Blind Alley (1939)

68 or 70 mins | Drama | 11 May 1939

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HISTORY

Actor John Eldredge's surname is misspelled "Eldridge" in cast list at the end of the film. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the original title of the play on which this film is based was Smoke Screen . As early as Oct 1935, the Hays Office notified M-G-M that because the story had a gangster hero it was "thoroughly unacceptable," and urged the studio to "dismiss it entirely from any further consideration." Seven months later, the Hays Office reiterated its objections to the film, stating that "the story, as it stands, is basically so bad from the standpoint of the Code that it is irrevocably beyond its pale." It also noted that "the suicide of the gangster, as means of escape from the consequences of his crimes, is in violation of the Code." Following the Hays Office's rejection of the story, M-G-M postponed the film for over two years, until 1938, when the office, in a letter acknowledging the receipt of the first draft of the treatment, stated that the story was "basically satisfactory from the standpoint of the Production Code." The Hays Office went on to caution, however, that the British censors would reject "any material dealing with insane characters and the use of an asylum as a background." It also warned against the discussion of "objectionable subjects" in the scene in which the doctor psychoanalyzes the fugitive, as well as the "flaunting of weapons" and showing details of the crime.
       A HR pre-production news item noted that Rose Stradner was borrowed from M-G-M for the film. ... More Less

Actor John Eldredge's surname is misspelled "Eldridge" in cast list at the end of the film. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the original title of the play on which this film is based was Smoke Screen . As early as Oct 1935, the Hays Office notified M-G-M that because the story had a gangster hero it was "thoroughly unacceptable," and urged the studio to "dismiss it entirely from any further consideration." Seven months later, the Hays Office reiterated its objections to the film, stating that "the story, as it stands, is basically so bad from the standpoint of the Code that it is irrevocably beyond its pale." It also noted that "the suicide of the gangster, as means of escape from the consequences of his crimes, is in violation of the Code." Following the Hays Office's rejection of the story, M-G-M postponed the film for over two years, until 1938, when the office, in a letter acknowledging the receipt of the first draft of the treatment, stated that the story was "basically satisfactory from the standpoint of the Production Code." The Hays Office went on to caution, however, that the British censors would reject "any material dealing with insane characters and the use of an asylum as a background." It also warned against the discussion of "objectionable subjects" in the scene in which the doctor psychoanalyzes the fugitive, as well as the "flaunting of weapons" and showing details of the crime.
       A HR pre-production news item noted that Rose Stradner was borrowed from M-G-M for the film. Modern sources list Eddie Acuff ( State trooper ) in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
       A 1940 HR news item notes that Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Isabell Jewell were featured in a Gulf Screen Actors Guild radio performance of Blind Alley that was broadcast on 25 Feb 1940. Blind Alley was remade by Columbia in 1948 as The Dark Past . Televised performances of James Warwick's play include the 1949 Studio One production, directed by Paul Nickell and starring Jerome Thor and Bramwell Fletcher, which aired on the CBS television network on 30 Jan 1949; the Broadway Television Theatre production, starring Roy Hargrove and Beverly Roberts, which aired on non-network television on 15 Sep 1952; and the Kraft Theatre production, starring Darren McGavin and Herbert Berghof, which aired on the NBC television network on 10 Jun 1954. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 Apr 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 May 39
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 39
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 39
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 39
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 40
p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily
27 Apr 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
29 Apr 39
p. 54.
New York Times
22 May 39
p. 15.
Variety
26 Apr 39
p. 12.
DETAILS
Release Date:
11 May 1939
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 21 April 1939
Production Date:
15 February-14 March 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp. of Calif., Ltd.
Copyright Date:
2 May 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8817
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
68 or 70
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
PCA No:
5135
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Hal Wilson, a prison inmate serving a sentence for murder, is aided by his former associates in a jailbreak. After their escape, Wilson and his cohorts are sought by the police. The fugitives take refuge in the home of Dr. Shelby, a professor of psychology, while he and his wife Doris are entertaining dinner guests Linda and George Curtis and Dick Holbrook. After the fugitives force everyone, including the Shelby's young son Davy and their two housekeepers, into the basement, they wait for their getaway boat to arrive. When Fred Landis, a young student of Dr. Shelby, shows up to bid the Shelbys farewell before leaving on a trip, he soon realizes what is afoot and challenges one of the gunmen to a fistfight. Fred flattens the gunman, but when he challenges Wilson, Wilson shoots and kills him. Determined to save his family and guests, Dr. Shelby decides to use a psychological offensive to disarm Wilson. Wilson agrees to undergo an impromptu treatment after the doctor proves his expertise by accurately diagnosing that the paralysis in one of his hands is the result of a childhood trauma. Dr. Shelby then manages to extract a confession from Wilson that his mother molested him, and that he murdered his father. Having found the source of Wilson's grief and anxiety, Dr. Shelby tells Wilson that he no will longer be living in a psychological "blind alley" because he has been cured through the process of catharsis, and that henceforth he will be unable to shoot another man because he will imagine his father to be the victim. When the police surround the ... +


Hal Wilson, a prison inmate serving a sentence for murder, is aided by his former associates in a jailbreak. After their escape, Wilson and his cohorts are sought by the police. The fugitives take refuge in the home of Dr. Shelby, a professor of psychology, while he and his wife Doris are entertaining dinner guests Linda and George Curtis and Dick Holbrook. After the fugitives force everyone, including the Shelby's young son Davy and their two housekeepers, into the basement, they wait for their getaway boat to arrive. When Fred Landis, a young student of Dr. Shelby, shows up to bid the Shelbys farewell before leaving on a trip, he soon realizes what is afoot and challenges one of the gunmen to a fistfight. Fred flattens the gunman, but when he challenges Wilson, Wilson shoots and kills him. Determined to save his family and guests, Dr. Shelby decides to use a psychological offensive to disarm Wilson. Wilson agrees to undergo an impromptu treatment after the doctor proves his expertise by accurately diagnosing that the paralysis in one of his hands is the result of a childhood trauma. Dr. Shelby then manages to extract a confession from Wilson that his mother molested him, and that he murdered his father. Having found the source of Wilson's grief and anxiety, Dr. Shelby tells Wilson that he no will longer be living in a psychological "blind alley" because he has been cured through the process of catharsis, and that henceforth he will be unable to shoot another man because he will imagine his father to be the victim. When the police surround the house and demand that Wilson surrender, Wilson tries to fire at an officer, but is unable to pull the trigger. At that moment, Wilson is shot by an officer and killed. +

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.