The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Monday, December 01, 2003
O Brother, Where Art Thou? - namecheck and snafu
I just happened to see the movie for the first time on TV last night.
Interested to see that, for the name of the governor, they lifted whole that of Pappy O'Daniel, aka Wilbert Lee O'Daniel of Texas. O'Daniel, according to his Congressional bio, was a Midwesterner (born in Ohio, raised in Kansas) and a radio personality in his adopted Fort Worth. Successively US Governor (1939-41) and Senator (1941-49). Both the movie and the real-life O'Daniel were in flour-milling.
The snafu? Perhaps it was a deliberate mistake- talking to his electoral rival, O'Daniel tells him (in this version of the script, too)
...you'll be laughin' out the other side your face come November.
How can that be? According to this list, the first Republican governor of the Magnolia State since Reconstruction was Kirk Fordice (from 1992). My impression was that the Party of Treason could get a monkey elected over George Washington, way back then in the Good Old Days.
So, I'm thinking, the only election he would have to take seriously would be the Democratic primary, which would presumably come earlier than November.
In the movie, there's a shot of a newspaper dated some time in 1937; at which time the governor was Hugh Lawson White (who has a more famous namesake). Nothing online about White that caught my eye, except a Time piece reprinted from April 26 1937 on the Gavagan antilynching bill :
Governor Hugh Lawson White was boasting that Mississippi had not had a lynching in 15 months.
Shortly afterwards, at Duck Hill, MS, north of Winona, salt-of-the-earth Mississippians were en fête - 500 of them, women and children included - to see Southern justice done to Bootjack McDaniels and Roosevelt Townes. It's not reported whether the solid citizens roasted pork for their picnic. They did turn the blow-torch on McDaniels, however: that smell of crackling so typically Dixie. By and by, having encouraged a confession, they dispatched him with a volley of good, old Southern hospitality.
They repented their leniency, it seems: after they'd tickled him up a little with the blow-torch, Townes, tied to a tree, they surrounded with kindling; a little gasoline, a match - and a good few minutes family entertainment ensued.
What do the archives of local newspapers reveal? How was it covered on radio? Are there any survivors amongst the lynching party, I wonder? Some scope for journalism still.
(The Keith Finley thesis that I've mentioned before has much useful material on the futile efforts in Congress to legislate on lynching.
There is also a draft paper (DOC) (November 2003, by the look of it) by David Garland, Penal Excess and Surplus Meaning:Public Torture Lynchings in 20th Century America, which looks worth having.)
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