Monday, April 12, 2010

Screening a Lynching: Leo Frank Case Revisited

Editor's Note:  Was Leo Frank guilty?  Many believe he was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.  Recently, one of our staff members was told that he was innocent.  The person who conveyed that message said her parents knew who had committed the crime, but she never had any knowledge of the guilty party's name. One has to wonder if those who knew, or thought they knew, who had actually murdered Phagan ever had nightmares for keeping silent on the issue.

Almost a century after Jewish factory owner Leo Frank was convicted of the murder of his worker Mary Phagan in Atlanta, the case continues to captivate audiences and filmmakers. Then and now, controversy about his guilt - and deep horror about his eventual lynching by a white mob in an Atlanta suburb - have made the case unforgettable.

In his new book, "Screening a Lynching: The Leo Frank Case on Film and Television" (The University of Georgia Press, 2009), Professor and Chair of Film Studies Matthew Bernstein dissects four screen treatments of the case. While they span more than half a century - and include one by a self-taught African American filmmaker - Bernstein explores what's behind the ongoing fascination.

Click to hear Bernstein talk about the case:

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