Black Hand: Gene Kelly in Dramatic Role as Italian Immigrant

In Black Hand, a little known crime period piece, Gene Kelly, famous for his dancing and singing in MGM musicals, essays successfully a serious dramatic role as an Italian immigrant in New York.

The tale begins in 1900 as Roberto Colombo, an Italian-American attorney living in the Little Italy, is killed by gangsters as he meets with a police officer to inform about an attempt of money extortion.

His widow and son return to Italy where his widow dies. In 1908, his son Giovanni Colombo (Gene Kelly) returns to New York City determined to conduct a vendetta against the men who killed his father. He meets up with childhood friend Isabella Gomboli (Teresa Celli) and police detective Louis Lorelli (J. Carrol Naish), who try to dissuade him.

Giovanni and Isabella rally people in Little Italy against the Black Hand racket, but that movement is dealt a set-back when Giovanni is attacked and his leg is broken. Recovering from his injury, Giovanni decides to study law as his father had.  The bombing of a local store convinces Giovanni to put his studies aside and help track down the perpetrators.

At the trial, a key witness is intimidated and refuses to testify, but the defendant is deported when police in Naples identify him as a fugitive from justice there.

After the deportation, Lorelli travels to Italy to identify other Italian criminals.  He is killed after mailing his report to Giovanni in New York City. To prevent the list from reaching the authorities, the gangsters kidnap Isabella’s young brother.  After the gangsters get the list and the boy is released, Giovanni escapes and saves the list by igniting a bomb.

Cast

Gene Kelly as Giovanni E. “Johnny” Columbo

J.  Carrol Naish as Louis Lorelli

Teresa Celli as Isabella Gomboli

Marc Lawrence as Caesar Xavier Serp

Frank Puglia as Carlo Sabballera

Barry Kelley as Police Captain Thompson

Mario Siletti as Benny Danetta / Nino

Carl Milletaire as George Allani / Tomasino