Friday, July 24, 2015

Film Noir Czar Eddie Muller on the Nation of Islam’s Zebra Murders

By David in TN

Eddie Muller, a film historian known as the "Czar of Noir," is considered the leading expert on the 40's and 50's movies called “film noir.” On Friday nights this June and July, he introduces four films on TCM. Tomorrow (Friday) night, they will be The Narrow Margin, His Kind of Woman, The Locket and Angel Face.

Muller is a life-long resident of San Francisco. In 2006, he reviewed the Earl Sanders and Bennett Cohen book, The Zebra Murders, in the San Francisco Chronicle. Sanders is the former SFPD police chief with a checkered record. Cohen is a Hollywood screenwriter who was hoping (unsuccessfully so far) for the book to be a feature film.

Muller begins by noting in the early 1970's San Francisco was "dangerously close to exploding." He mentions the Panthers, Weathermen, Patty Hearst, etc, and notes "the most shocking crime of the era, oddly enough, is largely forgotten.

He writes, "Nobody wants to remember." And just why is that, Eddie?

Muller acknowledges "Zebra, Clark Howard's far more detailed 1979 book on the subject." The Sanders-Cohen work is different by "the Hollywood-style hook of telling the story through the eyes of two black cops helping to hunt down the killers-while they're bringing a racial discrimination lawsuit against the SFPD." And:

"But for much of its 288 pages, 'The Zebra Murders' unfortunately plays like a formulaic Court TV docudrama, due no doubt to co-author Cohen's screenwriting background." And:

"A cynic might think the book was created to pitch a movie version starring Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx."

Well, a cynic might think that, wouldn't he?

N.S. This guy is terrible. He makes some mild criticisms of Cohen’s style, while lying, in order to make it seem as though Cohen and Sanders were completely right on substance, and to make it look as if blacks—Sanders and his partner, Rotea Gilford—had made some contribution toward solving the case. This is to buttress his and Sanders’ unsupportable assertion that one must hire blacks and other high-crime groups as cops based on racial quotas, in order to have good policing.

No black officers helped at all. It wasn’t Sanders and Gilford who figured that everything was running out of the Nation of Islam’s San Francisco mosque, it was white Homicide Inspector John Fotinos. The case was solved by Fotinos’ partner, Gus Coreris’ gamble of dictating two fake, generic suspect sketches to the SFPD sketch artist, which led to Anthony Cornelius Harris turning himself in, to collect the reward, get a new identity, and whose information and testimony broke the case. Harris was the only witness the prosecution had. Without him, the killers would still be at large, excepting those who have since died.

Black officers played two roles in the case, both disastrous: Rotea Gilford sought to exploit it as an affirmative action scam, to load up the department with unqualified black cops, and SFPD Officer Jesse Byrd, an NOI infiltrator, sought to help the NOI assassins murder Anthony Cornelius Harris, the officers guarding him, and Harris’ lawyer and NOI “wife.” (Harris kept marrying women, without ever divorcing them. This wife was number two or three.) Gus Coreris told the story about Jesse Byrd to Clark Howard during the 1970s, and confirmed it to me in a 2006 interview.

Links to Related Articles

The NOI Ambush Murder of New York City PD Patrolman Philip Cardillo.

Domestic Terrorism: The Nation of Islam and the Zebra Murders

The NOI’s Oklahoma City, OK Murders.


Anonymous said...

"and to make it look as if blacks—Sanders and his partner, Rotea Gilford—had made some contribution toward solving the case."

I notice the crime shows I watch, whenever the perp is black the show will have black actors as police or as spokesmen for the show and the show will brush over the fact the perp is black, but his is usually not a problem because the crime shows hardly ever have a show with a black as perp.

David In TN said...

I just watched my DVR recording of Angel Face. In his introduction, Eddie Muller tells us that the film came about because RKO boss Howard Hughes wanted to torture Jean Simmons. Hughes had wanted Simmons for other reasons than her acting ability and she and husband Stewart Granger hated Hughes so much they thought of killing him to put an end to "Hughes' unwanted advances."

Jean Simmons was obligated to Howard Hughes for one last film before she could escape his clutches. Hughes decided to put her through the ringer.

Hughes took a rejected script, hired Otto Preminger from Fox and ordered him to "make life hell" for leading lady Simmons. She was afraid she might not survive making Angel Face.

Hughes and Preminger forced Simmons to have her hair chopped off and wear a wig, "a stunt done just to aggravate Stewart Granger."

Muller said "Angel Face has an especially dreadful and despairing tone, even for a film noir." He considers it one of his favorite film noirs.

David In TN said...

Sanders and Cohen showed up again in a July 19 piece in the San Francisco Chronicle comparing the Zebra Murders to today's police killings. Their prescription? "Stay true to our values." And:

"Eventually, the assailants were caught and the killing was stopped--not by suspending the Constitution and civil liberties, but by good, hard police work done not only by white officers, but by black officers as well."

Wrong, Coreris and Fotinos cracked the case.

Nicholas said...

Dear David,

Thanks for the heads-up. There are so many lies in that short piece, some of which are easily caught, like the claim that "The assailants in the Zebra murders were eventually proved to be fringe members of the Nation of Islam, which was then being torn apart by factionalism after the death of its founder." there are no fewer than three lies in that one sentence. They weren't fringe members; there was no "factionalism," because Elijah Muhammad was still very much alive, and he wasn't even the founder.

David In TN said...

For a week or so, I had been checking to see if anyone connected the Zebra murders to today's attacks on police officers. Today I found something by Sanders and Cohen, of all people. They are still lying like a pair of rugs.

I'll keep checking Google for any more stories on the subject.