The Klansman (1974)

R | 112 mins | Drama | 13 November 1974

Director:

Terence Young

Cinematographer:

Lloyd Ahern

Editor:

Gene Milford

Production Designer:

Jack Poplin
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HISTORY

Before the end credits, the following acknowledgement appears onscreen: “We would like to thank the citizens of Oroville for their enthusiastic help and cooperation in the making of this film.”
       The end credits state that Atlanta Companypany copyrighted the film in 1974, but the film is not included in the Copyright Catalog.
       On 31 Dec 1967, a NYT news item announced that the film rights to William Bradford Huie’s novel, The Klansman, which was published earlier that year, sold for $100,000 to the Robert J. Leder Company and Korey Associates. Television director Donald Stewart was slated to make his feature film directorial debut on the project and actor Chuck Connors reportedly made a commitment to play the starring role of “Sherrif Bascomb.” A 10 Jan 1968 DV brief noted that principal photography would commence in Spring 1968.
       However, the project remained in limbo until late 1973 or early 1974, when African American independent producer William Alexander purchased film rights to Huie’s novel for $50,000 and a “large percentage” of the film’s proceeds, according to a 25 Mar 1974 Publishers Weekly news item. As stated in a 30 Jan 1974 HR report, Alexander teamed with executive producer Bill Shiffrin to raise over $4 million from private investors to finance the picture and although Paramount Pictures Corp. had successfully bid against two competing major Hollywood studios for the film’s distribution rights, Paramount was not expected to fund the production. Principal photography was set to begin 19 Feb 1974 in Oroville, CA, although HR production charts on 8 Feb 1974 and ... More Less

Before the end credits, the following acknowledgement appears onscreen: “We would like to thank the citizens of Oroville for their enthusiastic help and cooperation in the making of this film.”
       The end credits state that Atlanta Companypany copyrighted the film in 1974, but the film is not included in the Copyright Catalog.
       On 31 Dec 1967, a NYT news item announced that the film rights to William Bradford Huie’s novel, The Klansman, which was published earlier that year, sold for $100,000 to the Robert J. Leder Company and Korey Associates. Television director Donald Stewart was slated to make his feature film directorial debut on the project and actor Chuck Connors reportedly made a commitment to play the starring role of “Sherrif Bascomb.” A 10 Jan 1968 DV brief noted that principal photography would commence in Spring 1968.
       However, the project remained in limbo until late 1973 or early 1974, when African American independent producer William Alexander purchased film rights to Huie’s novel for $50,000 and a “large percentage” of the film’s proceeds, according to a 25 Mar 1974 Publishers Weekly news item. As stated in a 30 Jan 1974 HR report, Alexander teamed with executive producer Bill Shiffrin to raise over $4 million from private investors to finance the picture and although Paramount Pictures Corp. had successfully bid against two competing major Hollywood studios for the film’s distribution rights, Paramount was not expected to fund the production. Principal photography was set to begin 19 Feb 1974 in Oroville, CA, although HR production charts on 8 Feb 1974 and 29 Mar 1974, the last day the film appeared in the listing, stated that filming began 18 Feb 1974.
       Studio production notes from AMPAS library files noted that Alexander had read The Klansman while living in Europe in 1972, and abandoned several other projects to produce the picture. Alexander was formerly a documentary filmmaker and was in contact with Shiffrin, a Hollywood talent agent, because he previously hired several of Shiffrin’s clients. After raising funds, British filmmaker Terence Young, who was known for directing the first three films in the James Bond series, was hired as director. Although the first version of the script was written by Samuel Fuller, Young requested rewrites by Millard Kaufman to preserve the “concept of the book.”
       A 13 Sep 1974 HR news item reported that actor Lance Parker was injured during production on 4 Apr 1974 when a shotgun detonated in his hand. Parker filed a worker’s compensation claim for damages caused by the accident. Although the film marked football player O. J. Simpson’s acting debut in a theatrically released feature film, he appeared in the apparently unreleased film Why? which was directed by Victor Stoloff in 1973, according to an Oct 1973 issue of AmCin.
       After The Klansman’s release, Alexander was sued by financier Rudolph Johnson Jr. over an Oct 1972 contract that stipulated Johnson would assist Alexander in obtaining Young, Burton and Marvin for the film in return for fifty percent of Alexander’s share in the picture, according to a 15 Dec 1976 Var article. Johnson claimed that he was never compensated and Alexander agreed to a $30,000 settlement. However, Alexander paid only $10,000 and Johnson filed another lawsuit. Although Alexander made an additional $2000 payment, he appealed Johnson’s charges and attempted to hide his personal assets by transferring the title to his home to his wife, according to a judgment by the Second Appellate Court. Upholding Johnson’s claims, the court ruled that Alexander would not have secured Young’s participation in the film without Johnson’s assistance, and Young recruited Burton. Johnson was therefore awarded an “attachment” to Alexander’s home as compensation for the remaining $18,000 debt. According to a 4 Aug 1978 DV report, Johnson remained unpaid until a jury formally ordered Alexander to uphold the 1974 court decision in a 24 Jul 1978 hearing.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Oct 1973.
---
Box Office
25 Nov 1974
p. 4737.
Cue
2 -- 8 Dec 1974.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1968.
---
Daily Variety
1 Nov 1974.
---
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1976.
---
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1978.
---
Films and Filming
Aug 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 1974
p. 22.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1974
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 1974
p. 3, 17.
LAHExam
13 Nov 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1974
Section IV, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times
18 Dec 1974.
---
Motion Picture Product Digest
13 Nov 1974.
---
New York Times
31 Dec 1967.
---
New York Times
21 Nov 1974
p. 54.
Publishers Weekly
25 Mar 1974.
---
Time
25 Nov 1974.
---
Variety
6 Nov 1974
p. 20.
Variety
15 Dec 1976.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A William Alexander/Bill Shiffrin Production
A Terence Young film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Supv cam
Still photog
Head grip
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Lead man
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Arr and cond by
Supv by
Supv by
Addl mus by
Addl mus by
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd boom man
Supv re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
make-up
Make-up
Make-up
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Asst to prod
Loc man
Scr supv
Casting
Loc casting
Prod auditor
Prod secy
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Klansman by William Bradford Huie (New York, 1967).
SONGS
"The Good Christian People," by Mack Rice and Bettye Crutcher, sung by The Staples Singers.
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 November 1974
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 13 November 1974
New York opening: 20 November 1974
Production Date:
18 February--early April 1974 in Oroville, CA
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

After breaking up a group of white locals who are attacking an African American couple for sport, an Atoka County, Alabama, sheriff named Track Bascomb visits landowner Breck Stancill to ask if organizers for the upcoming African American voter registration demonstration will be permitted to stay on his property. Sheriff reports that townspeople are suspicious of Stancill’s liberal beliefs, but Stancill expresses resentment toward the community for imposing their prejudices. Later that evening, on a nearby country road, a local couple named Bobby and Nancy Poteet have car trouble, and Nancy is raped when Bobby goes to town for a spare tire. Meanwhile, Mayor Hardy leads a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) meeting. Although the Klansmen want to use violence to prevent African Americans from participating in the voter registration demonstration, Hardy discourages murder and church burning. However, the mayor rails against the “Communist” agitators who are coming to town to meddle with local politics. Just then, Hardy receives news that Nancy was raped and the Klansmen plan to take revenge on Willy Washington, an African American whom they assume is responsible. Sometime later, Bascomb arrests Washington at a pool hall. Although Washington’s friend, Garth, attempts to fight the sheriff, Washington leaves with Bascomb when a gang of rifle-toting Klansmen pull up in a truck; Washington claims that he feels safer in police custody. Later that evening, the Klansmen take their aggression out on Garth and his friend Henry, who is shot dead while Garth gets away. The next day in prison, Washington tells Bascomb that he is innocent. Meanwhile, Stancill meets his African American friend, Loretta Sykes, at ... +


After breaking up a group of white locals who are attacking an African American couple for sport, an Atoka County, Alabama, sheriff named Track Bascomb visits landowner Breck Stancill to ask if organizers for the upcoming African American voter registration demonstration will be permitted to stay on his property. Sheriff reports that townspeople are suspicious of Stancill’s liberal beliefs, but Stancill expresses resentment toward the community for imposing their prejudices. Later that evening, on a nearby country road, a local couple named Bobby and Nancy Poteet have car trouble, and Nancy is raped when Bobby goes to town for a spare tire. Meanwhile, Mayor Hardy leads a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) meeting. Although the Klansmen want to use violence to prevent African Americans from participating in the voter registration demonstration, Hardy discourages murder and church burning. However, the mayor rails against the “Communist” agitators who are coming to town to meddle with local politics. Just then, Hardy receives news that Nancy was raped and the Klansmen plan to take revenge on Willy Washington, an African American whom they assume is responsible. Sometime later, Bascomb arrests Washington at a pool hall. Although Washington’s friend, Garth, attempts to fight the sheriff, Washington leaves with Bascomb when a gang of rifle-toting Klansmen pull up in a truck; Washington claims that he feels safer in police custody. Later that evening, the Klansmen take their aggression out on Garth and his friend Henry, who is shot dead while Garth gets away. The next day in prison, Washington tells Bascomb that he is innocent. Meanwhile, Stancill meets his African American friend, Loretta Sykes, at the bus stop. Loretta has returned from Chicago, Illinois, to visit her ailing grandmother who lives rent-free on Stancill’s property, but locals suspect that Loretta is involved with the voter registration demonstration. One day, Loretta is visited by civil rights organizers Rev. Josh Franklin and Charles Peck, who recruit her into the movement. As she shows the men around Stancill’s land, she points out a tree where Stancill’s grandfather was hung by Klansmen for assisting African Americans. That night, Garth avenges Henry’s murder by disguising himself in a Klansman’s robe and shooting the Grand Wizard dead. At the police station the next day, Bascomb evades questions from reporters and learns that Bobby Poteet is leaving town in shame over the violation of his wife by an African American. Later, Bascomb escorts Nancy Poteet from a church service, where she is shunned by the community. The sheriff convinces Stancill to host Nancy at his home so she will be safely removed from town, but Mayor Hardy warns Bascomb that he will not be re-elected sheriff if he continues his alliance with Stancill. Sometime later, Garth opens fire at the funeral of the Grand Wizard, provoking a gunfight and a car accident. Deputy Butt Cutt Cates and the Klansmen raid Loretta’s home, searching for Garth. Cates detains Loretta for conspiring with “Communists” and punishes her with rape. Meanwhile, Stancill dines at Bascomb’s home and the sheriff warns his friend that his life is at stake if he continues to defy the KKK. When Bascomb later discovers Loretta raped and bleeding to death, he insists that she make a false report of the incident before taking her to the hospital to protect the integrity of his department. Although Loretta tells the doctor that she was violated by a group of African American men, she confesses to Stancill that Bascomb asked her to lie. Sometime later, at the voter registration demonstration, Garth kills another Klansman with a sniper shot and gets away undetected by hiding in Stancill’s jeep. As Stancill drives Loretta home from the hospital, she reports her intention stay in town to prevent other women from being raped and Garth surprises them in the backseat. Garth holds Stancill at gunpoint and claims that African Americans will only achieve equality with an armed revolution, but Loretta says that his violent protests are ineffective. As Garth runs into the woods, he invites Stancill and Loretta to join his fight. Returning home, Stancill discovers that the Klansmen have killed his dog; he is comforted by Nancy and they make love. That evening, at the police station, Bascomb is held at gunpoint by the Klansmen, including Cates, who demand access to Willy Washington. However, a young woman named Mrs. Shaneyfelt shows up to exonerate Washington, claiming that she was with him the night of Nancy’s rape, and her Klansman husband attacks her. Bascomb then goes to Garth’s home, accusing him of Nancy’s rape and the killings of KKK members, and orders Garth to leave town. Meanwhile, Stancill proposes marriage to Nancy, but the young woman wants to leave Atoka County and Stancill takes her to the bus station. There, the couple is confronted by Cates, but Nancy throws herself at the deputy and Stancill knocks him out before bidding his lover farewell. Sometime later, Hardy warns Stancill that the Klansmen will soon go after him, but claims that Stancill can save himself by evicting Loretta and other African Americans who live on his property. When Stancill refuses, Hardy alerts Bascomb to the attack, and the sheriff heads to Bascomb’s property. As warning sirens are sounded by Stancill’s tenants, Klansmen file from their cars and set fire to the surroundings with torches and burning crosses, but Bascomb announces that Stancill has agreed to leave the county and orders the men to give up their weapons. When Cates removes his hood, Bascomb calls out his intent to arrest the deputy for the rape of Loretta and charges the other men with violating the Constitution. However, Cates fires at Bascomb, prompting a gun battle that leaves Stancill dead. Garth arrives at the scene and aims his gun at a dying KKK member, but Bascomb prevents him from firing. While Bascomb radios for help, Cates shoots the sheriff dead. In the aftermath of the battle, Loretta sets fire to the tree from which Stancill’s grandfather was hanged. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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