Vice, Southern style, gets the expose treatment in phenix City Story. Production mostly hews to provable incident, with some coloring or rearrangement for dramatic emphasis. There’s quite a bit of violence.
Contemporary headlines and magazine articles have up-pointed conditions in this Alabama town, just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Georgia, and the army’s Fort Benning. Proximity of the latter contributed to the label of ‘the wickedest city in the U.S.’ hung on the southern town, particularly during World War II.
A 13-minute prolog features radio-TV’s Clete Roberts doing on-the-scene interviews with actual participants in the 1954 events, including the widow of Albert Patterson, the murdered candidate. This prolog stretches show’s running time to 100 minutes, but it’s up to the exhibitor whether or not it is used.
The downfall of Phenix City sin is woven around the return from overseas service of Richard Kiley with wife and two children to find his hometown still living up to its wicked reputation. Kiley plays John Patterson, the son of the murdered candidate, who was elected to the attorney general post by an aroused citizenry after the death of the father, ably depicted by John McIntire.
Edward Andrews plays Rhett Tanner, a menacing, entirely believable crime czar. Kathryn Grant is another who scores as Ellie Rhodes, a dealer in Tanner’s joint.
Picture was lensed almost entirely in the actual locale, with hometown talent seen to quite an extent.