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Queen of the Mob (1940)

Blanche Yurka had already knitted her way through executions by guillotine as Madame Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities (1935) when she became the first actress to play the notorious Ma Barker, renamed Ma Webster at FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s request. This was only the second sound film for the stage legend who had played opposite John Barrymore and fostered the careers of James Stewart and Bette Davis. Although the low-budget adaptation of a chapter from Hoover’s Persons in Hiding was a far cry from her acclaimed productions of Ibsen and Shakespeare, she brought the same unbridled fury to it that inhabited most of her best roles. In the film, she and her sons keep FBI investigator Ralph Bellamy hopping as they stage an inter-state crime spree. 

d. James P. Hogan, 61m, 35mm