Black Fury (1935)

90 or 95 mins | Drama | 18 May 1935

Director:

Michael Curtiz

Cinematographer:

Byron Haskin

Editor:

Thomas Richards

Production Designer:

John Hughes

Production Company:

First National Productions Corp.
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HISTORY

The film's working title was Black Hell . A second unit shot footage in Pennsylvania for the film and a full-scale mine shaft was dug on the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA. Scenes were also shot on the stages at the Burbank studio and at the old Warner lot on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. According to a news item in DV , a complaint against the movie was brought by an east coast coal mine operators group. MPPDA President Will H. Hays was asked to stop the production because it dealt with "certain capital-labor relations which the complainants consider against the best public policy at this time." The MPAA/PCA collection at the AMPAS Library contains a letter from J. D. Battle, the executive secretary of the National Coal Association to the Hays office, expressing his concern that the film would prove harmful to the coal industry, and claiming that bad conditions had been eliminated and that the industry currently enjoyed good relations with its workers. Modern sources report New York censorship board demands that the scene depicting the brutal murder of Mike Shemanski be cut, but files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate that they passed it without objection.
       The scene was based on an actual strike case in which John Barkowski, a coal miner, was murdered by three company policemen. MPPDA files reveal that the entire film was banned in Chicago, Guatamala, Spain, Peru, Venezuela and Trinidad, and several other states and countries demanded cuts in the scenes portraying police brutality, Mike's murder, and the mine explosion. The film was passed without objection in Pennsylvannia, which ... More Less

The film's working title was Black Hell . A second unit shot footage in Pennsylvania for the film and a full-scale mine shaft was dug on the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA. Scenes were also shot on the stages at the Burbank studio and at the old Warner lot on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. According to a news item in DV , a complaint against the movie was brought by an east coast coal mine operators group. MPPDA President Will H. Hays was asked to stop the production because it dealt with "certain capital-labor relations which the complainants consider against the best public policy at this time." The MPAA/PCA collection at the AMPAS Library contains a letter from J. D. Battle, the executive secretary of the National Coal Association to the Hays office, expressing his concern that the film would prove harmful to the coal industry, and claiming that bad conditions had been eliminated and that the industry currently enjoyed good relations with its workers. Modern sources report New York censorship board demands that the scene depicting the brutal murder of Mike Shemanski be cut, but files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicate that they passed it without objection.
       The scene was based on an actual strike case in which John Barkowski, a coal miner, was murdered by three company policemen. MPPDA files reveal that the entire film was banned in Chicago, Guatamala, Spain, Peru, Venezuela and Trinidad, and several other states and countries demanded cuts in the scenes portraying police brutality, Mike's murder, and the mine explosion. The film was passed without objection in Pennsylvannia, which might have been expected to raise the most objections because of its dependence on the coal industry. Some objections were raised because Joe's criminal activities in setting off explosions in the mine remain unpunished, but Director of Studio Relations for AMPP Joseph Breen addressed this problem in a letter to Hays stating, "Joe is not a criminal. Rather is he an infuriated, stupid fellow gone temporarily mad because of his high emotionalism. ... [W]hile the audience is certain to understand the forces which motivated Joe to commit the criminal act, there is not likely to be any disposition to sympathize with his crime." Breen requested that some of the dialogue refer to the fact "that while the miners may not have ideal working conditions, nevertheless working conditions of the coal industry have vastly improved and are getting better all the time." The studio was also asked to strengthen the fact that Croner is promoting strife as an agent of a firm of professional strikebreakers masquerading as coal and iron police, to develop the love story and to delete any suggestion that Anna is pregnant when she runs away with Slim. In a letter to Jack L. Warner, Breen notes that care should be taken in showing "serious conflict between employer and employee" as censor boards throughout the country were cutting similar scenes from newsreels. The fact that the strike is settled by the NRA was considered a mitigating factor in the strike story.
       John Qualen, variously billed as John M. Qualen is here billed as John T. Qualen. Paul Muni received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his performance in the film. Modern sources credit Perc Westmore for makeup. According to modern sources, Bohunk was an unproduced play. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Oct 34
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
22 Nov 34
p. 1.
Daily Variety
26 Mar 35
p. 3.
Film Daily
28 Mar 35
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 34
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 35
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
26 Mar 35
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald
19 Jan 35
p. 67.
Motion Picture Herald
3 Apr 35
p. 50.
New York Times
11 Apr 35
p. 27.
Variety
17 Apr 35
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
Second asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
Wardrobe man
Asst wardrobe man
Wardrobe woman
MUSIC
Vitaphone Orch cond
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Script asst
Still photog
STAND INS
Stand in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Jan Volkanik" by Judge M. A. Musmanno and the play Bohunk by Harry R. Irving (publication and production undetermined).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Black Hell
Release Date:
18 May 1935
Production Date:
began 20 October 1934
Copyright Claimant:
First National Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
24 April 1935
Copyright Number:
LP5494
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90 or 95
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
579
SYNOPSIS

Joe Radek, a simple, well-liked, Eastern European immigrant, is in love with Anna Novak. He dreams of quitting his job as a miner, buying a farm, and marrying Anna. Anna likes Joe, but longs for a different life, and runs away with Slim Johnson. Joe falls apart, gets drunk, and during a union meeting joins a dissenter named Steve Croner in a rebellion against the coal company. Joe's good friend Mike Shemanski, the local union leader, unsuccessfully begs Joe to trust the union. Joe is fired and the company brings in a private police force, headed by a thug named McGee. The union is forced to strike, scabs are sent in to work the mine, and Croner, who turns out to be a company agent, leaves town. One night, McGee and his police pick a fight with Mike; Joe comes to his rescue, but it is too late. McGee kills Mike and Joe is seriously wounded. In the hospital, Anna visits Joe and asks his forgiveness. At first he refuses her offer for support, but after a change of heart, he leaves the hospital and, with Anna's help, enters the mine, threatening to dynamite the shaft if the company doesn't negotiate with the union. McGee goes in after Joe, but after a brutal fight, McGee becomes Joe's hostage. Finally, after days of holding his position, the company agrees to Joe's terms. A federal investigation proves that the coal company instigated the strike, and Joe and Anna are redeemed in the eyes of the ... +


Joe Radek, a simple, well-liked, Eastern European immigrant, is in love with Anna Novak. He dreams of quitting his job as a miner, buying a farm, and marrying Anna. Anna likes Joe, but longs for a different life, and runs away with Slim Johnson. Joe falls apart, gets drunk, and during a union meeting joins a dissenter named Steve Croner in a rebellion against the coal company. Joe's good friend Mike Shemanski, the local union leader, unsuccessfully begs Joe to trust the union. Joe is fired and the company brings in a private police force, headed by a thug named McGee. The union is forced to strike, scabs are sent in to work the mine, and Croner, who turns out to be a company agent, leaves town. One night, McGee and his police pick a fight with Mike; Joe comes to his rescue, but it is too late. McGee kills Mike and Joe is seriously wounded. In the hospital, Anna visits Joe and asks his forgiveness. At first he refuses her offer for support, but after a change of heart, he leaves the hospital and, with Anna's help, enters the mine, threatening to dynamite the shaft if the company doesn't negotiate with the union. McGee goes in after Joe, but after a brutal fight, McGee becomes Joe's hostage. Finally, after days of holding his position, the company agrees to Joe's terms. A federal investigation proves that the coal company instigated the strike, and Joe and Anna are redeemed in the eyes of the townspeople. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Social


Subject

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.