Films look at lynching in San Jose

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San Jose's darkest hour -- the 1933 lynching of two kidnapping suspects in St. James Park -- has sparked sudden interest in Hollywood. Three films about the city's macabre episode are in various stages of development, including one by former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery and another that has just finished filming primarily in Oakland. But this may be two too many for the people involved, who are jostling over which treatment of the event is best suited for the screen.

``Taking justice into your own hands is especially topical now,'' said McEnery, who first heard about the storming of the county jail from his father. ``Sure, it's grim stuff, but it's part of our heritage, and it cries out to be a movie.''

But which movie? And told by whom?

``Valley of the Heart's Delight,'' a loose, names-have-been-changed re-enactment, has just wrapped, with Oakland and San Francisco's Presidio as the backdrop for a city identified in the movie as San Jose. ``Night Without Justice,'' expanded from a short by San Jose filmmaker Michael Azzarello and taken from easily accessible FBI files, is in pre-production in L.A.

And McEnery's ``Swift Justice,'' which unfolds in flashback with J. Edgar Hoover making a cameo, is now with the producer of ``Sahara'' and ``Ray.'' It's an adaptation of retired Mercury News reporter Harry Farrell's book, ``Swift Justice: Murder and Vengeance in a California Town.''

The book chronicles the Depression-era kidnapping and murder of department-store heir Brooke Hart. It details how Jack Holmes and Harold Thurmond kidnapped Hart in an alley outside the family store, how they tossed his weighted body from the San Mateo Bridge, how they were quickly apprehended and, 14 hours later, hanged by a mob of 75.

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