1936: Although Sacramento had served as a background for the filming of many movies in both the silent and talkie eras, it hadn’t played host to a major film premiere. That changed on March 25, 1936, when “Sutter’s Gold,” a drama based – loosely – on the life of the city’s founder, John Sutter, had its first showing at the glitzy Alhambra Theatre. The film, starring Edward Arnold, opened to an audience estimated by The Bee at about 4,000 – half of them in the theater and half outside, hoping “to get a taste of how Hollywood does things.”
Here’s a bit of what The Bee’s reviewer thought of the movie:
Sacramentans will be inclined to give the picture a more critical appraisal than will audiences elsewhere, and anyone disposed to find fault could do so, although the general merit of the film overshadows the weaknesses and the picture is one that will find general approval. No doubt the close students of Sutter and early California events will find discrepancies, but that could be done with any production, however good. … The picture is without the element of suspense and a romance injected to give heart interest appears as a sterile concession to audience interest. … The picture is not without its light moments.
Actually, most audiences everywhere thought the movie stank. Reportedly one of the most expensive films made by Universal Studios during the 1930s, it was a box-office disaster.
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