Thirty years ago, today, Part I of the mini-series Cross of Fire aired on NBC. Based on the kidnapping, rape and murder of Madge Oberholtzer, it starred John Heard, Mel Harris, David Morse, George Dzundza and Lloyd Bridges. Directed by Paul Wendkos and written by Robert Crais, it was filmed in Kansas, though the historical events occurred in Indiana.
The two-part TV movie Cross of Fire is set in the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan was at the height of its political power in Indiana. Part One, originally telecast November 5, 1989, details the resurgence of the Klan (which had been created during the Reconstruction era) under the leadership of David “Steve” Stephenson […]. Cloaking himself in the twin veils of patriotism and morality, Stephenson rails against such “deviates” as blacks, Jews and Catholics, gaining political clout and financial kickbacks as his “invisible empire” grows. Part Two […], telecast November 6, traces the fall of Stephenson…not because his followers have wised up but, because of a 1925 rape and murder charge.
♠ The scandal reached the governor. He was indicted and tried but, the conclusion was a hung jury. He wasn’t retried due to the statute of limitations but, left office disgraced with his political career destroyed.