The Gunsaulus Mystery (1921)

Drama | 1921

Director:

Oscar Micheaux

Writer:

Oscar Micheaux

Producer:

Oscar Micheaux

Cinematographer:

Leonard Galezio

Production Company:

Micheaux Film Corp.
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HISTORY

According to an unidentified news item from the African-American newspaper ChiDef , "the story is built around and about the famous Leo M. Frank trial which took place in Georgia some years ago...in which a member of the Jewish race was convicted of the murder of a young factory girl on the alleged confession of one of 'our folks,' who was employed by the same firm." A ChiDef ad for the film states that filmmaker Oscar Micheaux was in the courtroom during the Frank trial. After Frank was sentenced to death, Georgia Govenor John M. Slaton issued a stay of execution, but Frank was lynched by a mob after Slaton commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. On 11 May 1986, the state of Georgia issued a posthumous pardon for Frank. Other films based on the Frank trial include the 1915 Circle Film Corp. production Thou Shalt Not Kill , directed by Hal Reid and starring Rose and Charles Coghlan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F.1445); a documentary short by Reid, also made in 1915 and entitled Leo M. Frank ; the 1935 Micheaux Pictures Corp. production Lem Hawkins' Confession , directed by Oscar Micheaux and starring Clarence Brooks, which is a remake of this film (see below); the 1937 Warner Bros. production They Won't Forget , directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Claude Rains; and the 1988 NBC miniseries, The Murder of Mary Phagan , directed by Billy Hale and starring Jack ... More Less

According to an unidentified news item from the African-American newspaper ChiDef , "the story is built around and about the famous Leo M. Frank trial which took place in Georgia some years ago...in which a member of the Jewish race was convicted of the murder of a young factory girl on the alleged confession of one of 'our folks,' who was employed by the same firm." A ChiDef ad for the film states that filmmaker Oscar Micheaux was in the courtroom during the Frank trial. After Frank was sentenced to death, Georgia Govenor John M. Slaton issued a stay of execution, but Frank was lynched by a mob after Slaton commuted his sentence to life imprisonment. On 11 May 1986, the state of Georgia issued a posthumous pardon for Frank. Other films based on the Frank trial include the 1915 Circle Film Corp. production Thou Shalt Not Kill , directed by Hal Reid and starring Rose and Charles Coghlan (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F.1445); a documentary short by Reid, also made in 1915 and entitled Leo M. Frank ; the 1935 Micheaux Pictures Corp. production Lem Hawkins' Confession , directed by Oscar Micheaux and starring Clarence Brooks, which is a remake of this film (see below); the 1937 Warner Bros. production They Won't Forget , directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Claude Rains; and the 1988 NBC miniseries, The Murder of Mary Phagan , directed by Billy Hale and starring Jack Lemmon. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Billboard
7 May 21
p. 257.
ChiDef
26 Mar 21
p. 5.
ChiDef
25 Nov 22
p. 7.
New York Age
23 Apr 21
p. 6.
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 18 April 1921
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Arthur Gilpin, a black night watchman, finds young Myrtle Gunsaulus mysteriously murdered in the basement of a factory, he is charged with the crime. His sister, Ida May, engages for his defense a young lawyer, Sidney Wyeth, who had once been in love with her but, falsely believing her to be immoral, had ended their courtship. The case is highly complicated and mysterious, with evidence including strange murder notes covered with a white substance and strands of the girl's hair scattered about the room. Although Lem Hawkins, a black janitor, is arrested, the police are unable to get much information from him. Suspicion is eventually directed to Anthony Brisbane, the superintendent and general manager of the factory. At the trial, Wyeth proves Gilpin's innocence and also gets Hawkins to make a confession, in which he claims that Brisbane is sexually perverted and killed Myrtle to try to hide his perversion. After his professional success, Wyeth writes a book in which he reveals a secret. Ida May, however, sees that Wyeth has some mistaken ideas and she sends him a note clearing up all the earlier ... +


When Arthur Gilpin, a black night watchman, finds young Myrtle Gunsaulus mysteriously murdered in the basement of a factory, he is charged with the crime. His sister, Ida May, engages for his defense a young lawyer, Sidney Wyeth, who had once been in love with her but, falsely believing her to be immoral, had ended their courtship. The case is highly complicated and mysterious, with evidence including strange murder notes covered with a white substance and strands of the girl's hair scattered about the room. Although Lem Hawkins, a black janitor, is arrested, the police are unable to get much information from him. Suspicion is eventually directed to Anthony Brisbane, the superintendent and general manager of the factory. At the trial, Wyeth proves Gilpin's innocence and also gets Hawkins to make a confession, in which he claims that Brisbane is sexually perverted and killed Myrtle to try to hide his perversion. After his professional success, Wyeth writes a book in which he reveals a secret. Ida May, however, sees that Wyeth has some mistaken ideas and she sends him a note clearing up all the earlier misunderstandings. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Legal, African American


Subject

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

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