The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Blackmail (1947) By Guest Blogger John Knight.

Blackmail 47 TC

Directed by Lesley Selander
Screen Play by Royal K. Cole
Original Story by Robert Leslie Bellem
Additional Dialogue by Albert DeMond
Director Of Photography: Reggie Lanning

Cast: William Marshall (Dan Turner), Adele Mara (Sylvia Duane), Ricardo Cortez (Ziggy Cranston), Grant Withers (Inspector Donaldson), Stephanie Bachelor (Carla), Richard Fraser (Antoine le Blanc), Roy Barcroft (Spice Kellaway), George J. Lewis (Blue Chip Winslow), Robert J. Wilke

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Republic blogathon badgeThis is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy.

For starters, in this quirky, fun Noir we get not one but two Femme Fatales: slinky, mysterious Stephanie Batchelor and Republic’s regular sweetie Adele Mara.

L.A showbiz tycoon (Ricardo Cortez) with a gambling addiction, is slipped a Shanghai-ball by a tomato (as the script would have it) and becomes involved in a shakedown, murder and blackmail.

To sort out this mess, he hires a New York gumshoe (William Marshall, who certainly puts the “hard” in hard-nosed). No sooner has Marshall arrived on the scene when Cortez is framed for another murder. Marshall not only has to contend with gambling syndicate goons, but also a police chief (Grant Withers) who resents this East Coast interloper on his patch.

Stylishly shot by Reggie Lanning, we get a barrage of one-liners from serial expert Royal Cole. The fast pacing is what we’ve come to expect from Lesley Selander. There is a car chase and three slug-fests….the final one is a real doozy. With the constant flow of hardboiled dialogue, the audience is given another mystery to decipher: was the film intended as a parody of private eye flicks? The cast plays it pretty much straight.

Blackmail 47 LC3

My favorite one-liners:
Withers (on first encountering Adele Mara): “Who’s this bright young tomato”
Marshall: “She’s this years entry for mis-information.”

It gets better:
Withers (after Marshall bursts into his office): “I have a desk clerk to announce visitors, that includes shamuses and other vermin.”
Marshall:” Is this a bureau of homicide or insecticide?”

Marshall’s favorite tipple is a dry Martini without the olive… it takes up too much room in the glass. He’s endearingly unlikeable in this film, but apparently was not too likable in real life. According to imdb, when Marshall was directing Adventures Of Captain Fabian (1951), Errol Flynn got so fed up with Marshall’s bombastic attitude, he stormed off the set. Marshall had to complete the film using Flynn’s stunt double. The picture was a critical and commercial flop, and Marshall didn’t directed another film until The Phantom Planet (1961), a cult favorite. Marshall was married several times. Three of his wives were actresses: Michele Morgan, Micheline Presle and Ginger Rogers.

The_Bakersfield_Californian_Mon__Jul_5__1948_Oddly enough, Lesley Selander never directed a Republic A movie, while other Republic B directors — such as Joseph Kane, R.G. Springsteen and William Witney — moved up to A Westerns starring the likes of Rod Cameron, Forrest Tucker, William Elliott, John Payne, Sterling Hayden and John Derek. Joseph Kane was more than Republic’s top contract director; he was their “rock.” When bona fide A list stars were enticed over to Republic, Kane directed their vehicles: Fred MacMurray in Fair Wind To Java (1953) and Barbara Stanwyk in The Maverick Queen (1956). At that time, Selander also moved up to higher budgets, mainly for Allied Artists and Bel-Air — who released their films through United Artists. Selander also got the occasional major studio gig — he did The Raiders (1952) for Universal and Tall Man Riding (1955) for Warner Brothers. As the Fifties moved on, Republic struggled and reverted more or less to a B Movie outfit. Trucolor was more or less dispensed with and fewer Westerns were made. They made more and more B Crime Thrillers and the then popular J.D.Movies. From Kane we got fare like The Man Who Died Twice (1958) and The Crooked Circle (1957). Springsteen gave us I Cover The Underworld (1955) and When Gangland Strikes (1956), and Witney contributed City Of Shadows (1955), Juvenile Jungle (1958) and Young And Wild (1958). Selander returned to the fold for a couple of these later quickies: Taming Sutton’s Gal and The Wayward Girl (both 1957).
The_Wilkes_Barre_Record_Wed__Dec_17__1947_
Most of these later Republics had the attraction of being filmed in widescreen Naturama. They’re impossible to see in that ratio today. Even sadder, no-one seems interested in releasing them. Those final Republic B’s (which included several good Westerns like The Lawless Eighties and Hell’s Crossroads) are trapped in the vaults, along with most of the other great titles in the Republic catalog. How long these films will remain unreleased remains to be seen.
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John Knight calls himself “a ‘Muswell Hillbilly’ by birth, now retired and living on the Isle Of Wight. A lifelong film fanatic, my ‘education’ on film was mainly gained in the fleapits of London and many visits to the National Film Theatre on London’s Southbank.”
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17 Comments

Filed under Adele Mara, Lesley Selander, Republic Pictures

17 responses to “The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Blackmail (1947) By Guest Blogger John Knight.

  1. Nicely done, John. The Republic noirs and crime pictures are not familiar territory for me, a few seemed to come out via Olive a while back but then dried up. A lot of these hard-boiled tales actually appear well served by their lower budgets for some reason and, like yourself, I wish more of them were available.

    Like

  2. Jerry Entract

    Well done, John, a really nice review. And a tempter. This is a film I have not only not seen but was not aware of either previously. As Colin says, somehow the lower budgets on some of these crime pictures actually works in their favour. This one sounds like it is just up my dark, rain-soaked and dangerous alley!!

    Like

  3. Excellent. You’ve set the tone for the day. While I never could slink, perhaps I’ll go looking for somebody to slug. Wait. Hubby’s on vacation today. Oh, honey…

    “Blackmail” sounds like something perfect for a cloudy day. I hope I can catch up with it soon.

    Like

    • john k

      Thanks Patricia 🙂

      You may however, have trouble keeping up with the
      constant barrage of one-liners throughout the film,
      even on a cloudy day!

      Like

  4. john k

    Firstly,thanks Toby for the really cool graphics you have
    sourced for this rare movie!

    Colin and Jerry we all wish more of this stuff was available,
    heaven knows why Paramount bothered to purchase the
    Republic library if they have no intention of releasing the films!
    I DO wish they would sell it on to someone else,the sooner
    the better as far as I am concerned.

    Olive Films are still “dabbling” with the Republic titles,
    although they mainly seem to be concentrating on serials.
    They are about to release THE INVISIBLE MONSTER with
    FLYING DISC MAN FROM MARS to follow next month.

    The screengrabs for THE INVISIBLE MONSTER are
    up on DVD Beaver and very impressive they look too
    I,for one am thrilled to see a vintage Republic Serial in
    this pristine quality..

    Like

  5. Sounds great. I’d sure love to see it. Thanks to you more than anyone, John, I’ve watched more than my share of Selander movies the last few years and very impressed by him now.

    Just when I was thinking “1947–it could have been on a double bill with the Republic movie I wrote about” I saw that Virginia theatre ad and there they were as a double feature! I’d sure like to have been there for that.

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  6. John, this sounds great! Don’t think I’ve heard of William Marshall, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Adele Mara for various reasons, and Cortez is always interesting, so this sounds very appealing — must fish it out of my “hot” stack by the TV to see it soon!! 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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  7. Nick Beal

    Terrific writing John. Another picture that I need to take down from the shelf.

    Like

    • john k

      Thanks Nick,
      And thanks again for supplying my copy of BLACKMAIL.

      Also many thanks for all the Republic goodies that you have
      supplied me with over recent months!
      I might add that the esteemed Mr Beal has also supplied me
      with more than watchable copies of THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST and
      CATMAN OF PARIS.
      It was interesting in both those films not only to watch Selander
      tackle Horror subjects but also to see Republic to do Val Lewton.

      I loved the make-up in CATMAN more like Mr Hyde meets
      Nosferatu.
      According to Mr Maltin Bob Wilke doubled as The Catman.

      Of course Selander being Selander he could not resist
      including an extended punch up in the film not to mention a chase
      straight out of one of his Westerns!

      Like

  8. john k

    Thanks Blake and Laura,

    I watched Selander’s THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (1945) last night just
    to keep in tune with all things Republic!
    I am always amazed how Republic’s B Series Western
    directors like Selander and George Sherman were also
    masters of other genres too, like Noir and Horror.THE VAMPIRE’S
    GHOST has Peggy Stewart in the cast who I always considered
    B Movies answer to Roz Russell!
    The film also has an incredibly sensual performance from Adele
    Mara who is always impressive.
    I ran the film as a Republic/John Abbott double bill with
    Sherman’s equally impressive LONDON BLACKOUT MURDERS.(1943)

    In a perfect World we would have Box Sets of the wonderful
    Republic B Movies,not only the Westerns but the Crime Thrillers
    and Noirs plus of course the occasional Horror too!

    Like

    • Hey John, I loved your description of Peggy Stewart. Just thought I’d mention she’s supposed to be at the Lone Pine Festival. She was on the list last year but if she was there I just didn’t happen to see her.

      Best wishes,
      Laura

      Like

  9. john k

    Thanks Laura,

    I saw Peggy several years back at a B-Western
    convention in London.
    I managed to ask her about working with Richard Boone.
    Most of the fans there were more interested in her B Western
    days-she had some great stories to tell.
    She also mentioned when her friend Robert Blake was in
    prison several years back Anthony Hopkins used to go visit
    him. According to Peggy they used to read passages from
    Moby Dick to each other.
    Peggy and Robert Blake are two of the few surviving actors
    from the “golden era” of B Westerns.
    I DO hope you get to meet Peggy at Lone Pine,Laura,
    an amazing and very witty lady…hence the Roz Russell
    reference. A later more mature Peggy gave great performances
    in good TV Westerns like HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and
    THE REBEL. Peggy still acts today on and off as well!

    Like

    • Jerry Entract

      One of my great regrets is that I didn’t attend that London convention that Peggy Stewart guested at (our children were young then). What a missed opportunity!!

      Like

  10. These Republic crime/noir pictures are something I’ve really missed out on. It’s great to find a new vein to mine!

    Like

  11. Just got through a couple Ricardo Cortez movies, like many above comments say, a lot of these Republic crime pictures are new to me, another one to look out for. Great post John.

    Like

  12. john k

    Thanks Kristina,

    It’s a pity that these films are so hard to find
    especially in watchable quality!
    There are a couple of Republic Crime Thrillers
    starring B Western actor Don “Red” Barry ( the VERY
    poor person’s James Cagney) that sound most appealing
    but have not managed to track them down as yet.
    What I like about these films is the way Republic’s B
    Western directors (Selander,George Sherman,
    R.G.Springsteen,Harry Keller) adapted so well to the
    crime genre.
    My greatest wish is that the Warner Archive owned these
    Republics then we would see them get “official” releases
    in pristine quality.

    Liked by 1 person

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