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In this semidocumentary, an Alabama town is run by a crime syndicate that's grown fat on prostitution and crooked gambling, directed at soldiers from Fort Benning across the river. Lawyer John Patterson, back from the army, is triggered by what he sees to join the reformers with a plan: to run his father Albert for state attorney general. The syndicate responds with escalating violence: is no one safe? Credits preceded by a "newscast" containing spoilers. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
I'm surprised that more people are not aware of this story which climaxed with no less than the murder of the Democratic nominee for Attorney General of Alabama at the time when said nomination was tantamount to election. That the election of Albert Patterson scared the local criminal syndicate into that kind of move is almost unprecedented. The only other example I can think of something like this occurring was in the early years of the last century when Special Prosecutor Francis J. Heney was shot and wounded while he was investigated the corrupt city machine in San Francisco.
After a brief documentary introduction by CBS news reporter Clete Roberts of actual Phenix City residents, the story begins with the Pattersons, father John McIntire and son Richard Kiley getting reluctantly involved in the fight to clean up their town which is notorious for being a wide open cesspool of vice and corruption. It's pointed out that Phenix City is across from Columbus, Georgia and thirty minutes from Fort Benning. A certain amount of vice and corruption will inevitably settle there in towns that cater to the military and the pleasures the service people will seek off duty.
But Phenix City has gotten way out of hand and it's become a state embarrassment to the people of Alabama. Which is why John McIntire wins that primary leading the way to the unheard of events that followed. Let's just say that what happens here was contemplated, but never done in Chicago during the days of Al Capone.
The cast also includes Kathryn Grant as a young woman working as an informer in one of the clubs, Lenka Patterson as Kiley's loyal, but concerned wife, Edward Andrews and John Larch as brains and muscle behind the syndicate. It also includes James Edwards and Helen Martin whose child is killed when Edwards helps Kiley. With I might add the appropriate feeling one might have for a small black girl in Alabama of the Fifties.
After the action of this film John Patterson took his dad's place as Attorney General and did put an end to the corruption of Phenix City. In 1958 he ran for Governor and won, but contrary to what you might think ran on a strict segregationist platform. His main primary opponent taking the more moderate racial position was George C. Wallace. That never happened again, Wallace saw to that.
And Patterson is still alive and in 2008 was a supporter of Barack Obama for president. Truth can really be stranger than fiction.
The Phenix City Story is a hard hitting, pulling no punches documentary style of a family's fight against corruption. Try to see it when next broadcast.
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