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Blackwell's Island (1939)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  25 March 1939 (USA)
6.2
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 195 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 1 critic

In a fictional version of true events at the New York prison of Blackwell's Island in 1934, reporter Tim Haydon breaks up a crime organization run by racketeer Bull Bransom from within the ... See full summary »

Directors:

(as William McGann) , (uncredited)

Writers:

(screenplay), (story), 1 more credit »
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Title: Blackwell's Island (1939)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Tim Haydon
Rosemary Lane ...
Mary 'Sunny' Walsh
Dick Purcell ...
Terry Walsh
...
Commissioner Thomas MacNair
Stanley Fields ...
'Bull' Bransom
Morgan Conway ...
Steve Cardigan
Granville Bates ...
Prison Warden Stuart 'Stu' Granger
Anthony Averill ...
Brower, a Henchman
Peggy Shannon ...
Pearl Murray
Charley Foy ...
Benny Farmer (as Charles Foy)
Norman Willis ...
Mike Garth, a Henchman
Joe Cunningham ...
Ben Rawden
Wade Boteler ...
Capt. Pedersen
William B. Davidson ...
Defense Attorney Hempel (as William Davidson)
Edit

Storyline

In a fictional version of true events at the New York prison of Blackwell's Island in 1934, reporter Tim Haydon breaks up a crime organization run by racketeer Bull Bransom from within the prison. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

25 March 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Ilha Sinistra  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first press screening was held at the Welfare Island Prison. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage (1983) See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Club Med Of Prisons
23 November 2009 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

About four years before Warner Brothers made the film Blackwell's Island, the reform LaGuardia administration made a well publicized raid on Blackwell's Island prison and exposed systemic corruption within the correctional facility. It was a high point of Fiorello LaGuardia's first term as mayor of New York. LaGuardia's Corrections Commissioner Austin McCormack is fictionalized here in the character that Victor Jory plays.

What could have been a good film based on modern headlines of the times got turned into a B movie that should have been rated lower. It was certainly a low point in the career of John Garfield who plays your typical crusading newspaperman that Thirties era films loved.

The villain if you could call him that is Stanley Fields and it's from him that Leo Gorcey and the rest of the Bowery Boys learned their impeccable diction and grammar. He's a blithering idiot who loves practical jokes like exploding cigars and squirting carnations. He's such a china shop bull that the politicians upstairs would like him to just cool it for a while. When he doesn't he gets six months in the Blackwell's Island prison until after the election.

Not that prison cramps Fields's style in the least. He turns Blackwell's Island into Club Med for he and a few select cronies, throwing out the patients from the prison hospital and setting up his own posh suite.

Garfield gets involved professionally when he writes some expose articles and it gets personal when Fields and henchmen on their own private work release program kill honest patrolman Dick Purcell who also happens to be the brother of Rosemary Lane who is Garfield's girlfriend. Garfield gets himself thrown into Blackwell's Island where he can get the lowdown.

When Dutch Schultz got out of control, Lucky Luciano had him hit with the connivance of Tammany Hall politicians, simple as that. I watched this film in utter amazement that the powers that be actually kowtowed to Fields.

As for the prison scenes, even the wise guys from Goodfellas didn't live it up half as well as Fields and his pals. Those guys based on some real characters knew the limits they could push things in the joint.

Stanley Fields was a poor man's Wallace Beery and Beery and Fields could be both sinister and oafish, but never in the same movie. What could have been a nice drama based on a true incident was turned into a mess that couldn't make it's mind up whether it was comedy or drama.

The film was a low point in the career of John Garfield during his Warner Brothers contract years. I'm not sure if Garfield did anything worse than Blackwell's Island, but I haven't seen all his films.


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