The San Francisco Story

The San Francisco Story is a 1952 American Western film directed by Robert Parrish and starring Joel McCrea and Yvonne De Carlo.[1] The rough and tumble Barbary Coast of San Francisco is recreated with attention to detail, including Florence Bates as a saloon keeper Shanghaiing the unwary. Noir elements include lots of shadows, discordant musical score, snappy dialogue, a disabused hero who resists the good fight, and a femme fatale. A schematic but insightful rendering of political corruption, the film is essentially about standing up to bullies.

The San Francisco Story
Directed byRobert Parrish
Produced byHoward Welsch
Screenplay byD.D. Beauchamp
Based onVigilante
1949 novel
by Richard Summers
StarringYvonne De Carlo
Joel McCrea
Music byPaul Dunlap
Emil Newman
CinematographyJohn F. Seitz
Edited byOtto Ludwig
Fidelity Pictures
Distributed byWarner Bros
Release date
  • May 17, 1952 (1952-05-17)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States

Plot summary

Law in San Francisco in 1856 is an ideal struggling to be established. Rick Nelson (Joel McCrea) is a loner with his own code of ethics, now a miner visiting his old stomping ground. He meets raven-haired beauty Adelaide McCall (Yvonne De Carlo), who's in the buggy of corrupt political power broker Andrew Cain (Sidney Blackmer). Newspaper editor Jim "Captain" Martin (Onslow Stevens) begs his old friend Rick to rejoin his peace-keeping Vigilantes to put an end to Cain's reign of thuggery. Rick knows how easy it is to buy a judge, so he settles matters his way.[2]



The film was based on the novel Vigilante by Richard Summers, an English professor from the University of Arizona. The novel was set in 1856 concerned the career of David C. Broderick and his fictitious mistress Hester Barton, and their involvement in the second vigilante movement.[3]

Film rights were bought by Joel McCrea and Jacques Tourneur in early 1949, before the novel had even been published. McCrea announced he only wanted to produce, not star, and that Tourneur would direct. They hoped to set up the film at MGM and cast Ava Gardner.[4] The novel was published in July 1949. The New York Times called it an "excellent short novel... a well-written, lusty yarn".[3]

In March 1951 it was announced the film would be made by Fidelity Pictures starring McCrea and an "unknown" actress.[5] Fidelity was a new company established in 1949 by producer Howard Welsch.[6]

In July 1951 Fidelity announced the film would be one of six movies Fidelity would make for release through Warner Bros.[7] Yvonne de Carlo signed to co-star.

Jerome Chodorov was reported as working on the script in August.[8] He is not credited on the final film.

Yvonne De Carlo signed to appear opposite McCrea in September 1951. She signed a two picture deal with Fidelity and returned early from a tour she was making to Tel Aviv.[9]

Fidelity announced the six films they would make for Warners would be budgeted between $600,000 and $700,000 and include The San Francisco Story, My Fine Feathered Friend with Dennis Morgan, Gardenia based on a story by Vera Caspary, Lela Cade, The Gentleman from Chicago by Horace McCoy, Reluctant Bride by Frederick Stephani and The Scarlet Flame, a story about Brazil's battle for independence by Emilio Tovar, to star De Carlo.[10][11] Most of these films were not made.

Filming took place in late 1951. During filming, Will Jacoby, husband of cast member Florence Bates died. Bates was offered time off but she elected to continue to work.[12]


  1. Drama: Yvonne De Carlo Will Costar With McCrea Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 Sep 1951: B8.
  3. HOFFMAN, B. (1949, Jul 24). Rugged rogue. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. Schallert, E. (1949, Apr 29). Kings speed 'last mile,' ethel barrymore to play matriarch rule in 'pinky'. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  5. Hopper, H. (1951, Mar 06). Lana turner to do movie with clark gable. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) Retrieved from
  6. Special to The New York Times. (1948, Aug 24). NEW FILM COMPANY PLANS 6 FEATURES. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. Drama. (1951, Jul 24). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. By THOMAS M PRYOR Special to The New York Times. (1951, Aug 20). UNIVERSAL IN DEAL WITH ERROL FLYNN. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  9. By THOMAS M PRYOR Special to The New York Times. (1951, Sep 12). ARTHUR KENNEDY GETS MOVIE LEAD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  10. By, T. M. (1951, Oct 07). HOLLYWOOD DOSSIER. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  11. By THOMAS M PRYOR Special to The New York Times. (1951, Oct 13). FIDELITY TO FILM 'SCARLET FLAME'. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  12. Obituary 3 -- no title. (1951, Nov 01). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
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