The Murder of Mary Phagan

Produced in1988 by Orion Pictures, televised by NBC, color 35mm negative, 1.33:1 screen ratio, mono sound, 251 mins.  
Leo Frank from Little Secrets




"The Murder of Mary Phagan, a television miniseries, is an account of the real-life events fictionalized in the 1937 theatrical feature They Won't Forget. In Atlanta, on April 26, 1913,13-year-old Mary Phagan boarded a trolley heading downtown toward the National Pencil Co. Factory. She arrived around lunch time and stopped by the office of the factory manager, Leo Frank, to collect the wages due her. She had planned to go to the parade that afternoon to watch the widow of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson accept the salute of some 200 surviving Confederate veterans. She never arrived. At 3 the next morning, Newt Lee, the factory night watchman, had just gone down to the basement when light from his lantern struck what looked like a human body. At first he thought someone must be playing a practical joke. But it was no joke. Mary Phagan's boss, Leo Frank (Peter Gallagher), was the last man known to have seen her alive. His nervousness when questioned by detectives became the first piece of material evidence in his indictment. A wave of allegations concerning his moral rectitude toward the young women in his employ provided a dubious second. On this questionable evidence, Leo Frank was charged with the murder of Mary Phagan, inflamed by newspaper hysteria, the people of Atlanta thought only one person could have done it. Leo Frank became a scapegoat for a crime he didn't commit. Leo Frank, unjustly accused of murder and innocent of any crime but that of being a Jew caught in the right place at the wrong time, was not merely convicted by a local jury intimidated by an incensed mob, but his conviction was upheld by superior courts all the way through the United States Supreme Court, which voted 7 to 2 to let Leo Frank hang. The intervention of Governor John Slaton (Jack Lemmon), a man of integrity who was willing to destroy his own political career, almost succeeded in righting an immense wrong. On the eve of Frank's execution, Slaton commuted Frank's sentence to life in prison. Kevin Spacey plays Wesley Brent, an intrepid newspaper reporter who eventually decides to follow his conscience rather than his ambition. "


revised 2/14/03 by Schoenherr | Filmnotes