most of Davis' best work ended up on the cutting room floor. So, by default, Fog Over Frisco marked their best experience together.

The film also was her first with cameraman Tony Gaudio, a Warner Bros. stalwart she would later request on such pictures as The Letter (1940) and The Great Lie (1941). She always felt that he and costume designer Orry-Kelly had made her look believably glamorous in Fog Over Frisco, and for an actress fighting complaints from executives that she was lacking in sex appeal, that was a big breakthrough.

Of all the factor's involved in making Fog Over Frisco, however, the most important may have been timing. For months Davis had been fighting to convince studio head Jack Warner to lend her to RKO Pictures to play the role of Mildred, the cheap, two-timing waitress in W. Somerset Maughm's Of Human Bondage (1934). Warner was always reluctant to lend his contract stars to other studios, for fear they'd make too much money for the competition. Moreover, he thought playing such a thoroughly unpleasant character would destroy Davis' career before it even got off the ground. But Davis persisted as only she could. She may very well have accepted the secondary role in Fog Over Frisco to show Warner what a good team player she could be. It must have worked, because two weeks into filming, Warner notified her that he had worked out the loan to RKO (or, as he put it, "Go and hang yourself!"). A week after finishing Fog Over Frisco she started Of Human Bondage - the film that made her one of Hollywood's top dramatic stars. Word of mouth on her performance was so strong, that Warner promoted her from third billing in Fog Over Frisco to the star spot, eager to take advantage of Davis' success in a film he'd never wanted her to make in the first place.

Director: William Dieterle
Producer: Robert Lord
Screenplay: Robert N. Lee, Eugene Solow
Based on The Five Fragments by George Dyer
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Art Direction: Harold McLernon
Music: Leo F. Forbstein
Principal Cast: Bette Davis (Arlene Bradford), Donald Woods (Tony Sterling), Margaret Lindsay (Val Bradford), Lyle Talbot (Spencer Carleton), Hugh Herbert (Izzy Wright), Robert Barrat (Thorne), Irving Pichel (Jake Bellow), Alan Hale (Chief O'Malley), William Demarest (Spike Smith). BW-69m.

by Frank Miller

Fog Over Frisco

Fog Over Frisco

There's more mystery surrounding Fog Over Frisco (1934) than its title and plot. What's intrigued film buffs almost since its release in 1934 is why Bette Davis is so fond of this film. Director William Dieterle never saw anything special in this story of a society girl (Davis) who gets mixed up with the mob as much for the thrill of it as for any monetary reward. As far as he was concerned, it was just another of the potboilers he'd made while waiting for his big break at Warner Bros. And co-star Lyle Talbot, cast as Davis' unlucky fiancÈ, had few kind things to say for the picture. As Talbot would tell Lawrence Quirk, the author of Fasten Your Seatbelts: The Passionate Life of Bette Davis, Davis studied the script endlessly, "as if she had been handed a Shaw or Shakespeare assignment. Her absolute dedication was unnerving." Of course, Davis would go on to win two Oscars for Best Actress while Talbot would end up starring in Plan Nine From Outer Space (1959), so maybe her dedication wasn't such a bad idea. Part of one's curiosity about Davis' affection for the film comes from her relatively small role. She doesn't even make it to the final reel, and in a film that's only 68 minutes long, that's little screen time indeed. In fact, co-star Margaret Lindsay is the picture's real leading lady. Of course, Davis never objected to smaller roles if they had enough meat to them. Two years after Fog Over Frisco, she fought unsuccessfully to play the one-scene role of Nana, the prostitute who inspires the notorious novel named for her in The Life of Emile Zola(1937). Clearly she saw something in Fog Over Frisco she could sink her teeth into. But there really was more than that behind her dedication. For one thing, this was her happiest film with Dieterle, a director she had long admired. They had teamed already for the disastrous musical Fashions of 1934 and would get together again for the second version of The Maltese Falcon, Satan Met a Lady, a 1935 film so bad it led her to walk out on her Warner Bros. contract. Their only other teaming was Juarez, in which Davis played Mexico's mad Empress Carlotta, but that film was so dominated by male star Paul Muni that most of Davis' best work ended up on the cutting room floor. So, by default, Fog Over Frisco marked their best experience together. The film also was her first with cameraman Tony Gaudio, a Warner Bros. stalwart she would later request on such pictures as The Letter (1940) and The Great Lie (1941). She always felt that he and costume designer Orry-Kelly had made her look believably glamorous in Fog Over Frisco, and for an actress fighting complaints from executives that she was lacking in sex appeal, that was a big breakthrough. Of all the factor's involved in making Fog Over Frisco, however, the most important may have been timing. For months Davis had been fighting to convince studio head Jack Warner to lend her to RKO Pictures to play the role of Mildred, the cheap, two-timing waitress in W. Somerset Maughm's Of Human Bondage (1934). Warner was always reluctant to lend his contract stars to other studios, for fear they'd make too much money for the competition. Moreover, he thought playing such a thoroughly unpleasant character would destroy Davis' career before it even got off the ground. But Davis persisted as only she could. She may very well have accepted the secondary role in Fog Over Frisco to show Warner what a good team player she could be. It must have worked, because two weeks into filming, Warner notified her that he had worked out the loan to RKO (or, as he put it, "Go and hang yourself!"). A week after finishing Fog Over Frisco she started Of Human Bondage - the film that made her one of Hollywood's top dramatic stars. Word of mouth on her performance was so strong, that Warner promoted her from third billing in Fog Over Frisco to the star spot, eager to take advantage of Davis' success in a film he'd never wanted her to make in the first place. Director: William Dieterle Producer: Robert Lord Screenplay: Robert N. Lee, Eugene Solow Based on The Five Fragments by George Dyer Cinematography: Tony Gaudio Art Direction: Harold McLernon Music: Leo F. Forbstein Principal Cast: Bette Davis (Arlene Bradford), Donald Woods (Tony Sterling), Margaret Lindsay (Val Bradford), Lyle Talbot (Spencer Carleton), Hugh Herbert (Izzy Wright), Robert Barrat (Thorne), Irving Pichel (Jake Bellow), Alan Hale (Chief O'Malley), William Demarest (Spike Smith). BW-69m. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Certain scenes were filmed on location in San Francisco. The film had several pre-release titles including The Gentleman from San Francisco, The Golden Gate, and Fog over San Francisco. According to Daily Variety, Warner Bros. changed the title from Gentleman from San Francisco under pressure from the American publishers of a Nobel prize-winning book of the same title by Russian novelist Ivan Bunin, despite the fact that the plots of the two stories were nothing alike. In 1942, Warner Bros. remade the story as Spy Ship, adding a wartime twist. It starred Craig Stevens, with Irene Manning in the Bette Davis role, and was directed by B. Reeves Eason.