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Peter van Eyck,
Based on the story "Mob Rule" by Norman Krasna. Joe Wilson and Katherine Grant are in love, but he doesn't have enough money for them to get married. So Katherine moves across the country to make money. But things go disastrously wrong for Joe when he stops in a small town and is mistaken for a wanted murderer. Through the course of the movie, Fritz Lang shows us how a decent and once civilized man can become a ruthless and bitter man. Written by
Andre'a M. Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If Fritz Lang had died or been killed by the Nazis (whom he detested and opposed)in 1933 or 1934, it is stunning to realize that his position as a great film director would have been assured. He would have already had METROPOLIS, SPIES, DR. MABUSE, and M down to establish his credentials as a master of cinematic art. But he left Germany to escape the real villains who were coming to power. And he ended up, after briefly staying in France, coming to the U.S. Most of his later films would be made in the U.S. FURY is his first American masterpiece - a study of mob violence, and the destructive forces it unleases in even the most decent people. Here, it is Spencer Tracy, the erstwhile victim of a lynch mob, who becomes demonic in retaliation for his own mistreatment at their hands. It would be a theme Lang would return to again and again in later films - Edward G. Robinson turning on Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea in SCARLET STREET is a good example.
Like many great crime films it is based on an actual incident that occurred in San Jose, California in 1933. Brooke Harte, the son of a wealthy department store owner, was kidnapped by two rather stupid men, Harold Thurmond and Jack Holmes, for a ransom, and drowned when they collected the money. Brooke had been a very popular young man, and when the men were caught a mob attacked the jail, and killed them (hanging at least Thurmond when he was still alive - Holmes was beaten to death in the jail). The incident gained notoriety around the globe (the Nazis had the nerve to use it to suggest Americans were violent degenerates - and frequently republished photos of the dead men as propaganda in World War II). It was hard to hide the story - the mobs were filmed attacking the jail, and (as mentioned above) the swinging bodies of the two kidnappers were photographed. Most people in America were appalled by the incident, but it had defenders. Governor James Rolph (former Mayor of San Francisco) defended the lynch mob beyond any reasonable point (Rolph was running for re-election, and in ill health - he would die before the reelection was held).
A fine account of the crime, SWIFT JUSTICE by Harry Farrell, only touches lightly on the Lang movie. The similarities with the newsreel trucks and even a Rolph-clone (Clarence Kolb, in a small but sinister role as a powerful man trying to convince the Sheriff - Edward Ellis - to leave the jail underprotected from the mob)are there. But Lang allows Tracy to survive, unlike Thurmond and Holmes. Also, in reality the newsreel footage was not clear enough (like that in the film) to be used against the defendants in their trial. In fact, nobody was ever indicted for the lynch murders of Thurmond and Holmes.
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