But, Blackie … Is That Thing Street Legal?

March 12, 2018 at 9:58 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Some folks may wonder what sort of car Chester Morris drove in Columbia Pictures’ series of Boston Blackie b-movies.  After reading the following article from the March 2, 1969 edition of The Orlando Sentinel, you still really won’t be able to answer that question … but it sounds like an amazing machine:

I can only wonder what has become of this unique vehicle in the almost 50 years since this article was published.  I haven’t found any references to it around the internet, but hopefully someone out there has restored Blackie’s crazy custom ride to all its glory.

**UPDATE**      While reporter Bill Gentry connects the car in his article to Chester Morris’ Boston Blackie films, I believe he may have gotten his facts somewhat muddled.  The photograph accompanying his piece and his description of the vehicle’s low-riding rear boasting three fins evoke memories of the car driven by Kent Taylor during much of the second season of Ziv Productions’ syndicated Boston Blackie television series.  Multiple episodes are available on YouTube, for those curious enough to check it out.

JBF  –  3/14/18

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

The Radio Debut of Boston Blackie (maybe?)

January 9, 2018 at 9:43 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

As discussed in my entry from February 29, 2016 (“Tune in For Boston Blackie”), Jack Boyle’s best loved law-breaker stole into the world of radio in 1944.  Chester Morris transported the character from the movie screen to the airwaves in an NBC summer series which premiered on June 23, 1944.

Or did he?  The following item from the March 19, 1943 edition of The Shreveport Times suggests that Boston Blackie may actually have seen his radio debut more than a year before the premiere of his weekly series:

By 1943, Chester Morris had been portraying Blackie for two years in a popular series of b-movies for Columbia Pictures.  And newspapers confirm that in March of that year he made an appearance on NBC’s west coast comedy series The Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou Show (clearly to promote the Columbia films).  But this announcement’s references to “Boston Blackie” (in quotations) makes it unclear whether Morris’ guest appearance was as Blackie or himself.  An alternate piece from the same day’s edition of The Tucscon Daily Citizen mentions Blackie only as Morris’ most famous role:

Unless a recording of the March 19, 1943 installment of The Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou Show (or at least a script) surfaces someday, we may never know if the episode truly featured the radio debut of Boston Blackie, or simply a visit from Chester Morris.  Either way, the broadcast was obviously a direct result of the Columbia film series, and marks Morris’ earliest promotion of Blackie in the medium radio.  For that reason alone, The Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou Show deserves a special footnote in the history of Boston Blackie.

Tommy Riggs & Betty Lou (November 1938)

Deepest thanks to vintage radio researcher extraordinaire Karl Schadow for bringing this “forgotten” bit of Boston Blackie history to my attention.  I’m indebted to you.

JBF  1/9/18

 

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Tune in for Boston Blackie …

February 29, 2016 at 8:13 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Richard Kollmar is the performer most associated with portraying Boston Blackie on radio, holding the distinction of having played the role more times than any other actor in any medium.  But in its earliest incarnation, as a 1944 summer replacement series on NBC, the Blackie radio program was an extension of the Columbia Pictures series of b-movies, and brought Chester Morris to the airwaves to reprise his starring role from the silver screen.  The following piece from the June 16, 1944 edition of The Bluefield Telegraph is one of the earliest announcements of Blackie’s transition to radio:

Bluefileld Telegraph 6-16-44

Amos ‘n’ Andy eventually came back from vacation to reclaim their spot on NBC, but Boston Blackie wasn’t about to relinquish his status as a radio sleuth.  Under the auspices of Ziv Productions, the series remained in production until 1951, and available in syndication well beyond that.  Not bad, for a character created nearly 40 years earlier.

JBF  2/29/16

Permalink 1 Comment

The Myth of Horatio Black

June 29, 2015 at 10:05 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The internet would have you believe that Boston Blackie’s real name is Horatio Black.  This is the answer swiftly yielded by any casual Google search, and the pedigree behind the name sounds quite plausible.  However, as is the case with most easy answers, it falls short of the facts.

To begin with, “Horatio Black” suggests that the nickname “Blackie” sprang from the character’s family surname.  But Jack Boyle himself refutes this notion in the very first Boston Blackie tale, “The Price of Principle” (American Magazine – July 1914). The introduction of the character reveals that his “piercing black eyes and New England birthplace had won him his nickname …”  So Blackie’s creator expressly establishes that his colorful sobriquet is derived from his commanding eyes, and not from a variation of his family name.

Some sources suggest that the name Horatio Black originated in an unspecified episode the 1945-49 syndicated radio series BOSTON BLACKIE, in which actor Richard Kolmar played the lead.  This seems unlikely though, when you consider the series’ June 6, 1945 installment “Mrs. Boston Blackie.”  The episode revolves around the appearance of a woman who claims to be married to Blackie, brandishing a marriage certificate as proof.  On the document, the groom’s name is — Boston Blackie.  If the writers of the radio series had given the character any other name, surely they would have put it on his marriage papers.  But there’s a more compelling reason that the name Horatio Black couldn’t have risen from Blackie’s radio incarnation.

The simple fact of the matter is that, as far as Boston Blackie is concerned, the name Horatio Black can be traced back at least as far as 1943 — two years prior to the radio series’ debut.  In March of that year, Columbia Pictures released AFTER MIDNIGHT WITH BOSTON BLACKIE, the fifth in their series of Blackie b-movies starring Chester Morris.  In the film, Blackie’s name is revealed as Horatio Black by the daughter of a former underworld friend.  This may or may not be the first appearance of the name in conjunction with Blackie, but the timing of it definitively establishes that the name was not an invention of the radio series.  However, 1943 was a long time after Blackie’s 1914 debut in print.  Rather than trying to verify the origin of Horatio Black, the bigger question is, did Jack Boyle ever provide a civilian name to his most famous creation?

The first hint of an answer appears in “Boston Blackie’s Mary” (Red Book Magazine – November 1917).  The story explicitly names Blackie’s wife Mary Dawson, despite the fact that she was previously Mary Harris in “A Thief’s Daughter” (American – October 1914) before the pair were married. Dawson is again presented as Mary’s name in “A Problem in Grand Larceny” (Red Book – December 1918), cementing the idea that this is, indeed, Blackie’s surname.  Then, in “The Face in the Fog” (Cosmopolitan Magazine – May 1920), detective Huk Kant greets Boyle’s protagonist as Blackie Dawson, removing all doubt that, canonically, the name belongs to both Blackie and Mary.

While Jack Boyle provided his criminal hero a surname relatively early in the series, it wasn’t until he penned his final tale of the character that he divulged his full given name.  On May 9, 1925, The Los Angeles Times published the seventh installment of Boyle’s serial “Daggers of Jade.”  In it, he presents us with “John Dawson, once known by the the police of every city from Maine to California as Boston Blackie …”  So, with his swan song story of his most popular character, Jack Boyle reveals that Boston Blackie is John Dawson.

In truth, the reality seems almost banal.  Horatio Black seems a more dashing name for a safecracker than the workaday John Dawson.  But perhaps it’s not too surprising that Jack Boyle settled on the name John for his rogue hero.  After all, his own name was John Alexander Boyle.

JBF 6/29/15

Permalink Leave a Comment