13 February 2008 | tedg
After a period of amazing experimentation in the 30s, the detective genre settled into a few tracks. One of these consisted of series films with previously well known characters, usually from radio. Some actually pretended to have a mystery, while others like this did not. The main appeal was supposed to be in the characters and their traits.
Boston Blackie's character is one of the more endearing, which allowed the extremely low budget production room to continue.
Blackie is a successful thief, one of those charming, superclever types that appeared in the 20s and early 30s. Blackie stole because the rich deserved it, pure and simple, not out of selfish greed, and in fact his story always mentions how he gave the proceeds to the starving. He was one of the inventions we created during the last period where the difference in the wealthy and poor was immense.
By this time (1941) he had been reinvented. Now he was a retired thief, with his cleverness turned to solving crimes the police were too dumb to understand. Along the way, the police (always the same guy) would suspect Blackie of the crime. So in addition to outwitting the criminals which was ordinary in such movies he had to more severely and embarrassingly outwit the police. That's the added piece here.
His two sidekicks are runt, a Runyon-esquire character, and Arthur, a rich but clueless playboy. Arthur is important because he anchors the political reinvention handily. He always has enough money which is freely available for Blackie's escapades.
I've only seen a couple of these, but this has something a bit extraordinary. Quite independent of any story element or need, we have a thread inserted. One of Blackie's affairs has resurfaced, a tall tough redheaded moll, who claims to be married to him and wants money... "or else."
Its a strange episode, obviously inserted to tell us something about Blackie that is expected to build his appeal and thus the franchise. He's a wisecracking guy clever guy who (almost) never resorts to violence. He's slick and chatty. But we get the idea here that in the bedroom he can master this wild amazon. Because in the US, we were deep in the stupid prurient code, there had to be this amazingly indirect way of telling us this.
I suppose its important, and that it worked. Blackie lasted for 15 films.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.