Black Fury (film)

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Black Fury
Black Fury35.jpg
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Hal B. Wallis (uncredited executive producer)
Jack L. Warner (uncredited executive producer)
Written by Michael A. Musmanno (story)
Harry R. Irving (play)
Abem Finkel
Carl Erickson
Starring Paul Muni
Karen Morley
William Gargan
Cinematography Byron Haskin
Distributed by Warner Brothers
Release dates
  • May 18, 1935 (1935-05-18)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Black Fury is a 1935 American crime film starring Paul Muni, Karen Morley, and William Gargan. It was adapted by Abem Finkel and Carl Erickson from the short story "Jan Volkanik" by Judge Michael A. Musmanno and the play Bohunk by Harry R. Irving. Directed by Michael Curtiz, the plot is based on a historic incident in 1929 in Pennsylvania, in which Mike Shemanski, a striking coal miner, was beaten to death by private company police.[1]

In 1936, at the 8th Academy Awards, Muni was not officially nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, but he came in second on the basis of write-in votes, which were allowed that year.

In 1966, Musmanno published a novel version of the screenplay. It was published as Black Fury.


Set in Pennsylvania coal country, the film tells the story of Joe Radek, a miner who has come from immigrants. Upset after an argument with his girlfriend, he drinks and attends a union meeting, where he acts as a catalyst to splitting the radical and conservative factions; they decide to go out on strike. During violence by the Coal and Iron Police, his best friend is killed.[1]



Judge Michael Musmanno prosecuted three company police for the murder of Mike Shemanski, "an innocent miner," at Imperial, Pennsylvania, in 1929. Later he wrote a short story, "Jan Volkanik," about the incident. This and the play Bohunk, by Harry R. Irving, were adapted for the film in a screenplay written by Abem Finkel and Carl Erickson.[1]


The critic for The New York Times wrote, "Magnificently performed by Paul Muni, it comes up taut against the censorial safety belts and tells a stirring tale of industrial war in the coal fields."[1] The film was "banned in several sectors."[1] He described it as "the most notable American experiment in social drama since Our Daily Bread.'"[1]


  • In 1936, a year in which the Academy Awards accepted write-in votes, Paul Muni came in second for Best Actor for his performance.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g ANDRE SENNWALD, Review: Black Fury, New York Times, 11 April 1935, accessed 12 September 2013

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