Blackwell's Island (1939)

71 mins | Drama | 25 March 1939

Director:

William McGann

Writer:

Crane Wilbur

Cinematographer:

Sid Hickox

Editor:

Doug Gould

Production Designer:

Stanley Fleischer

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

An early draft of SAB credited Dave Marcus with original screenplay, but his name was eliminated from later drafts, and the extent of his participation in the final film has not been determined. According to the Var review, this story was inspired by Austin MacCormick's 1934 raid on the Welfare Island prison, which revealed that gangster Joe Rao was in total command of the facility. However, the 15 Mar 1965 LAT noted that Marcus, then known as David "Mickey" Marcus, had been the film's technical advisor; in the mid-1930s he had been the New York City commissioner who cleaned up the city's Welfare Prison (the real Blackwell's Island). Marcus later helped form the Israeli Army and was the subject of the film Cast a Giant Shadow (1966, see entry), starring Kirk Douglas.
       A news item in HR notes that Warner Bros. held its first press showing at Welfare ... More Less

An early draft of SAB credited Dave Marcus with original screenplay, but his name was eliminated from later drafts, and the extent of his participation in the final film has not been determined. According to the Var review, this story was inspired by Austin MacCormick's 1934 raid on the Welfare Island prison, which revealed that gangster Joe Rao was in total command of the facility. However, the 15 Mar 1965 LAT noted that Marcus, then known as David "Mickey" Marcus, had been the film's technical advisor; in the mid-1930s he had been the New York City commissioner who cleaned up the city's Welfare Prison (the real Blackwell's Island). Marcus later helped form the Israeli Army and was the subject of the film Cast a Giant Shadow (1966, see entry), starring Kirk Douglas.
       A news item in HR notes that Warner Bros. held its first press showing at Welfare Island. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Mar 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
2 Mar 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 38
pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 38
pp. 8-9.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 39
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 39
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
15 Mar 1965
Section C, p. 19.
Motion Picture Daily
6 Mar 39
3p. 9.
Motion Picture Herald
13 Aug 38
p. 65.
Motion Picture Herald
11 Mar 39
p. 43.
New York Times
2 Mar 39
p. 19.
Variety
8 Mar 39
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story
Orig story
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 March 1939
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 2 March 1939
Production Date:
early July--early August 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 March 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8734
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
71
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
4497
SYNOPSIS

Reporter Tim Haydon determines to expose Bull Bransom, a sadistic crime lord who wields power behind corrupt political boss Steve Cardigan. Bransom's specialty is extorting money from tugboat and steamship captains, and when one of them, Captain Pederson, refuses to pay, Bransom's men toss a bomb at his boat and send him to the hospital. Bransom's men next pay a visit to Pederson at the hospital to threaten the life of his family. When police officer Terry Walsh, who is guarding Pederson's room, interferes with their plans, the thugs beat him up. Terry recognizes his assailants, and his testimony, coupled with that of Pederson, convicts Bransom and his men. Bransom is sentenced to the prison at Blackwell's Island, where Warden Stuart Granger is biding his time until retirement. Cardigan warns the warden that unless Bransom is granted special privileges, he will never see his pension. Bransom then takes over the prison, designating the hospital as his private club while he extorts money from the inmates. After Pederson is murdered for testifying, Terry begins his own investigation into the crime, and Bransom sneaks off the island to eliminate Terry himself. When no clues relating to Terry's murder can be found, Tim gets himself sentenced to the island, where he witnesses Bransom's corruption first hand. Meanwhile, Thomas McNair, a new commissioner committed to reform, has been appointed, and is informed of Tim's undercover work. When Terry's sister Sunny visits Tim on the island, Bransom becomes suspicious and arranges for Tim's murder. Learning of Bransom's plans, Tim swims ashore, where he reports to McNair that he can supply the evidence to connect Bransom with Terry's murder. ... +


Reporter Tim Haydon determines to expose Bull Bransom, a sadistic crime lord who wields power behind corrupt political boss Steve Cardigan. Bransom's specialty is extorting money from tugboat and steamship captains, and when one of them, Captain Pederson, refuses to pay, Bransom's men toss a bomb at his boat and send him to the hospital. Bransom's men next pay a visit to Pederson at the hospital to threaten the life of his family. When police officer Terry Walsh, who is guarding Pederson's room, interferes with their plans, the thugs beat him up. Terry recognizes his assailants, and his testimony, coupled with that of Pederson, convicts Bransom and his men. Bransom is sentenced to the prison at Blackwell's Island, where Warden Stuart Granger is biding his time until retirement. Cardigan warns the warden that unless Bransom is granted special privileges, he will never see his pension. Bransom then takes over the prison, designating the hospital as his private club while he extorts money from the inmates. After Pederson is murdered for testifying, Terry begins his own investigation into the crime, and Bransom sneaks off the island to eliminate Terry himself. When no clues relating to Terry's murder can be found, Tim gets himself sentenced to the island, where he witnesses Bransom's corruption first hand. Meanwhile, Thomas McNair, a new commissioner committed to reform, has been appointed, and is informed of Tim's undercover work. When Terry's sister Sunny visits Tim on the island, Bransom becomes suspicious and arranges for Tim's murder. Learning of Bransom's plans, Tim swims ashore, where he reports to McNair that he can supply the evidence to connect Bransom with Terry's murder. Tim, McNair and his men take the island by storm and depose Bransom's reign. In the confusion, Bransom makes a dash for freedom, but Tim catches him and later helps to convict him of Terry's murder. +

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

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