Some of you may remember or have heard of the 1971 prison riot at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York. Initiated by prisoners’ demands for political rights and better living conditions, about 2200 inmates took control of the prison and held 42 individuals hostage for four days. In the end at least 43 people were dead, including ten correctional officers and civilian employees, and 33 inmates.
So why the interest in the 1971 Attica prison riot?
Late in 1979 ABC filmed a TV movie about the Attica Prison Riot. The movie, entitled Attica, was filmed at the Lima State Hospital, in Lima, Ohio, where my dad was employed as a security guard at the time. He worked at the Lima State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for 23 years, from 1959-1983. When they filmed the TV movie Attica my dad was there, right in the thick of things. He was even able to get Joe and me a pass into the prison one evening to watch some of the filming. We got to see Charles Durning and a couple other actors film a scene.
He said they chose the Lima facility because it had an enclosed courtyard like the courtyard at the Attica prison.
While going through some old papers recently I came across some photos and other items that my dad saved from the filming of the movie Attica.
Attica starred Charles Durning, Henry Darrow, George Grizzard, Joel Fabiani, and Morgan Freeman, to name a few. I am able to identify Charles Durning, Henry Darrow, and George Grizzard in the photos my dad had.
ABC hired a lot of local men from the area as extras and I knew at least one man from St. Marys who was hired as an extra.
In addition to the photos, my dad saved some other interesting items from the filming. I found copies of two checks written to my dad. I doubt that he was in the movie, but I suspect he did some extra security duty from 1-3 November 1979.
He also saved the Call Sheet for Saturday, 3 November.
He had a copy of the movie script. I watched the beginning of the movie on YouTube and it is definitely the script.
Inside the cover of the script is the following introduction. A map of Attica Prison is on the following page.
This is the story of the most violent prison revolt in the history of this country. It took place at Attica State Prison in upstate New York during four days in September of 1971.
Blue Ribbon Commissions have studied Attica, and many of the participants on both sides have written about it. One of those was Tom Wicker, then an associate editor of the New York Times, who was one of a group of observers invited to the prison by the rebelling inmates to monitor the negotiations.
This is the story of Attica as seen by Tom Wicker.
The following letter to my dad, dated 14 November 1979, was from the Superintendent of the Lima State Hospital:
To: Herb Miller, Security
From: Ronald E. Hubbard, Superintendent
Subject: Letter of Commendation
Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank you individually for your outstanding work and cooperation during the filming of the ABC movie “Attica.” Please be assured that during the long days and nights, your work did not go unnoticed.
Your extreme loyalty, dedication and hard work made this difficult task an easy one. The ABC film executives were astounded and could not believe that such an undertaking could be accomplished.
I wish to take this opportunity to make you feel assured that this job could not have been done without your help. I appreciate your participation and your hard work.
Thank you very much for an extremely hard job done extremely well.
Cc: Personnel File
It was probably quite an undertaking and risk to film a movie at a prison where inmates were incarcerated at the same time.
The TV Movie Attica aired in March 1980 and was an hour and 37 minutes long. It won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special. The movie actually had five Emmy nominations: Outstanding Film Editing for a Limited Series or a Special; Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special (Charles Durning); Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special; Outstanding Achievement in Film Sound Editing; and Outstanding Directing in a Limited Series or a Special.
The movie was written by James S. Henerson and Tom Wicker, who wrote the book. It was directed by Marvin J. Chomsky.
I remember my dad telling me that one of the actors really liked his Chatt Bar jacket and so my dad gave it to him. I wonder what ever happened to that jacket. Is floating around somewhere in Hollywood today?
“Attica Prison Riot,” Wikipedia.com