Frisco Jenny

Screening on Film
Directed by William Wellman.
With Ruth Chatterton, Louis Calhern, Helen Jerome Eddy.
US, 1933, 35mm, black & white, 70 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

Ruth Chatterton offers an indelible performance as a headstrong woman who rises from the ashes of the San Francisco earthquake that killed her father before her eyes to become the madam of a successful bordello and an influential player in the underworld. Wellman injects a powerful element of Greek tragedy into his underappreciated pre-Code classic, erecting Chatterton’s Jenny as an emblem of maternal power and sacrifice. Recently rediscovered, Frisco Jenny has drawn comparisons to early Bresson and Hitchcock for its lucid vision of fate and human vulnerability.

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The Legends of William Wellman