"Enemy to those who make him an enemy. Friend to those who have no friend."
Boston Blackie isn't afraid of stepping over onto the wrong side of the law. In fact, he's a former jewel thief and safe cracker who knows a lot about crime. But now he's reformed . . . and although he's saddled with a dim-witted sidekick, The Runt, and doggedly pursued by police Inspector Farraday, he always manages to pull himself out of whatever mess he's in at the end.
The original Boston Blackie story by
Jack Boyle, his only book, was written in 1919. It was actually a
compilation of a series of short stories that appeared in Redbook magazine.
Jack Boyle later did publish further Blackie tales in Cosmopolitan magazine
but, only after the 1919 release of the hardcover collection.
The character "Boston Blackie", real name
Horatio "Boston Blackie" Black*, is a young, handsome, well
educated, gentleman that loves women and children. However, he is also a
hardened criminal, a jewel thief and safe cracker, that has served time in
a California prison. His wife, Mary, is "his best loved pal," and
his collaborator on all his capers. This can be better understood when you
realize that the Mary in the Boston Blackie stories has an underworld
crook for a father. The one thing Boston Blackie definitely isn't is a P.I.
It was only later, in film, radio, and eventually television, that he
transformed into a private eye.
* Blackies real name was never revealed in the stories written by Jack Boyle. His name was first revealed in the 1943 movie "After Midnight with Boston Blackie" when he was paged by a porter on a train.
As Frank D. Sherry says in Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, "Stylistically, the story is an interesting example of a hard-boiled tale told before the hard-boiled style was born, and is flawed by a sentimental ending typical of the times."
Boston Blackie made his first screen appearance in the 1918 production of Boston Blackie's Little Pal for Metro, This was the beginning of a string of silent movies for several different studios. Blackie was played by different actors including Bert Lytell, Lionel Barrymore, Raymond Glenn, David Powell, William Russell and Forrest Stanley. In these films, Blackie was a professional thief with a heart of gold. The last silent Blackie film was in 1927.
In 1941 Chester Morris starred in the first of of a series of fourteen very sucessful Boston Blackie films for Columbia Pictues, thus began new adventures of Boston Blackie. The first movie Meet Boston Blackie sets Blackie up as a former professional thief now working as a sort of freelance adventurer/detective. Adventurer, yes. Detective, ???. On the right side of the law, he preferred not to get too involved with the police (did I just hear Jack Boyle roll over in his grave). Blackie is now evolving into a new character that turns out to be very interesting and entertaining. According to critic Leonard Maltin, Chester Morris provided an amiable, charming hero in all episodes. Morris "brought to the role a delightful offhand manner and sense of humor that kept the films fresh even when the scripts weren't."
In 1944, Blackie made his radio debut on NBC. This series was an outgrowth of the popular Boston Blackie movies. Chester Morris and Richard Lane brought to the radio the characters of Boston Blackie and Inspector Farraday. The series was originally a summer replacement for The Amos and Andy Show. It was scheduled to run from June 23, 1944 to September 15, 1944 for a total of thirteen episodes. There is some disagreement on how many episodes actually aired. The series turned out to be very popular and on April 15, 1945 it returned to the air in its own time slot on NBC. This time the star was Richard Kollmar who played Blackie for 220 episodes.
In 1951 Boston Blackie came to television for a total of 58 30-minute episodes during its run that ended in 1953. The TV version starred Kent Taylor as Boston Blackie. Surprisingly 32 of the 58 Blackie episodes were filmed in color. This was unheard of in the early 50's, however, the producers saw the future of color was coming and also a new term, "reruns." When color TV did arrive there was a huge demand for color programs. Boston Blackie, Superman, The Cisco Kid,these were were among the few ready for color.
About This Site
While there are many facets to Boston Blackie and this web site is devoted more to the movies than radio or TV. If you find any incorrect information on this site please let us know so we can correct it. If you have additional information that you want to share we would be happy to accept it. If you are a Blackie radio or TV buff and want to enhance the radio and TV portion of this site we would be glad to have you.
This is just the beginning. I have a lot more information that I will be adding as time permits. Time is the enemy of all of us except Blackie; he is timeless.
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