Black Hand (1950)

92 mins | Drama | 17 March 1950

Director:

Richard Thorpe

Writer:

Luther Davis

Producer:

William H. Wright

Cinematographer:

Paul C. Vogel

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Gabriel Scognamillo

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

A working title for this film was The Knife . The film opens with the following written foreword: "At the turn of the century, there were more Italians living in New York than in Rome. Many had hurried here seeking fortune and freedom. Some of them found only failure and fear. From all these Italian immigrants came no truer American names than Di Maggio, Pecora, Giannini, La Guardia and Basilone. This story deals with the hard, angry days when these new citizens began to place their stake in the American dream--when they purged the Old World terror of the Black Hand from their ranks and gave bright dignity to their people and to this nation."
       As a Sep 1948 HR news item notes, although the picture is fictional, it is based on factual material about the Black Hand organized crime syndicate. The Black Hand crime syndicate originated in Italy and operated in the United States in the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. A biography of Gene Kelly notes that Robert Taylor was originally slated for the starring role, and that M-G-M had changed the picture's ranking from a "B" picture to a "programmer" when its potential for success was fully realized. An Aug 1949 HR news item notes that John Waters directed the second unit on location in Naples, Italy.
       Other HR news items add that actor Carlo Tricoli was a former San Francisco District Attorney and that Marc Snow was a UCLA drama professor. Black Hand marked the feature film debut of actor Anthony George (1921--2005) was ... More Less

A working title for this film was The Knife . The film opens with the following written foreword: "At the turn of the century, there were more Italians living in New York than in Rome. Many had hurried here seeking fortune and freedom. Some of them found only failure and fear. From all these Italian immigrants came no truer American names than Di Maggio, Pecora, Giannini, La Guardia and Basilone. This story deals with the hard, angry days when these new citizens began to place their stake in the American dream--when they purged the Old World terror of the Black Hand from their ranks and gave bright dignity to their people and to this nation."
       As a Sep 1948 HR news item notes, although the picture is fictional, it is based on factual material about the Black Hand organized crime syndicate. The Black Hand crime syndicate originated in Italy and operated in the United States in the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. A biography of Gene Kelly notes that Robert Taylor was originally slated for the starring role, and that M-G-M had changed the picture's ranking from a "B" picture to a "programmer" when its potential for success was fully realized. An Aug 1949 HR news item notes that John Waters directed the second unit on location in Naples, Italy.
       Other HR news items add that actor Carlo Tricoli was a former San Francisco District Attorney and that Marc Snow was a UCLA drama professor. Black Hand marked the feature film debut of actor Anthony George (1921--2005) was at the time acted under the name George Ott. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
21 Jan 1950.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jan 50
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Jan 50
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 49
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 49
p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 49
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 49
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 49
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 50
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Jan 50
p. 161.
New York Times
13 Mar 50
p. 15.
Variety
25 Jan 50
p. 18.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Jimmy Lagano
Pete Cusanelli
David Bond
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hair styles des by
Makeup created by
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Knife
Release Date:
17 March 1950
Production Date:
late July--late August 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
18 January 1950
Copyright Number:
LP2805
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
92
Length(in feet):
8,304 , 8,323
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14100
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Late one night, in the year 1900, Roberto Columbo, an Italian lawyer living in New York's Little Italy neighborhood, secretly meets with police at the Carey Street Hotel to show them a threatening letter he received from the notorious Black Hand extortion gang. The letter indicates that the Black Hand is demanding that Roberto pay them protection money or face death. No sooner does Roberto begin to describe some of the gang members to the police than two mobsters enter the station and kill him. The murder devastates Roberto's wife Maria, who decides to return to Italy with her son Johnny. Eight years later, following the death of his mother, Johnny returns to New York vowing to avenge his father's death and end the Black Hand's operations. While looking for Black Hand gangsters, Johnny has a reunion with Isabella Gomboli, a childhood friend, who warns him that the mob is unstoppable and that he will be in great danger. Although Isabella's parents were killed by the Black Hand, she suggests that Johnny drop "La Vendetta" and form a citizen's league instead. Johnny rejects Isabella's suggestion, though, and insists on meeting with Moriani, former owner of the Carey Street Hotel, who was with his father the night he was killed. Shortly after Johnny's meeting with Moriani, Moriani is found dead in his hotel room. Hoping to steer Johnny away from trouble, police officer Louis Lorelli, a friend of Johnny's father, offers him a job in New Jersey and advises him to make a success of himself. Johnny eventually decides to take Isabella's advice and form a citizen's league when he discovers that Francesco, the son of tailor Benny ... +


Late one night, in the year 1900, Roberto Columbo, an Italian lawyer living in New York's Little Italy neighborhood, secretly meets with police at the Carey Street Hotel to show them a threatening letter he received from the notorious Black Hand extortion gang. The letter indicates that the Black Hand is demanding that Roberto pay them protection money or face death. No sooner does Roberto begin to describe some of the gang members to the police than two mobsters enter the station and kill him. The murder devastates Roberto's wife Maria, who decides to return to Italy with her son Johnny. Eight years later, following the death of his mother, Johnny returns to New York vowing to avenge his father's death and end the Black Hand's operations. While looking for Black Hand gangsters, Johnny has a reunion with Isabella Gomboli, a childhood friend, who warns him that the mob is unstoppable and that he will be in great danger. Although Isabella's parents were killed by the Black Hand, she suggests that Johnny drop "La Vendetta" and form a citizen's league instead. Johnny rejects Isabella's suggestion, though, and insists on meeting with Moriani, former owner of the Carey Street Hotel, who was with his father the night he was killed. Shortly after Johnny's meeting with Moriani, Moriani is found dead in his hotel room. Hoping to steer Johnny away from trouble, police officer Louis Lorelli, a friend of Johnny's father, offers him a job in New Jersey and advises him to make a success of himself. Johnny eventually decides to take Isabella's advice and form a citizen's league when he discovers that Francesco, the son of tailor Benny Danetta, has been kidnapped by the Black Hand. Francesco is released soon after the first citizen's league meeting is convened, but Johnny is punished by the Black Hand for organizing the group and is given a severe beating. Later, a bomb is found on the steps of Carlo Sabballera's dry goods store. Johnny's investigation into the Black Hand leads to the arrest of George Allani, who is accused of placing the bomb in front of Sabballera's store. At Allani's trial, Carlo is about to identify the gangster as the culprit when he is given the death sign by some Black Hand men. The frightened store owner refuses to identify Allani, and, as a result, it appears that Allani will go free. At the last moment, however, it is revealed that Allani is using an assumed name, and that he is really George Tomasino, an Italian fugitive. The judge orders Tomasino's deportation, which gives Lorelli the idea to go to Italy to check Italian police records against his list of suspects. In Naples, Italy, Lorelli is shot and killed by Black Hand gangsters right after he mails a list of Italian criminals to Johnny. Back in New York, the Black Hand has kidnapped Isabella's younger brother Rudi, and is demanding the list of names as ransom. While attempting to rescue Rudi, Johnny is captured by the Black Hand. Johnny manages to escape by setting off a time bomb that kills everyone in the Black Hand headquarters except Caesar Xavier Serpi. Serpi later engages Johnny in a fight with a pickax, but Johnny kills him with a knife. With Lorelli's list safely delivered to the police, Johnny is confident that he has put an end to the Black Hand operations in New York. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.