Monday, November 7, 2016


(Post 3 of 10)

The Phenix City Story is a most interesting motion picture. The first part of the movie has interviewer Clete Roberts interviewing members of the town of Phenix City, Alabama about episodes of corruption in their community and how their town has been run under the thumb of crime boss Rhett Tanner.

We then start the actual movie which dramatizes the events of these occurrences featuring the crime syndicate and the few brave souls (including Richard Kiley above) who bravely stand up to them. The movie overall is a blend of Film Noir, Southern Gothic and documentary, making The Phoenix City Story a combination of styles that I've never seen lumped together quite like this before. We see some horrific images in this movie, the most famous of which might be the murder of a young black girl. The uniqueness of the project alone puts this in my 1001 book.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to..Edward Andrews

But first, there are several other interesting supporting players in The Phenix City Story.

John McIntyre-plays the reluctant, but good old politician here. McIntyre's career was made up chiefly of Westerns, I know him from best as the sheriff in Psycho.

Kathryn Grant-The leading lady of this movie is best known for later marrying Bing Crosby and being a fixture on The Crosby family holiday specials that ran until Bing's death in 1977.

John Larch-Character actor Larch just has one of those faces you've probably scene in countless movies (including Written on the Wind) and TV shows. He plays a particular nasty thug in Phenix City. I remember him best from The Twilight Zone Episode "It's a Good Life." To his demonic son in that episode: "But it's good that you're making it snow, Anthony, - it's real good. And tomorrow - tomorrow's going to be a real good day!"

James Edwards-I was trying to remember where I saw James Edwards before and realized that it was in the parking lot scene with Timothy Carey in Kubrick's The Killing. He also had a role in as one of the platoons members in  The Manchurian Candidate.

Clete Roberts-Real life reporter Roberts is the featured interviewer in the narrative section of Phenix City. I realized where I had seen him before (again as the interviewer) was in a memorable episode of MASH.

Edward Andrews in The Phenix City Story 
Edward Andrews-But my official award goes to Edward Andrews who almost always seemed to play a smug, unlikable businessman or in this case a politician. He's particularly nasty in Phenix City and plays a corrupt character that's easy to hate. Andrews appeared in more TV shows over the years than movies, including the part of someone terrorized by an automobile in another Twilight Zone episode called You Drive.

But what I remember him best for is a 1975 Die Hard battery commercial that played for years. In that commercial, Andrews and his wife are going to a formal function of some kind and can't start his car. He goes back in his house and sheepishly asks his son if he may borrow his car. The son throws him his keys and reminds Andrews to not forget to put some gas in it. Andrews indignant look at this statement is the highlight of the commercial. The couple go to their function in their son's hippie wheels as the announcer reminds us to use all to use a Die Hard battery next time. One of the best commercials of the 70's.

Edward Andrews in Die Hard: 1975


  1. This movie is shockingly brutal. The murder of the little girl is just awful. If the purpose was to stir righteous anger they succeeded.

  2. This is an odd duck of a film, isn't it? It's almost compelling in spite of itself.

  3. I've honestly never seen anything quite like it. And in this case, that's a good thing.

  4. There was this kid I grew up with; he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me, you know. We did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition, we ran molasses into Canada... made a fortune, your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him and trusted him. Later on he had an idea to build a city out of a podunk town in east Alabama for GIs in Georgia. That kid's name was Chris, A Librarian. And the city he invented was Phenix City. This was a great man, a man of vision and guts. And there isn't even a plaque, or a signpost or a statue of him in that town! Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order. When I heard it, I wasn't angry; I knew Chris. I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we've chosen; I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!

  5. All kidding aside, I found this movie to be a rather jarring experience. The interviews with the real people involved were particularly unsettling. I can't imagine. And then comes the transition from documentary to dramatization which was just weird. Maybe they would have done better to stick to one format or the other, either all documentary or all movie? Although, as an earlier commenter said, I guess if their goal was simply to stir up anger with an unaware public, then you could probably call it a success.