Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Meet Boston Blackie (1941)

I just watched MEET BOSTON BLACKIE, the very first film in the long-running BOSTON BLACKIE series, and thought it was delightful.

Chester Morris plays Boston Blackie, a reformed safecracker and thief. Police Inspector Faraday (Richard Lane) is always on Blackie's tail, refusing to believe Blackie is now on the straight and narrow. Naturally, Blackie becomes mixed up with murder and international espionage and Inspector Faraday thinks Blackie is responsible for all sorts of mayhem before Blackie solves the case.

What sets this film apart is the excellent dialogue and a really good performance by Chester Morris, who would play Boston Blackie 14 times between 1941 and 1949. Watching MEET BOSTON BLACKIE it's easy to see why the series was such a success. It has a well-written, interesting mystery which mixes some dark mood -- there's a very creepy murder in a boardwalk house of horrors ride -- with a light touch. One of my favorite lines occurs when Boston Blackie is on the run for his life and someone asks "Who are you?" to which he replies "A fugitive from an autopsy!" The movie is filled with little gems like that.

I'm a Chester Morris fan although I would be the first to admit he comes off better in some films than others; for instance he was excellent in FLIGHT FROM GLORY (1937) but SOCIETY DOCTOR (1935) was stolen out from under him by Robert Taylor. Morris is simply wonderful as Boston Blackie, with exactly the right mix of fun and seriousness, capturing someone who thrives on what might be called "interesting" situations but is at heart a good person. His performance had something of a modern feel to it; someone who likes a lighthearted detective series such as CASTLE would probably be right at home watching Morris as Boston Blackie.

The leading lady of this entry is lovely Rochelle Hudson, a very busy actress throughout the '30s and into the early '40s. Her character, Cecilia Bradley, has a "cute meet" with Blackie when he jumps into her car; it reminded me a bit of Don Lockwood jumping into Kathy Selden's car over a decade later in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Cecilia is no shrinking violet and is immediately intrigued by Blackie and determined to help him figure out why several people want him dead. I thought Hudson was excellent and will be looking for more of her films; she costars with Glenn Ford in BABIES FOR SALE (1940) this month on TCM.

Richard Lane plays Inspector Faraday, with Charles Wagenheim as Blackie's sidekick, the Runt, the same sort of character as Goldie in RKO's FALCON series. The cast also includes Constance Worth, Jack O'Malley, Michael Rand (later known as James Seay), George Magrill, Byron Foulger, and Walter Sande.

MEET BOSTON BLACKIE was directed by Robert Florey and shot in black and white by Franz Planer. The movie runs one hour.

MEET BOSTON BLACKIE was a Columbia release. It does not appear to have been released on DVD or VHS. Some of the other films in the series have been released in the Sony Choice MOD line or on Region 2 DVDs in Europe.

MEET BOSTON BLACKIE can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

Previous reviews of Chester Morris movies: THE DIVORCEE (1930), RED-HEADED WOMAN (1932), SOCIETY DOCTOR (1935), MOONLIGHT MURDER (1936), FLIGHT FROM GLORY (1937), SKY GIANT (1938), SMASHING THE RACKETS (1938), NO HANDS ON THE CLOCK (1941), and DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1944).


Blogger barrylane said...

Very good comments on the film. More on Chester Morris might be interesting. He was, along with Warner Baxter, Preston Foster...who made the jump from big time A projects to second features. Now that's the kind of thing that happened again in the fifties but it wasn't the same. Morris was ready to spring forward but did not...he almost dropped from sight. AA good story is lurking there.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

This sounds very good. Will look out for it.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

That Morris lad had plenty of personality! The Boston Blackie series fell into almost a monotonous routine story-wise, but Chester Morris always brought his A game ably assisted by Richard Lane and George E. Stone.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Barrylane, I'd enjoy learning more about Chester Morris. Read this week that he enjoyed doing magic tricks offscreen which is a talent he brings to the role of Boston Blackie. I've sure grown in my appreciation of actors such as Morris, Foster, and Baxter in recent years.

Caftan Woman, I will perhaps spread seeing the movies out after I get further into the series so they don't get repetitive, LOL.

Hope you can find it soon, Vienna!

Best wishes,

2:20 PM  
Blogger James Corry said...

I liked him in "The She Creature"........!


4:14 PM  

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