Joe Hill (1971)




Director:     Bo Widerberg.

Starring:     Thommy Berggren (Joe Hill), Ania Schmidt (Lucia), Kelvin Malave (The Fox),  Everl Anderson (Blackie), Cathy Smith (Cathy), Hasse Persson (Paul), David Moritz (David), Richard Weber (Richard), Joel Miller (Ed Rowan), Robert Faeder (George), Wendy Geyer (Elizabeth Gurley Flynn), Liska March (The Charity Woman), Frank Molinari (The Tenor).

A good movie based on the life of a Swedish immigrant musician active in the labor movement (and known as Joe Hill), who was executed in Utah in 1915.




I saw this movie a long time ago.  I remember enjoying it.  But I thought Hill almost wanted to become a martyr.  Joe supposedly was seeing a woman at the time of the crime for which Hill was accused of committing.  But Hill refused to name the woman who could have provided an alibi for him.  He took the stand that it was the duty of the authorities to prove that he was guilty and not for him to prove that he was innocent.  Well, the state of Utah wasn't interested in the fine points of the law.  They wanted this trouble-maker gone.  So Hill played right into their hands.  And they shot him. This kind of thing has happened all through American history.  And it still continues on and on. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



Historical Background:

1879  -- born in Gavle, Sweden, one of nine children; christened Joel Emmanuel Haggland.

1887  --  his railroad worker father dies.  All the children have to work in order to make ends meet.

1891 --  contracted tuberculosis that afflicted his skin and joints. The various treatments left his neck and nose scarred.

1902 -- his mother dies.  He and his brother Paul travel to the United States.

1906 --  must have been in San Francisco because he later sends a letter about the great earthquake there.  Little is known about his him from 1906 to 1910, except that he changed his name to Joseph Hillstrom.

1910  --  worker on the docks of San Pedro, California. He came under the influence of the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as The Wobblies --  calling for a socialist workers movement.  He becomes known as Joe Hill.

1911 --  on the border between California and Mexico, Hill argues for aiding the Mexican revolutionaries in overthrowing the Mexican government.  He also writes labor songs in support of the labor movement.

1913  --  travels to Salt Lake City, Utah.

1914 --  lived with the Eselius family in Murray, Utah.

1914, January 10 --  two men rob a small grocery store, killing the owner John Morrison and his son Arling.

Joe Hill is arrested for the murder on very little evidence and convicted on very little.  
His case became a cause celebre for the Wobblies.  "Big Bill" Haywood and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn spoke at rallies throughout the nation on his behalf, claiming that Big Business had demanded his conviction.  

1915 November 19  --  Hill executed by a firing squad.


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