Blackmail (1939)

Having made a success of himself in the fire-fighting business in Oklahoma putting out oil well fires John Ingram,Edward G. Robinson,had it all. A booming business at the hight of the great depression a beautiful wife and darling nine-year-old son Helen & Hank, Ruth Hussey & Bobs Watson,who thought the world of him and the respect and admiration of the entire community. John he also had something that could destroy everything he achieved and worked for the last nine years, a dark and mysterious past.

Being convicted of breaking into the safe of his employer and having the stolen money found under his mattress John Ingram, who’s real name is John Harrington,was sent to work on a prison chain-gang for five years. Escaping from prison John made his way to Oklahoma and started a new life and now with his old friend Bill Ramey, Gene Lochart, showing up on the scene that new life,as well as his freedom,is about to end. John giving Bill a job on his oil well to keep him quite about his past doesn’t at all seem to work when Bill starts to put the squeeze on him for money and demands $25,000.00 to keep his mouth shut. John not having that much cash agrees to give Bill $5,000.00, his entire life savings, when Bill reveals the truth about the robbery that put John away and caused him to become a fugitive from the law. He was the man who broke into the safe and hid the stolen cash under John’s mattress.

Having the $5,000.00 bank check sent to Bill’s hotel and Bill having his confession sent by mail to the local police department would free John from being hunted by the police. It will also give Bill, a homeless vagabond, the security of living out his last years after he serves out the five year sentence that John was straddled with. As you would expect Bill doubled-crossed his friend and had him put back behind bars and his oil well taken over by Bill who used the blackmail money, that John gave him, to buy him out while he was doing his time with the chain-gang.

Determined at first to do his five years and then get back to his wife and child, as well as his fire-fighting business, John realizes that he has nothing to come back to with Bill buying him out and throwing his wife and son out of their home and on the street. Getting letters from Helen about how fine everything is John knows that things are a lot worse then the news he’s been getting from her when he has a talk with his lawyer and co-owner of his business Moose McCarthy,Guinn “Big Bill” Williams. “Big Bill” broke the bad news about the raw deal John got both here in the chain-gang and at home due to the sleazy actions of his “friend” Bill Ramey.

Breaking out of jail with fellow prisoner Diggs(John Wray), who ends up getting shot and killed, John makes his way back home to Oklahoma. John’s determined to settle the score with that lowlife Bill Ramey and get him to confess his sins, or better yet, and crimes that sent him away not once but twice to serve hard time in a southern chain-gang for crimes that he didn’t commit.

Edward G. Robinson, in a good-guy role for once, is very good as the maligned and wrongly convicted John Ingram. The ending of the movie, even though very contrived and predictable, is very effective and rewarding to both John and his family, as well as the movie audience. John beats a confession out of Bill Ramey by forcing him to face the hell that he faces and faced every time he went to work putting out dangerous oil well fires.