Blackwell's Island (1939)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 25, 1939 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 71 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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An average gangster melodrama enlivened by its cast, Blackwell's Island draws parts of its story from New York's Welfare Island prison scandal, but it adds plenty of fiction to a small smattering of fact. Since it's not pretending to be a documentary, this by itself is fine; however, the film would have been better served if the fictional elements had a greater degree of originality, and if the dialogue had more of the crackle and fire that can be found in other better Warner Brothers gangster flicks. For that matter, William McGann's direction could use a little more crackle and fire, too. There's nothing really wrong with what McGann does here, but it doesn't have the personality and drive that Island demands. Fortunately, those qualities are provided by star John Garfield and his nemesis, Stanley Fields. Garfield's commitment to the role even helps the audience buy that this reporter would go so far as to be put in prison to deliver justice to the kingpin who is escaping what should be coming to him. And Fields has a lot of fun as that kingpin, giving him an amusing side that doesn't undercut his evil. Rosemary Lane has very little to do, but does it well, and Victor Jory is also an asset.