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Black Legion (1937)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 30 January 1937 (USA)
When a hard-working machinist loses a promotion to a Polish-born worker, he is seduced into joining the secretive Black Legion, which intimidates foreigners through violence.

Directors:

Archie Mayo (as Archie L. Mayo), Michael Curtiz (uncredited)

Writers:

Abem Finkel (screen play), William Wister Haines (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Humphrey Bogart ... Frank Taylor
Dick Foran ... Ed Jackson
Erin O'Brien-Moore ... Ruth Taylor
Ann Sheridan ... Betty Grogan
Helen Flint ... Pearl Danvers
Joe Sawyer ... Cliff Moore (as Joseph Sawyer)
Clifford Soubier Clifford Soubier ... Mike Grogan
Alonzo Price ... Alf Hargrave
Paul Harvey ... Billings
Dickie Jones ... Buddy Taylor
Samuel S. Hinds ... Judge (as Samuel Hinds)
Addison Richards ... Prosecuting Attorney
Eddie Acuff ... Metcalf
Dorothy Vaughan ... Mrs. Grogan
John Litel ... Tommy Smith
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Storyline

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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 January 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La legión negra See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$235,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Cliff Moore: Read!
Frank Taylor: [reading the Black Legion oath] In the name of God and the Devil, one to reward and the other to punish, and by the powers of light and darkness, good and evil, here under the black arch of Heaven's avenging symbol, I pledge and consecrate my heart, my brain, my body, and my limbs and swear by all the powers of Heaven and Hell to devote my life to the obedience of my superiors and that no danger or peril shall deter me from executin' dere orders. That I will exert every possible means in ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Featured in Warner at War (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Fancy Meeting You
(1936) (uncredited)
Music by Harold Arlen
Played on the radio at Jim's Place
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A film with a mission
1 January 2007 | by Igenlode WordsmithSee all my reviews

I'm not sure "The Black Legion" is quite the searing issue movie it probably wanted to be; it bears more of a relationship to the post-war Ministry of Information documentaries in Britain (which were often very good). But considered purely as popular entertainment, it's pretty striking, with Bogart's performance hovering just this side of 'over the top' -- an amazingly youthful-looking Bogart, in comparison to his later starring roles...

The issue of anti-immigrant prejudice has of course taken on new life of late -- if ever it really left -- and Bogart portrays convincingly how the man on the street can become sucked into an otherwise preposterous world of blood-curdling oaths and death's-head regalia, at first through petty personal grudge and then through the surge of power that comes with group action. He depicts with equal conviction the disintegration of the man who finds himself pinned between that same power and what really matters in his life, and Erin O'Brien-Moore is excellent in the role of the wife whom another actress might have represented as too perfect to be true.

And the anti-feelgood ending still comes as a shock, after all these years. Justice is even-handed but implacable.

The message isn't always terribly subtle, the music likewise, and the acting occasionally veers a little too far into bravura territory, vindicated by a reassuring speech to the effect that actually, no matter what you may have seen in this movie, Americans are inherently nice, tolerant people (just in case the audience might feel bad about themselves, presumably) -- but it's a brave attempt at covering contemporary events, despite the standard disclaimer, and still stands up pretty well as a film in its own right seventy years later. To a modern viewer, the real period piece is the fascinating depiction of a live radio news broadcast, complete with a large cast of supporting actors voicing all reported dialogue with split-second teamwork, and a conductor and full instrumental section behind the microphones to provide the swell of background music as required!


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