Monday, May 26, 2014

Film of the Week: They Won’t Forget, 1937

Though at first glance, 1937’s They Won’t Forget seems like a simple story about a small Southern town, a secretarial school, a girl and her sweater. As the film continues, however, it’s clear that there’s more going on. This is a tale of racism, murder and continued, post-Civil-War resentment.

Based on Ward Greene’s novel Death in The Deep South, the film is also a fictionalized account of a true murder case—1913’s trial and subsequent lynching of Leo Frank following the murder of Mary Phagan. Directed by an un-credited Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Jack Warner for Warner Brothers, the film stars Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson, Edward Norris, and an almost unrecognizable Lana Turner in her first film role.

The film begins on Confederate Memorial Day as a small Southern Town is rocked by the murder of one of their most beloved young citizens. What develops in a vicious tale of politics, prejudice and enduring distrust between the North and the South.

Rains gives an excellent performance as cruel District Attorney, Andrew Griffin. Similarly, Edward Norris is superb in the role of the teacher who is wrongly accused of the girl’s murder. The performances are heavily 1930’s in style, but they hold up well and are perfect in communicating the subject matter without being overwrought.

It’s an interesting film which doesn’t get much attention or play. It’s one that would be wroth finding and watching if you have an interest in history or are a fan of the always engaging Mr. Rains. 

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