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Frank Taylor joins the "pro-American" Black Legion when he loses his chance at foremanship to a foreign-born man. The organization is a sort of Ku Klux Klan in the industrial sphere. Frank has troubles with his wife over this and causes serious trouble when he tells all to his best friend Ed Jackson. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
The film was inspired by a real case involving a racist/nativist organization called The Black Legion in Michigan, in which a WPA worker was murdered. See more »
A newspaper clipping names Clifford Soubier's character as Michael F. Grogan. However the letter earlier refers to him as Michael P. Grogan. See more »
How yuh doin', Ed?
Oh, terrible! I feel like a drill was driving right through the top of my head.
It might be a good idea to let out some of dat beer you slopped up last night.
Aw, quit riding me, will yuh?
Oh, I ain't even started on you yet. C'mon, let's eat.
No, Frank, I couldn't.
Oh, come on. Do you good. You gotta eat.
[He snaps his finger]
I got just the thing to straighten you out.
Yeah? What is it?
[...] See more »
At the time it came out Black Legion came from the B Picture Unit at Warner Brothers. Some of the players in it became A list stars later on. Nevertheless this was playing the second half of double features when first released. But it made a tremendous impact and viewing it almost 70 years later, still makes an impact.
Warner Brothers as the working class studio was the only one who could have made a film like Black Legion. Working class stiff Humphrey Bogart gets passed over for a promotion at a job, losing it to Polish American Henry Brandon. This makes him ripe for the propaganda of a nativist crew of nightriders who call themselves The Black Legion.
Another co-worker Joe Sawyer gets Bogart to join with a whole lot of bad consequences for just about every principal player in the cast.
Since this film was about ordinary people it had a great message to tell. We've had nativist outbreaks in America through out our history. The Twenties and Thirties with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Legion were particularly bad. Bad economic times usually bring out either the best or the worst in people.
Humphrey Bogart is joined by a whole bunch of people from his film debut in The Petrified Forest. Joe Sawyer, Dick Foran, Paul Harvey, Eddie Acuff, it must have seemed like a reunion film. For me this has always been Joe Sawyer's career role for the screen. In The Petrified Forest he was one of Bogey's gang. Here he's the evil influence on Bogart, a nice reversal. He had a similar part in San Quentin.
Dick Foran is the Mercutio/Benvolio part here, the good friend to Bogart. He was actually a bigger name than Bogey at the time this was made, as he was starring in a bunch singing cowboy films for Warner Brothers. This was one of the few times he was show he could do more than he was usually given.
Films back then had a whole lot of stern father figures like Lionel Barrymore and Lewis Stone who could deliver lectures like no other. Capping this film is Samuel S. Hinds as a trial judge telling the Black Legion defendants what Americanism and the Bill of Rights is all about. Words to live by still.
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