Blackmail


1h 21m 1939
Blackmail

Brief Synopsis

A man in prison on false charges escapes to save his family from a blackmailer.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Sep 8, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 21m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Synopsis

John R. Ingram, a fugitive from justice, has built a new life as a family man and an expert at extinguishing oil well fires. After years of fighting well fires with his friend, Moose McCarthy, John finally saves enough money to sink a well of his own. John returns home one day to find William Ramey, a former shipmate who knows that he escaped from a chain gang after being convicted of stealing money from the ship's purser. Ramey admits to stealing the money himself and offers to confess in exchange for $25,000, to be secured by a note on the well. Blinded by the promise of clearing his name, John consents to Ramey's terms, but the wiley Ramey tricks him and, after obtaining the signed note to the well, informs the police that John is a wanted man.

John is arrested and, after his appeal is denied, is sent back to the chain gang in Georgia. Although imprisoned by the sadistic system of the chain gang and robbed of his family and home, John remains determined to serve his time until he learns that his wife and son have been driven to poverty while Ramey grows rich on the profits of the well. John suffers a series of brutal punishments, but his vow of revenge does not dim, and when he reads that Ramey is planning to sell the well for a fortune, he smashes free from captivity and eludes a cross country pursuit to return home to Oklahoma. Realizing that his only hope lies in forcing a confession from Ramey, John sets fire to the well to lure Ramey back to Oklahoma. After trapping Ramey on the brim of the blazing well, John forces him to confess all, thus winning back his family, his freedom and his well.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Mystery
Release Date
Sep 8, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 21m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8 reels

Articles

Blackmail (1939) - Blackmail


The career paths of Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni crossed quite often during their conjoined tenures as the top leading men on the Warner Brothers lot. The pair had even gone to the same high school - Lower Manhattan's PS 20 - and Muni made his professional stage debut replacing Robinson in a 1926 production of the Max Siegel-Milton Herbert Gropper play We Americans. Though the actors detested one another, to studio executives they were all but interchangeable: Robinson was offered the starring role in the fact-based Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940) only after Muni turned it down. (The rivals would later reconcile in solidarity over the persecution of Jews by the Third Reich, both having ended their respective relationships with Warners.) Prior to shooting Ehrlich, Robinson accepted work from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, starring in the crime melodrama Blackmail (1939). Cast as a fugitive from justice who takes a job on an oil field, Robinson was treading cinematic ground trammeled earlier by Muni in his Academy Award-nominated performance in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). The actor was chided by the critics of the day for turning his hand to such derivative work but Blackmail remains enjoyable, in particular for Robinson's central performance as a wrongly accused man attempting to put his life right, but also thanks to the vivid character work of Gene Lockhart (in an uncharacteristically slimy performance), Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, John Wray, Charles Middleton, and Victor Killian.

By Richard Harland Smith
Blackmail (1939) - Blackmail

Blackmail (1939) - Blackmail

The career paths of Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni crossed quite often during their conjoined tenures as the top leading men on the Warner Brothers lot. The pair had even gone to the same high school - Lower Manhattan's PS 20 - and Muni made his professional stage debut replacing Robinson in a 1926 production of the Max Siegel-Milton Herbert Gropper play We Americans. Though the actors detested one another, to studio executives they were all but interchangeable: Robinson was offered the starring role in the fact-based Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (1940) only after Muni turned it down. (The rivals would later reconcile in solidarity over the persecution of Jews by the Third Reich, both having ended their respective relationships with Warners.) Prior to shooting Ehrlich, Robinson accepted work from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, starring in the crime melodrama Blackmail (1939). Cast as a fugitive from justice who takes a job on an oil field, Robinson was treading cinematic ground trammeled earlier by Muni in his Academy Award-nominated performance in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). The actor was chided by the critics of the day for turning his hand to such derivative work but Blackmail remains enjoyable, in particular for Robinson's central performance as a wrongly accused man attempting to put his life right, but also thanks to the vivid character work of Gene Lockhart (in an uncharacteristically slimy performance), Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, John Wray, Charles Middleton, and Victor Killian. By Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

A news item in Hollywood Reporter notes that the production of this film was delayed for several weeks because of script revisions. Other items in Hollywood Reporter add that the swamp sequence was filmed on location at Whittier, CA and the oil field sequence was shot at San Pedro, CA. In the notice of tentative credits of Screen Achievements Bulletin, Maurine Watkins was credited with "substantial contribution to dialogue," but her name does not appear in the final draft of the Screen Achievements Bulletin credits.