Tuesday, July 10, 2018

TCM is Showing Phil Karlson’s The Phenix City Story (1955) at 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday Night-Wednesday Morning, Starring Richard Kiley, John McIntire, James Edwards, Kathryn Grant and the Secret Star



By David in TN
Sunday, July 8, 2018 at 7:17:00 P.M. EDT

TCM is showing The Phenix City Story (1955) at 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday Night-Wednesday Morning. This is one of the 50's crime stories often lumped in the film noir category.


John McIntire: In Phenix, he played an ill-fated hero. The same year, however, he played one of the all-time great heavies, the murderous, larcenous, Roy Bean-style "judge" in The Far Country, who tells Jimmy Stewart's protagonist, "I like you. I'm gonna hang you, but I like you." After the unfiortunate, 1960 death of star Ward Bond, McIntire replaced Bond for five years on the hit TV Western, Wagon Train (1957-1965), and finally became a star and a household name. That was TV's good side.

The Phenix City Story stars Richard Kiley, John McIntire, James Edwards and Kathryn Grant (the future Mrs. Bing Crosby). It's directed by Phil Karlson, who liked to have a black guy as the hero's friend. In the 50's, James Edwards was the choice when a black actor was needed.

That's James Edwards on the far right of the frame

Thou shalt not kill: Edwards and star Richard Kiley

It's based on the true story of Phenix, Alabama, called "Sin City of the South." A prominent attorney named Albert Patterson (portrayed by John McIntire) agreed to run for Alabama Attorney General to destroy the crime gang called the "Dixie Mafia." Albert Patterson was assassinated after winning the Democratic primary, which would ensure election. The Dixie Mafia would do what the Italian Mafia would not—kill a prominent citizen.

Jean Carson and Edward Andrews

John Patterson, son of Albert, took his place and won the election. Richard Kiley plays him in the film.


Above and below: Two views of Meg Myles as Judy, who wasn't even credited at the time


Karlson takes these facts and gives an action-packed, but fictionalized story. He did the same thing with the massive 1973 box office hit, Walking Tall, about Sheriff Buford Pusser.

In real life, John Patterson was elected Governor of Alabama in 1958 by running as a hard-line segregationist. He beat a racial moderate named George Wallace. Interestingly, Patterson was an admirer of John F. Kennedy, enthusiastically supporting JFK for President in 1960. In 1961, Patterson put the Alabama Air National Guard at their disposal for the Bay of Pigs operation.


In later years, John Patterson said he took the segregationist position because the people wanted it. In 2008, Patterson endorsed Barack Obama. He had become what he was portrayed as by Richard Kiley in Karlson's film.


Kathryn Grant

N.S.: Life imitates art imitating life? Whoo, my head is spinning, David!


Phil Karlson was a muckraking journalist disguised as a movie director.

And who was the secret star? Why, Edward Andrews as crime boss Rhett Tanner, of course! Andrews deserved an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for Phenix, but never got one for this or any other picture.


Edward Andrews in a typical, smirking pose

When I was a kid, you could see Edward Andrews several times a week on TV, in new TV episodes and old, playing unlikeable or downright evil characters with great relish.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Phenix City AL. Right across the Georgia state border from Ft. Benning. Lots of vice for the GI to indulge in. A very rough place indeed.