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Black Legion

Black Legion(1937)

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Actor Clifford Soubier, who portrays Mike Grogan in the film, had been an NBC broadcaster working out of Chicago. According to the Warner Bros. Collection in the USC Cinema-Television Library, Robert Homans was at one time considered for the part of "Grogan." Memos in the files note that executive producer Hal B. Wallis had suggested Edward G. Robinson for the lead, but producer Robert Lord objected on the grounds that Robinson looked too foreign. He felt they needed a "distinctly American looking actor to play this part." According to a memo dated 10 August 1936, Paul Graetz and Joseph Crehan were signed for roles, but their participation in the final film has not been determined. A memo from Lord to Wallis indicates that Glenda Farrell was considered for the part of "Pearl." Outdoor scenes were shot at the Warner Ranch, Calabasas, CA and the Providencia Ranch, Universal City, CA. The Taylor and Grogan homes were shot on location in Hollywood, CA.
       The film, which was made for a total cost of $235,000, was inspired by an actual case involving the Black Legion in Michigan, the May 1935 murder of WPA worker Charles Poole. Dayton Dean, the Legion executioner, turned state's evidence at the trial. According to a New York Times article about the film, the Legion's "stock in trade is blatant 'Americanism' coupled with persecution of those differing in economics and racial viewpoints....a sort of 'America for Americans' jehad in which native-born labor was to carry the banner-and take the risks." According to Hollywood Reporter, The Ku Klux Klan sued Warner Bros. for patent infringement for alleged use of the Klan's patented insignia of a white cross on a background of red with a black square. On screen credits list Helen Flint's character as "Pearl Davis," but some contemporary reviews call her "Danvers," the name which she is called in the film. Onscreen credits and contemporary reviews call Joseph Sawyer's character "Cliff Moore," but he is called "Cliff Summers" in the film. Robert Lord received an Academy Award nomination for original story and the National Board of Review chose it as best film for 1937 and named Humphrey Bogart best actor. In 1936, Columbia made Legion of Terror, the first film to be based on the Black Legion killing (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 F3.2450).