23 user 6 critic

Blackmail (1939)

Passed | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 8 September 1939 (USA)
John Ingram, successful oil-field firefighter, is really a chain-gang escapee. Someone out of his past finds him...


H.C. Potter


David Hertz (screen play), William Ludwig (screen play) | 2 more credits »




Complete credited cast:
Edward G. Robinson ... John R. Ingram
Ruth Hussey ... Helen Ingram
Gene Lockhart ... William Ramey
Bobs Watson ... Hank
Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams ... Moose McCarthy (as Guinn Williams)
John Wray ... Diggs
Arthur Hohl ... Rawlins
Esther Dale ... Sarah
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Lew Harvey ... Workman (scenes deleted)
Mitchell Lewis ... Workman (scenes deleted)
Louis Natheaux ... (scenes deleted)
Ted Oliver Ted Oliver ... Workman (scenes deleted)
Lee Phelps Lee Phelps ... Guard (scenes deleted)


John Ingram of Oklahoma has a loving family, loves his work fighting oil fires, and is good at it. But 9 years ago, under another name he escaped from a Southern chain gang. Enter William Ramey, a "friend" from John's past, who gradually works up to a blackmail attempt under a promise to get Ingram cleared...but instead has him sent back to the old chain gang. Though determined to tough it out this time, circumstances compel Ingram to attempt another escape... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Robinson at his tip-top best! Daring death in untameable oil-field fires...seeking vengeance in a flaming inferno...for a woman who gave him his one glimpse of heaven! See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This film received its USA television premiere in Los Angeles Friday 16 November 1956 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Philadelphia Monday 19 November 1956 on WFIL (Channel 6); it first aired in New Haven CT 3 December 1956 on WNHC (Channel 8), in New York City 15 December 1956 on WCBS (Channel 2) , in Portland OR 2 January 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), in Chicago 16 January 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), in Altoona PA 15 April 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), in Minneapolis 1 May 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), in Abilene TX 20 May 1957 on KRBC (Channel 9), in Phoenix 28 July 1957 on KPHO (Channel 5), in Memphis 5 August 1957 on WHBQ (Channel 13), in Miami 14 August 1957 on WCKT (Channel 7), in Tampa 1 October 1957 on WFLA (Channel 8), in Cincinnati 2 November 1957 on WLW-T (Channel 5), in Columbus 23 November 1957 on WLW-C (Channel 3), in Indianapolis 9 December 1957 on WLW-I (Channel 13), in Fresno CA 16 December 1957 on KMJ (Channel 24), in Honolulu 3 January 1958 on KHVH (Channel 13), and in San Francisco 20 January 1958 on KGO (Channel 7). See more »


While riding under the truck, Edward G. Robinson's character's hat falls off onto the road. Later, when he arrives back at his home, he is wearing his hat again . It's conceivable that the truck was not going in the direction Ingram needed to go and simply picked up the hat on the way back. See more »


Featured in From the Ends of the Earth (1939) See more »

User Reviews

I say watch "I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" instead...
17 January 2015 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

Back in the mid-1930s, Warner Brothers came out with a shockingly brutal and absorbing drama about the evils of chain gangs. Paul Muni's performance and the script for "I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" were superb and the film has held up great over the years. Because of this, films like "Blackmail" seem incredibly bland and pale in comparison.

When this MGM film begins, John Ingram (Edward G. Robinson) is a successful and well respected man whose job it is to put out oil fires. Unfortunately, he's also a fugitive from some Southern chain gang-- an innocent man who couldn't prove this but managed to escape. Since then, assuming a new identity, he's gone on to make a productive life and a nice family. However, when a scumbag (Gene Lockhart) comes to town, Ingram is in trouble. While he's just asking for a job, this guy is a crook and is the guy who is actually responsible for the crime Ingram was arrested for years ago.

So far, while the plot is hard to believe, it is worth seeing. What happens next, however, sure strains credibility way past the breaking point. The scum-bag EASILY convinces Ingram that he is willing to own up to his crime but only if he gets a huge payoff. In other words, he'll admit to the crime but escape--leaving evidence that will clear Ingram's name. Not at all surprisingly (since he IS a crook), he tricks Ingram and it's Ingram who is sent to prison. Duh.

For the rest of the film, Robinson spends his time in prison. However, the chain gang is run by a bunch of brutes (though they are FAR less brutal than the guys in the earlier film) and eventually he realizes he must escape in order to ever see his family again.

So why does this film earn a 5? Well, it is entertaining but it breaks absolutely no new ground and pretty much neuters the old plot. The chain gang, while unpleasant, doesn't seem all that bad and instead of this form of imprisonment being indicted, the film actually is all about capturing the real baddie and sending him to prison where he rightfully belongs. Amazingly poor considering the material.

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Release Date:

8 September 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Amenaza See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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