Fury


1h 34m 1936
Fury

Brief Synopsis

An innocent man escapes a lynch mob then returns for revenge.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
Mob Rule, The Mob
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 5, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

When Katherine Grant leaves her fiancé, Joe Wilson, in Chicago for a better paying job out West, their sadness is softened by the fact that the extra money will enable them to marry sooner. After a year, Joe and his brothers, Charlie and Tom, have opened a gas station and he writes to her that they can now marry. As Joe drives to meet her, he is stopped near the town of Strand by deputy sheriff "Bugs" Meyers, and arrested for kidnapping a local child, based on circumstantial evidence. Because he does not want to implicate Katherine, he doesn't call her, thinking that levelheaded Sheriff Hummel's investigation will soon clear him. Town gossips soon learn about Joe, however, and, inflamed by ne'er-do-well Kirby Dawson, they storm the jail. The sheriff tries to fight them off, but the national guard troops which he requested never come. When Katherine learns that Joe is being held, she goes to Strand, but arrives just as the mob has set fire to the jail, and faints after seeing Joe in the flames. Soon after, the real kidnappers are arrested and the nation is shocked by the lynching. The despondent Charlie and Tom are then visited by Joe who is still alive, having escaped from the fire. He is a changed man, though, and wants revenge. In hiding, he arranges for the brothers to convince district attorney Adams to try those responsible for murder. Newsreel film clearly identifies the members of the mob, and most are convicted, based on that evidence and Katherine's testimony. As the verdicts are read, however, Joe appears in court, convinced by Katherine, who had discovered that he was alive and helped him to realize that revenge was making him no better than the mob. He tells the judge that his beliefs in his country and the goodness of man have been shattered, but embraces Katherine after saying that perhaps after he pays for what he has done, they can start over.

Cast

Sylvia Sidney

Katherine Grant

Spencer Tracy

Joe Wilson

Walter Abel

District attorney [Adams]

Bruce Cabot

Kirby Dawson

Edward Ellis

Sheriff [Thaddus Hummel]

Walter Brennan

"Bugs" Meyers

Frank Albertson

Charlie [Wilson]

George Walcott

Tom [Wilson]

Arthur Stone

Durkin

Morgan Wallace

Fred Garrett

George Chandler

Milton Johnson

Roger Gray

Stranger

Edwin Maxwell

Vickery

Howard Hickman

Governor

Jonathan Hale

Defense attorney

Leila Bennett

Edna Hopper

Esther Dale

Mrs. Whipple

Helen Flint

Franchette

Clarence Kolb

Mr. Pippin

Harry Hayden

Jailer

Edward Le Saint

Doctor

Everett Sullivan

New deputy

Ben Hall

Goofy

Janet Young

Prim woman

Jane Corcoran

Praying woman

Frank Mills

Dawson's friend

Murdock Macquarrie

Dawson's friend

Edwin J. Brady

Dawson's friend

James Quinn

Dawson's friend

Al Herman

Dawson's friend

George Offerman Jr.

Defendant

Mira Mckinney

Hysterical woman

Albert Taylor

Old timer

Dutch Hendrian

Miner

Frank Sully

Miner

Ray Brown

Farmer

Guy Usher

Assistant defense attorney

Nora Cecil

Albert's mother

Frederick Burton

Judge Hopkins

Tom Mahoney

Bailiff

Tommy Tomlinson

Reporter

Bud Flanagan

Reporter

Sherry Hall

Court clerk

Carlos Martin

Donelli

Jack Daley

Factory foreman

Duke York

Taxi driver

Charles Coleman

Innkeeper

Will Stanton

Drunk

Esther Muir

Girl in night club

Bert Roach

Waiter

Raymond Hatton

Hector

Victor Potel

Jorgeson

Clara Blandick

Judge's wife

Erville Alderson

Plumber

Herbert Ashley

Oscar

Si Jenks

Hillbilly

Christian Rub

Ahem

Mary Foy

Angular woman

Carl Stockdale

Hardware man

Alexander Cross

Outgoing watchman

Robert E. Homans

Incoming watchman

Arthur Hoyt

Grouch

Ward Bond

First objector in movie theater

Franklin Parker

Cameraman

William Wayne

Cameraman

Wally Maher

Chief cameraman

Huey White

Bus driver

Gertrude Sutton

Mrs. Tuttle

Minerva Urecal

Fanny

Edna Mae Harris

Black woman

Daniel Haynes

Taxi driver

Sam Hayes

Announcer

Harvey Clark

Pippen

Belle Donovan

Sheriff's secretary

Jules Cowles

Lockup Keeper

Gwen Lee

Mrs. Garrett

Ruth Renick

Sally Humphries

Dick Wessel

Bodyguard

Jack Perry

Man in poolroom

Lew Harvey

Mug in poolroom

Billy Newell

Hotdog stand owner

Elsa Newell

Hotdog stand owner's wife

Ralph Bushman

Young teacher

Dorothea Wolbert

Barber's wife

Lucille Stafford

Woman gossip

Theresa Brown

Woman gossip

Ricca Allen

Horsefaced woman

Terry, A Dog

Film Details

Also Known As
Mob Rule, The Mob
Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jun 5, 1936
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 34m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Award Nominations

Best Writing, Screenplay

1937

Articles

Fury


Fritz Lang's devastating indictment of mob violence, considered by many his best American film, Fury (1936) explores the director's fascination with the nature of justice and revenge also treated in his German masterpiece M (1931) and later American productions The Big Heat (1953) and You Only Live Once (1937).

Spencer Tracy stars as honest American working stiff Joe Wilson, engaged to marry Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney). Jim has slaved a year to earn enough money to marry his true love, and on the way to their union has an experience that will change both of their lives. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Jim is stopped in a small town roadblock and accused, on the basis of some circumstantial evidence, of kidnapping. A domino effect of bad luck soon finds Joe tried and convicted for the crime in the court of public opinion. A chain of gossip in the town's barrooms, grocery stores and kitchens soon has its citizens storming the jailhouse to bring the suspected criminal to justice. The climactic attempt by the town's populace to burn the jailhouse to the ground is only one of many twists and turns in Lang's superbly paced, hairpin drama which delivers one shock after another as Lang investigates the shameful American history of lynching in this dynamic courtroom drama.

Fury is stocked with ample evidence of Lang's cynical, biting view of humankind seen in his often wry and disturbing visual language, like a shot of the town's gossiping women which cuts to a shot of clucking chickens or his close-ups of the people outside the burning courthouse, gleefully holding their babies up for a better view of the burning man, their faces contorted by bloodlust. With shadows distorting their appearance, rendering them instantly ghoulish, Lang's vision of the potential evil in all human beings makes Fury as stylistically memorable as it is for its trenchant social message.

Lang's first American film after the director fled Germany rather than become a filmmaker for the Third Reich, Fury finally materialized after a year of unrealized potential productions at his new studio home, MGM. And Fury turned out to be a rather unusual film, both for its time, and for its studio, more used to turning out family-oriented fare than a piece of socially conscious filmmaking.

Though the film was based on the real-life case of two kidnappers, Thomas Harold Thurmond and John Maurice Holmes, who were lynched by the populace of San Jose, California, for their abduction of a department store owner's son, Fury probably owed more of a debt to the social climate in which it was made. The story was conceived during a shocking time in American history when lynching and mob violence escalated in the early 1930s. The fires of injustice were further stoked when a federal anti-lynching bill drafted by NAACP lawyers was killed by the U.S. Senate. But with his hands tied by the notorious movie censorship of the studio years, Lang was unable to explicitly treat lynching as a crime against black people. Lang was even forbidden to use black actors as minor characters in the film, though he initially shot several scenes featuring peripheral black characters to subtly drive home the idea of lynching as a threat to black Americans. In one deleted scene, a black laundress sings a song of freedom as she hangs out the wash, and in another a crowd of Southern blacks is shown responding to a radio speech by Fury's district attorney condemning lynching. Both scenes were cut from the film at the studio's behest.

After much squabbling between Lang and MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who had taken a dislike to the director, Fury was essentially buried by the studio upon its release. But word soon leaked out of the film's greatness, and it went on to become a success both with art-house moviegoers, and critics like The New York Times who called it the finest dramatic film of 1936.

Director: Fritz Lang
Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Bartlett Cormack and Fritz Lang
Based on the story "Mob Rule" by Norman Krasna
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons, William A. Horning, Edwin B. Willis
Music: Franz Waxman
Cast: Spencer Tracy (Joe Wilson), Sylvia Sidney (Katherine Grant), Walter Abel (District Attorney), Edward Ellis (Sheriff Hummel), Walter Brennan (Bugs Meyers), Frank Albertson (Charlie Wilson), George Chandler (Milton Grimes).
BW-93m. Closed captioning.

by Felicia Feaster

Fury

Fury

Fritz Lang's devastating indictment of mob violence, considered by many his best American film, Fury (1936) explores the director's fascination with the nature of justice and revenge also treated in his German masterpiece M (1931) and later American productions The Big Heat (1953) and You Only Live Once (1937). Spencer Tracy stars as honest American working stiff Joe Wilson, engaged to marry Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney). Jim has slaved a year to earn enough money to marry his true love, and on the way to their union has an experience that will change both of their lives. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Jim is stopped in a small town roadblock and accused, on the basis of some circumstantial evidence, of kidnapping. A domino effect of bad luck soon finds Joe tried and convicted for the crime in the court of public opinion. A chain of gossip in the town's barrooms, grocery stores and kitchens soon has its citizens storming the jailhouse to bring the suspected criminal to justice. The climactic attempt by the town's populace to burn the jailhouse to the ground is only one of many twists and turns in Lang's superbly paced, hairpin drama which delivers one shock after another as Lang investigates the shameful American history of lynching in this dynamic courtroom drama. Fury is stocked with ample evidence of Lang's cynical, biting view of humankind seen in his often wry and disturbing visual language, like a shot of the town's gossiping women which cuts to a shot of clucking chickens or his close-ups of the people outside the burning courthouse, gleefully holding their babies up for a better view of the burning man, their faces contorted by bloodlust. With shadows distorting their appearance, rendering them instantly ghoulish, Lang's vision of the potential evil in all human beings makes Fury as stylistically memorable as it is for its trenchant social message. Lang's first American film after the director fled Germany rather than become a filmmaker for the Third Reich, Fury finally materialized after a year of unrealized potential productions at his new studio home, MGM. And Fury turned out to be a rather unusual film, both for its time, and for its studio, more used to turning out family-oriented fare than a piece of socially conscious filmmaking. Though the film was based on the real-life case of two kidnappers, Thomas Harold Thurmond and John Maurice Holmes, who were lynched by the populace of San Jose, California, for their abduction of a department store owner's son, Fury probably owed more of a debt to the social climate in which it was made. The story was conceived during a shocking time in American history when lynching and mob violence escalated in the early 1930s. The fires of injustice were further stoked when a federal anti-lynching bill drafted by NAACP lawyers was killed by the U.S. Senate. But with his hands tied by the notorious movie censorship of the studio years, Lang was unable to explicitly treat lynching as a crime against black people. Lang was even forbidden to use black actors as minor characters in the film, though he initially shot several scenes featuring peripheral black characters to subtly drive home the idea of lynching as a threat to black Americans. In one deleted scene, a black laundress sings a song of freedom as she hangs out the wash, and in another a crowd of Southern blacks is shown responding to a radio speech by Fury's district attorney condemning lynching. Both scenes were cut from the film at the studio's behest. After much squabbling between Lang and MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who had taken a dislike to the director, Fury was essentially buried by the studio upon its release. But word soon leaked out of the film's greatness, and it went on to become a success both with art-house moviegoers, and critics like The New York Times who called it the finest dramatic film of 1936. Director: Fritz Lang Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz Screenplay: Bartlett Cormack and Fritz Lang Based on the story "Mob Rule" by Norman Krasna Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg Production Design: Cedric Gibbons, William A. Horning, Edwin B. Willis Music: Franz Waxman Cast: Spencer Tracy (Joe Wilson), Sylvia Sidney (Katherine Grant), Walter Abel (District Attorney), Edward Ellis (Sheriff Hummel), Walter Brennan (Bugs Meyers), Frank Albertson (Charlie Wilson), George Chandler (Milton Grimes). BW-93m. Closed captioning. by Felicia Feaster

Fury


Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M) fled Germany after being asked to head film production for the Nazis. He fled so quickly that he left almost all of his possessions and his wife, Thea Von Harbou, who remained in Germany and joined the Nazis as a screenwriter.

Lang made one film in France, Liliom, before continuing to the U.S. to seek work as a director. After a year of waiting, his first American film, made for MGM studios, was Fury, released this month for the first time on DVD as part of Warner Home Video's Controversial Classics collection. (Fury also marks the producing debut of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, The Philadelphia Story, Woman of the Year.)

Starring Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney, Fury tells of an innocent man, Joe Wilson, facing an angry lynch mob with a taste for blood. The sheriff (Edward Ellis) and his deputies try to hold off the mob, but there are too many of them. After the fires burn out and tempers cool down, Joe's brothers (George Walcott and Frank Albertson) set out to get revenge against the mob by having twenty-two men and women who participated in the mob tried for murder.

Lang was well known as a director of crime and suspense movies, so the story of Fury fit his style well. Lang had wanted to make a movie against mob justice, and he helped develop the script from a four-page outline into a full-fledged movie, even though he spoke little English. Bartlett Cormack wrote the screenplay from a story by Norman Krasna, all with Lang's participation.

In his audio commentary on the DVD, Peter Bogdanovich says that Lang thought the story could have been a more forceful condemnation of lynch mobs if the hero were actually guilty. But there was no way in 1936 for Hollywood to make a film with that kind of a protagonist. So Lang lived with the compromise, one of many he found he'd have to make working in America.

In essence, Bogdanovich confesses that Fury is not as strong as it could be. For instance, it ends happily with a kiss, which Lang himself says he hated. Lang, who died in 1976, speaks on the DVD commentary through audio recordings made by Bogdanovich in 1965.

Bogdanovich and Lang also speak of the day-to-day compromises Lang learned he'd have to make. In Germany, he could expect his crew to work through lunch, or to eat in shifts to maximize productivity. But in America, things were different, and some of the cast and crew resented Lang's expectations. Apparently Spencer Tracy didn't like Lang, and even Bogdanovich, in an odd moment of bitter candor, says that Lang wronged the actor, both personally and professionally.

Nevertheless, Bogdanovich, and indeed most film historians, admire Lang's talent as a director and visionary. And even if Fury is not Lang's best work, it carries his recognizable stamp. You won't find it in the dialogue or the acting, both of which were cultural barriers Lang couldn't quite cross after only a year in America. But Lang's signature can be seen in many of the film's strongest visuals: the angry mob scene, and the expressionistic treatment of Tracy's change from happy-go-lucky to bitter.

As a whole, Fury is neither as impressive nor as important as M or Metropolis. In fact, none of his American movies ever quite reached the same heights as his early German films. So Fury may not be a cinematic "essential." But it does mark an important milestone in the career of one of the great directors of silent and sound cinema.

And now you can see it in your living room on DVD.

For more information about Fury, visit Warner Video. To order Fury, go to TCM Shopping.

by Marty Mapes

Fury

Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M) fled Germany after being asked to head film production for the Nazis. He fled so quickly that he left almost all of his possessions and his wife, Thea Von Harbou, who remained in Germany and joined the Nazis as a screenwriter. Lang made one film in France, Liliom, before continuing to the U.S. to seek work as a director. After a year of waiting, his first American film, made for MGM studios, was Fury, released this month for the first time on DVD as part of Warner Home Video's Controversial Classics collection. (Fury also marks the producing debut of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, The Philadelphia Story, Woman of the Year.) Starring Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney, Fury tells of an innocent man, Joe Wilson, facing an angry lynch mob with a taste for blood. The sheriff (Edward Ellis) and his deputies try to hold off the mob, but there are too many of them. After the fires burn out and tempers cool down, Joe's brothers (George Walcott and Frank Albertson) set out to get revenge against the mob by having twenty-two men and women who participated in the mob tried for murder. Lang was well known as a director of crime and suspense movies, so the story of Fury fit his style well. Lang had wanted to make a movie against mob justice, and he helped develop the script from a four-page outline into a full-fledged movie, even though he spoke little English. Bartlett Cormack wrote the screenplay from a story by Norman Krasna, all with Lang's participation. In his audio commentary on the DVD, Peter Bogdanovich says that Lang thought the story could have been a more forceful condemnation of lynch mobs if the hero were actually guilty. But there was no way in 1936 for Hollywood to make a film with that kind of a protagonist. So Lang lived with the compromise, one of many he found he'd have to make working in America. In essence, Bogdanovich confesses that Fury is not as strong as it could be. For instance, it ends happily with a kiss, which Lang himself says he hated. Lang, who died in 1976, speaks on the DVD commentary through audio recordings made by Bogdanovich in 1965. Bogdanovich and Lang also speak of the day-to-day compromises Lang learned he'd have to make. In Germany, he could expect his crew to work through lunch, or to eat in shifts to maximize productivity. But in America, things were different, and some of the cast and crew resented Lang's expectations. Apparently Spencer Tracy didn't like Lang, and even Bogdanovich, in an odd moment of bitter candor, says that Lang wronged the actor, both personally and professionally. Nevertheless, Bogdanovich, and indeed most film historians, admire Lang's talent as a director and visionary. And even if Fury is not Lang's best work, it carries his recognizable stamp. You won't find it in the dialogue or the acting, both of which were cultural barriers Lang couldn't quite cross after only a year in America. But Lang's signature can be seen in many of the film's strongest visuals: the angry mob scene, and the expressionistic treatment of Tracy's change from happy-go-lucky to bitter. As a whole, Fury is neither as impressive nor as important as M or Metropolis. In fact, none of his American movies ever quite reached the same heights as his early German films. So Fury may not be a cinematic "essential." But it does mark an important milestone in the career of one of the great directors of silent and sound cinema. And now you can see it in your living room on DVD. For more information about Fury, visit Warner Video. To order Fury, go to TCM Shopping. by Marty Mapes

Quotes

Trivia

Lang wanted Spencer Tracy's character to be a lawyer. But the producers thought he should be more of a common man, so he became a motor mechanic.

Terri, better known as Toto, from The Wizard of Oz, appears in this film as the dog that Spencer Tracy takes in from the rain at the beginning of the movie, becoming his traveling companion into the netherworld of small town America.

Notes

Working titles of the film included Mob Rule and The Mob. A Motion Picture Herald news item on July 16, 1932 noted that M-G-M had recently purchased an original short story from Edmund Goulding entitled "Fury," however, that story is unrelated to this film. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter on March 19, 1936, George Walcott replaced Eric Linden in the role of "Tom Wilson" when Linden became ill. According to information contained in the Fritz Lang collection at the AFI Library, a letter of congratulations was sent to Lang by NAACP secretary Walter White after he viewed the film. The letter stated, in part, "More than I have ever seen it before has the medium of the motion picture been used to bring home to America what mob violence means." This was Joseph L. Mankiewicz' first film for M-G-M as a producer, and was also German-born director Fritz Lang's first American film. According to additional information in the Lang papers, he had signed with M-G-M in the autumn of 1934. A press release for Fury issued by Howard Strickling, director of publicity for M-G-M, noted that during the year before Lang started working on Fury, he had been in the United States "studying the minute details that comprise the lives of Average Americans."
       This was actress Sylvia Sidney's only film for M-G-M, and according to the Lang papers, the director stipulated that she be cast in the part before he signed his contract with the studio. Additional information in the Lang papers indicate that Walter Brennan, who portrayed "Bugs" Meyers in the film, had an extended illness that necessitated a transference of some of his "courtroom business" to George Chandler, who portrayed Milton Johnson. According to modern sources, Lang was the first filmmaker to use newsreel footage as a courtroom device in a motion picture, and May have done so before it was used in an actual court case. Norman Krasna's original story was nominated for the Academy Award, but lost to Pierre Collings and Sheridan Gibney for Warner Bros.'s The Story of Louis Pasteur. Although Spencer Tracy had made a number of films at M-G-M and elsewhere since his motion picture debut in 1930, Fury, along with two films released later in 1936, Libeled Lady and San Francisco (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor) marked a turning point in his career.
       According to information in the Lang papers and an interview with Lang reprinted in a modern source, Lang did not like the ending of the film. At the end of the picture, after the character "Joe Wilson" eloquently tells the judge that his views on his country and the goodness of man have been shattered, he embraces, then kisses "Katherine." Lang said in the modern interview that M-G-M studio executives requested that the kiss be added to the film after the scene had been shot with Lang's preferred ending, following the the speech. A review of Lang's next film, You Only Live Once (see below), that appeared in the New York Daily Mirror and was reprinted in part in Hollywood Reporter, notes that that film was made "without the compromise which mitigated the punch in Fury." The review was apparently referring to the "tacked on" kiss that implies a "happy" ending for characters "Joe" and "Katherine."

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1936

Selected in 1995 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Released in United States 1936