They Won't Forget

They Won't Forget

Claude Rains
Director: Mervyn LeRoy Cast: Claude Rains
Claude Rains
, Edward Norris
Edward Norris
, Allyn Joslyn
Allyn Joslyn
Mervyn LeRoy

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Overview

This hard-hitting Warner Bros. courtroom drama begins with the usual "Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental" disclaimer. Filmgoers with long memories, however, recognized Robert Rossen and Aben Kandel's screenplay as a blow-by-blow recreation of the Leo Frank-Mary Phagan case of 1915. Phagan, a 14-year-old employee in a Marietta, GA pencil factory, was found murdered. The bulk of the evidence pointed to a black janitor (who actually confessed to the crime years after the fact), but race-baiting Atlanta newspaper publisher Tom Watson decided to go after Leo Frank, the Northern Jew who owned the factory where Mary worked. "We can lynch a nigger any time," the politically ambitious Watson is alleged to have said, "but when do we get a chance to hang a Yankee Jew?" Thanks largely to Watson's "guilt by headline" campaign, and to Fulton County's cooperative solicitor general, Frank was found guilty and sentenced to death. Georgia Governor John M. Slaton, who all along smelled something fishy in the case, commuted Frank's case to life imprisonment (and was ruined politically as a result). En route to prison, Frank was abducted by a mob and lynched, an incident that boosted the prestige of the Georgia Ku Klux Klan. Aben Kandel dramatized this appalling miscarriage of justice in his novel Death in the Deep South, which served as the basis for They Won't Forget. In Mervyn LeRoy's film version, Lana Turner (in a star-making turn) plays Mary Clay, a teen-aged typing school student who dresses garishly and flirts with every man she meets. Mary is later found murdered; the last person to see her alive was her teacher, recently arrived Northerner Robert Hale (Edward Norris). Once more, a black janitor (played as a superstitious moron by Clinton Rosemond) is the most likely suspect, but the ambitious district attorney (Claude Rains) seems sincere in his belief that Hale is guilty. Once Hale is sentenced to death, the governor, played by Paul Everton, commutes his sentence, serene in the belief that, once his career is finished, he'll be able to retire peacefully (real-life governor Slaton did not go down so benignly). Except for the removal of the original case's anti-Semitic elements, They Won't Forget is stark, powerhouse filmmaking, one of the best of Warners' "social protest" films of the 1930s. It was remade as the 1987 TV movie The Murder of Mary Phagan starring Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Peter Gallagher, and Charles S. Dutton (as well as as the unsuccessful 1998 Broadway musical Parade).

Product Details

Release Date: 10/20/2009
UPC: 0883316213742
Original Release: 1937
Rating: NR
Source: Warner Archives
Presentation: [B&W, Full Frame]
Time: 1:35:00
Sales rank: 28,816

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Claude Rains Andrew J. Griffin
Edward Norris Robert Paerry Hale
Allyn Joslyn William P. Brock
Linda Perry Imogene Mayfield
Cy Kendall Detective Laneart
E. Alyn Warren Carlisle P. Buxton
Lana Turner Mary Clay
Clinton Rosemond Tump Redwine
Ann Shoemaker Mrs. Mountford
Donald Briggs Harmon Drake
Trevor Bardette Shattock Clay
Frank Faylen Bill Price
Gloria Dickson Sybil Hate
Otto Kruger Michael Gleason
Elisha Cook Joe Turner
Elizabeth Risdon Mrs. Hale
Granville Bates Det. Pindar
Paul Everton Gov. Thomas Mountford
Elliott Sullivan Luther Clay
Eddie Acuff Fred, the Soda Jerk
Leonard Mudie Judge Moore
Harry Davenport First Veteran
Harry Beresford Veteran
Edward McWade Confederate Soldier
Tom Brower Actor
John Dilson Briggs, the Detective
Earl Dwire Jury Foreman
Jerry Fletcher Boys in Poolroom
Henry Hall Courtroom Extra
Harry Hollingsworth Turnkey
Thomas E. Jackson Actor
I. Stanford Jolley Actor
George Lloyd Detective
Forbes Murray Doughty, the Publisher
William Moore Actor
John Ridgely Actor
Tom Wilson Farmer
Robert Cummings Whippel, the Banker
Al Bridge Actor
Ray Brown Foster
Sibyl Harris Mrs. Clay
Clifford Soubier Jim Timberlake

Technical Credits
Mervyn LeRoy Director,Producer
Adolph Deutsch Score Composer
Arthur Edeson Cinematographer
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Robert M. Haas Art Director
Aben Kandel Screenwriter
Tom Richards Editor
Robert Rossen Screenwriter

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