Thursday, August 21, 2014

Black Legion (1937)

Director: Archie Mayo

Writers: Abem Finkel, William Wister Haines, Robert Lord

Composer: ???

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Dick Foran, Erin O'Brien-Moore, Ann Sheridan, Helen Flint, Joe Sawyer, Clifford Soubier, Alonzo Price, Paul Harvey, Dickie Jones, Samuel S. Hinds, Addison Richards, Eddie Acuff

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They murdered at midnight!

Plot: 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.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

If you watch some of Bogart's earlier work, and I'm talking about the pictures he made in the early-to-mid 30s where he was largely a bit player, you couldn't see much in his performances that would lead you to believe he'd be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.  He played a lot of thugs and criminal lowlifes.  In fairness, he wasn't given much of an opportunity to show off his acting chops. That's why it's so refreshing to see him stretch a bit in one of his first top-billed roles.  He makes a fine go at it, too, with a range of emotions, breathing life into the character of Frank Taylor.  At first he's a loving family man but that all changes when he loses his big promotion to a...FOREIGNER!!!  OH, NO!!!!  It's time for a KKK-esque group, The Black Legion, to step in and make things right for Frank and his fellow 'patriots'.

Naturally this is the wrong path for Frank but he's going to have to learn that lesson for himself.  There are lots of fine performances in this moral tale of bonehead groups like this.  The pacing is pretty quick until it gets to the last eleven minutes of the trial but even that has a few surprises left to spring on us. It's a good picture and probably one that most fans of Bogart will dig.  Warner Bros. knows how to treat their films right (but not all the time).  With this minor Bogart effort they give us a commentary (with Patricia King Hanson and Anthony Slide), the film's trailer and their 'Warner Night at the Movies' which has a trailer for THE PERFECT SPECIMEN (), a newsreel, a soundie (old timey music video) of Cab Calloway singing Hi De Ho, the 17 minute short film UNDER SOUTHERN STARS (1937), and a cartoon short PORKY AND GABBY (1937) which leads into the film. 

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