Boston Blackie (Chester Morris) is a former jewel thief and safecracker. He and his partner the Runt (Charles Wagenheim) are returning on an ocean liner to New York. Blackie sees a beautiful woman being accosted by a man. He comes to the woman’s aid. The woman, Marilyn Howard (Constance Worth) thanks him but is not interested in Blackie. In Trying to pursue her Blackie ends up running into police Inspector Faraday (Richard Lane). The two of them have a friendly rivalry. Faraday has heard about the theft of some pearls and be believes Blackie was responsible. Blackie agrees to go to police headquarters to provide his fingerprints.
Back in his room he finds a dead man. The man that had accosted Marilyn. Blackie knows he is going to be blamed so he leaves Faraday high and dry and heads after Marilyn. Following her in a cab he ends up at Coney Island. Before he can get much out of her she is stabbed with a poison dart. She does manage to tell him to look for a Mechanical Man (Michael Rand) and references a sign. The mechanical man is a man in one of the sideshows that is pretending to be a robot. He and some henchmen see Blackie as a loose end and try to kill him.
Blackie escapes by carjacking and kidnapping Cecelia Bradley (Rochelle Hudson). Cecelia ends up helping Blackie try to figure out what is going on. Blackie, while avoiding Faraday and the henchmen, learns that Marilyn was a spy. The Mechanical Man turns out to be part of a spy ring that is using the freak show at Coney Island as a base for a spy ring. They are communicating with a ship offshore using a sign at the show to send messages in Morse code to the ship. Unless Blackie can get the authorities to listen to him the spies will succeed in smuggling a stolen bombsight out of the country.
“Meet Boston Blackie” was released in 1941 and was directed by Robert Florey. It is a crime comedy and is the first in a series of Boston Blackie films starring Chester Morris. Columbia did fourteen films based on the character. Morris played the lovable crook in all fourteen films and Richard Lane as Inspector Faraday was also in all the Columbia movies. Blackie’s sidekick Runt was played by several actors. Charles Wagenheim was Runt in only the first film.
Blackie is often described as an “enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend.” Horatio “Boston Blackie” Black was created by writer Jack Doyle. Doyle was a reporter in San Francisco. He was also an opium addict. He wrote some bad checks and committed a robbery which landed him in San Quentin. It is there that he began writing Boston Blackie stories. The first short stories appeared in “The American Magazine” in 1914. There were eleven silent Boston Blackie films before Columbia did their series. The Columbia series featuring Chester Morris ran from 1941 to 1949. There was also a radio series, a television series and a graphic novel based on the character.
In the first film the name of the police inspector is spelled Faraday. In the subsequent films it is spelled Farraday.
Actor and sideshow attraction Schlitze Surtees is seen briefly as part of the sideshow. His character was called “Princess Betsy”. Schlitze, who was born with microcephaly, is best known for his appearance in “Freaks” 1932. Microcephaly is a development disorder that results in having a head smaller than normal.