Monday, 19 September 2011


"Leo Max Frank (April 17, 1884 – August 17, 1915) was a Jewish-American businessman whose lynching in 1915 by a party of prominent citizens in Marietta, Georgia drew attention to antisemitism in the United States and led to the founding of the Anti-Defamation League.

The superintendent of the National Pencil Company in Atlanta, Leo Max Frank, was convicted on August 26, 1913 of the murder of one of the factory workers, 13-year-old Mary Phagan. She had been strangled on April 26, and was found dead in the factory cellar the next day. Frank was the last person known to have seen her alive, and there were allegations that he had flirted with her in the past. His trial became the focus of powerful class and political interests. Raised in New York, he was cast as a representative of Yankee capitalism, a rich northern Jew lording it over vulnerable working women, as the historian Albert Lindemann put it. Former U.S. Representative Thomas E. Watson used the sensational coverage of the case in his own newspapers to push for a revival of the Ku Klux Klan, calling Frank a member of the Jewish aristocracy who had pursued "Our Little Girl" to a hideous death. Frank and his lawyers resorted to stereotypes too, accusing another suspect—Jim Conley, a black factory worker who testified against Frank—of being especially disposed to lying and murdering because of his race.

There was jubilation in the streets when Frank was found guilty and sentenced to death. By June 1915 his appeals had failed, but Governor John M. Slaton believed there had been a miscarriage of justice, and commuted the sentence to life imprisonment—to great local outrage, in part because Slaton was a partner in the law firm that had defended Frank. A crowd of 5,000 marched on Slaton's home in protest, and two months later Frank was kidnapped from prison by a mob of 25 armed men—the "Knights of Mary Phagan"—who drove him 150 miles to Frey's Mill, near Phagan's home in Marietta, and hanged him. A crowd gathered after the hanging; one man repeatedly stamped on Frank's face, while others took photographs, pieces of his nightshirt, and bits of the rope to sell as souvenirs.

On March 11, 1986, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Frank a pardon, citing the state's failure to protect him or prosecute his killers, though they stopped short of exonerating him. The names of the lynchers, though well known locally, were not made public until January 2000, when Stephen Goldfarb, an Atlanta librarian and former history professor, published a list on his website. The Washington Post writes that it includes several prominent citizens—a former governor, the son of a senator, a Methodist minister, a state legislator, and a former state Superior Court judge—their names matching those on Marietta's street signs, office buildings, shopping centers, and law offices today." So says Wikipedia.

You may think the lynching of a Jew would make a strange source for a musical, and indeed so would I, but we went to see 'Parade' this weekend. Parade is based on the terrible true story of Leo Frank. Oddly, the performance was remarkable, and the musical numbers only added to the pathos of the whole thing. We saw it at the Southwark Playhouse under the arches of London Bridge station. Recommended. It'll make you think. It'll make you wonder whether even today's American justice system is all that it should be.

On the other hand, Shrek The Musical, is a jolly old thing which we went to see with just about all The Cat's Mother's family on Sunday. But it doesn't really hit the highs of the original movie. It wasn't helped by the theatre being only half full, but most of the performers didn't really put much effort in. Particularly Richard Blackwood as Donkey...he was a very dull ass indeed. It's a shame that the actors don't just let themselves go, or perhaps the whole thing could be re-scripted as a pantomime...otherwise I can see it shutting up shop before the New Year.

I'd love to tell you all about the twists and turns in the filming of Brad Pitt's new film World War Z, as I've been privy to all sorts of stuff. It almost hurts keeping a secret, but I must. Perhaps if I'm a good boy Angelina will drop round to massage my ego.

The Firsts went down 3-6 on the rugby field on Saturday, and he was rather more han disappointed. And so he should have been. I could only stay for the first half, but really I could see they could and should have won. But to be a winning team you need attention to detail, determination and a twist of luck. I'll be cheering him on next week.