Last night some neo-Nazi hooligans protested the first preview performance of Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry‘s Parade, a 1998 historical musical that’s being revived at the Bernard B. Jacobs theatre (242 West 45th Street).
It dramatizes the trial, imprisonment and lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent who was falsely convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan, in 1913 Atlanta. After his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1915, Frank was seized by an anti-Semitic mob and hanged from a tree in Marietta, Georgia — Phegan’s home town.
Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) plays Frank in the stage revival. Last night he posted a statement about the anti-Semitic protest.
I don’t have much interest in catching Parade, but this morning I was recalling my one and only viewing of Mervyn LeRoy‘s They Won’t Forget, a 1937 drama based on the same tragedy.
Pic was based on Ward Greene‘s “Death in the Deep South,” a fictionalized account of the Frank case. It starred Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson, Edward Norris and — in her feature debut — Lana Turner.
For decades LeRoy successfully functioned as a smooth and dependable house director of big-studio features — The Wizard Of Oz (partially — Victor Fleming received credit), Thirty seconds Over Tokyo, Little Women, Any Number Can Play, Quo Vadis?, Million Dollar Mwemaid, Mister Roberts, No Time for Sergeants, The FBI Story, The Devil at 4 O’Clock, A Majority of One, Gypsy. But he made his best films in the early to mid ’30s — Little Ceasar, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang and They Won’t Forget.
Consider how LeRoy concluded Forget‘s lynching scene — not with a literal depiction but a snagging of a mail sack as a train speeds by. That’s John Ford-level expressionism.
Parade will open on 3.16.