The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Hoodlum Empire (1952) By Guest Blogger Jerry Entract.

Hoodlum Empire TC

Associate Producer – Director: Joseph Kane
Screen Play byBruce Manning and Bob Considine
Director Of Photography: Reggie Lanning

Cast: Brian Donlevy (Sen. Bill Stephens), Claire Trevor (Connie Williams), Forrest Tucker (Charley Pignatalli), Vera Ralston (Marte Dufour), Luther Adler (Nick Mancani), John Russell (Joe Gray), Gene Lockhart, Grant Withers, Taylor Holmes, Richard Jaeckel, Roy Barcroft, Whit Bissell, William Schallert


Republic blogathon badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in a “Republic Pictures Blogathon” and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having been formed from a merger of several small film companies in 1935, Republic Pictures hit the ground running, immediately scoring huge success with their Gene Autry Western series. They followed this success with The Three Mesquiteers the next year and into the 40s with popular series heroes Don Barry, Wild Bill Elliott, Rocky Lane and, especially, Roy Rogers.

Hoodlum Empire LC6

Right from the start, Republic were making a cross-section of film types even though their specialty was the Western.

1950-51 saw the Kefauver Committee set up in the U.S. Senate to tackle organised crime all across the U.S. To reflect this, Republic filmed Hoodlum Empire (1952), though naturally names were changed. Journalist and author Bob Considine wrote the story on which the screenplay was adapted by Bruce Manning and Considine.

Hoodlum Empire still

The background to the story is the testifying to a Senate committee of various figures known as underworld leaders. Brian Donlevy plays the leader of the committee, determined to go after these crime lords, led here by Luther Adler and his vicious No. 2, Forrest Tucker. However, although he is listed sixth in the cast, the real central figure is John Russell, who is Adler’s nephew and had been heavily involved in crime pre-WW2. His wartime experiences have turned him around, however, and since 1945 he has been running a legit business. Adler and co. are determined to implicate him in criminal activity and thereby fade their own (real) involvement into obscurity. In the end, they do not succeed.

This is, of course, far away from the Western and yet the central theme is John Russell’s redemption (with the help of a good woman) — a strong Western motif, particularly throughout the 50s. Also, the director is Joseph Kane, Republic’s No. 1 go-to man for action, having by this point helmed countless Autry and Rogers films.

I even recognised the house used as John Russell’s family home as being “The Duchess’ Ranch” from the 1944-46 Red Ryder series, now tarted up with ‘modern’ frills like a picket fence and trees.

Hoodlum Empire LC7

I found the script to be both literate and adult, and the cast just fine at putting it over. Claire Trevor in particular showing a vulnerable woman beneath her tough and wisecracking front, something she was skilful at doing. Grant Withers, also in the supporting cast, came across very well. He and Roy Barcroft appear, both regular Republic Western baddies, as well as Douglas Kennedy and John Pickard (both uncredited). So… a lot of familiar and welcome faces in the quite large cast. Seeing John Russell here again makes me wonder why he didn’t achieve greater stardom than he did.

For folks who like a good gritty crime drama with a great cast, this film would get my recommendation. It’s readily available on DVD in the US and elsewhere. That is regrettably not true of all too many of Republic’s crime dramas (they didn’t do ‘noir’ so much) which are locked away in the vaults and kept from film fans hungry to see them.


Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry, but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.


Filed under 1952, Forrest Tucker, Joe Kane, Republic Pictures, Roy Barcroft, Whit Bissell, William Schallert

20 responses to “The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Hoodlum Empire (1952) By Guest Blogger Jerry Entract.

  1. A “good, gritty crime drama with a great cast” is just what I’m in the mood for, and I look forward to seeing this film after reading this recommendation. Love Donlevy!


  2. Forrest Tucker tosses a blind man down an elevator shaft — where has this movie been all my life?


    • Jerry Entract

      That scene belongs up there with the cripple being tossed down the stairs by Richard Widmark in “KISS OF DEATH” and the man dragged to his death in his chair down the street in “BAR 20 RIDES AGAIN”.
      Stays in the memory, Toby!


  3. If John’s reading this he’s gonna be smiling when I say, yet again, that this movie is nestling somewhere amid my to be watched mountain – I really have to do something about the backlog!
    Donlevy has always been a favorite of mine since I saw him as Quatermass, and also a little known movie which I’ve wanted to see again for too many years now called Nightmare.
    I really like Russell too and dip into his TV show Soldiers of Fortune from time to time.


    • Jerry Entract

      Thanks for commenting, Colin. Yes, you just have to hope that “to-watch” pile doesn’t topple over some day and bury you! LOL
      Maybe time to (carefully) pull this movie out to watch?


      • Haha! Yes, I do have a go at “excavating” portions of the mountain from time to time, and occasionally make a bit of progress but life has a habit of getting in the way and those inroads seem to fill themselves out again. I will try to watch this soonish though.


  4. Another one I still haven’t seen. Thanks for calling it to my attention, Jerry. Will put it on my to see list. You make it sound interesting, and I have faith in Joe Kane in all events.


  5. What a good cast! In fact, there’s some cast overlap with the Republic movie I just wrote about, JUBILEE TRAIL. I actually ordered this a few months ago but have yet to watch it. Bumping another Republic title higher up in my viewing stack thanks to the blogathon!! I could happily spend a few days watching nothing but the very interesting movies I’ve read about in the blogathon this weekend. 🙂 Thanks, Jerry, as this film sounds most appealing.

    Best wishes,


    • Jerry Entract

      Thanks again, Laura! Same comment re the “to-watch” pile I made to Colin………LOL


      • LOL. Yep!

        John cracked me up once when he said that Colin’s and my “to be watched” pile keeps him awake nights! 🙂

        The good news is I’m on a record viewing pace so far this year — that’s a silver lining to my kids getting older and one by one moving on. So perhaps I can make more inroads in the years to come!

        Best wishes,


      • john k

        Laura and Colin,

        Your “to be watched piles” are beyond giving me
        sleepless nights to the point where I’m now undergoing therapy
        Nurse…Nurse!!!! 🙂


  6. Hal

    I always liked Donlevy as a lead, and it’s interesting that both Tucker and Ralston (Herbert Yates’ wife) had supporting roles when they were usually headlining Republic features at the time. I agree that the script is literate, and Kane was as dependable a director as the studio had. Well worth watching. Nice writeup.


    • Jerry Entract

      Thanks a lot, Hal.
      I’ve just finished watching another Joe Kane-directed Republic (for the first viewing) of “THE VANISHING AMERICAN” (1955). Considerably scaled-down, I understand, from the epic scale of the silent original but quite thoughtful and well-made nonetheless. And with a terrific cast again.


  7. john k

    Well done Jerry and a good choice!

    I’d love to see some of the later Noirs/Crime Thrillers Kane
    made for Republic in the studio’s last days like THE MAN WHO

    What I’d like to know is where have y’all come from as I’ve virtually single handed been supporting this blog.
    It’s been e VERY lonely existence,up to now that is!


  8. This looks good, love the cast and this post makes me eager to find and view it! Thanks!


  9. Jerry Entract

    Thanks for still being out there, Kristina, with your nice comments. Appreciated!
    Yup, I think it is a film you would find well worth the seeking out.

    Liked by 1 person

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