Scandal: Then and Now

6 x 60 minutes • Documentary Series • Produced in association with: History Television and Behaviour Distribution Inc. • Production year: 1999

Scandals! Then and Now is a vibrant, fascinating look at some of the most interesting and revealing scandals of the 20th Century. A film noir-style documentary series that examines scandals from the past, juxtaposing them with their modern-day counterparts and contextualizing the headlines that fuel media gossip. This pairing of great contemporary scandals with similar scandals from the early part of the century examines the power of the media and how it was manipulated by many of the subjects. By looking at a historical scandal through a modern lens, it allows us to measure media development over the last 100 years. Each episode draws viewers into history with a story that has recently captured their imagination and places these modern scandals in a larger historical and global context.


Brothers In Blood

Leopold and Loeb, two highly educated young men from American high society, decided to pull off the perfect crime. Fearless of being caught, they believed the rules of ordinary morality did not apply to them. After the kidnapping and murder of an innocent child, they are quickly caught. And so begins the first sensational trial of the century. Sixty five years later, and identical trial takes place with the Menendez Brothers sitting in the defendants chairs for the murder of their parents.

Silenced Star

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was a star, as famous in his day as Charlie Chaplin. In 1921 he signed a $ 3 million contract with Paramount Pictures. After a debauched party in his home a starlet is found dead. A trial driven by details of drunken orgies follows. Arbuckle is found not guilty but he is left without a career or a dime. In the 1990’s, O.J Simpson was also found innocent of murdering his wife but with very different consequences.

Resurrection In L.A.

Aimee Semple McPherson mixed show business and religion. She became the first populist evangelist to use the media to reach the masses. By 1925, she was filling stadiums with her followers and owned her own radio stations. “Sister Aimee” was America’s first home-grown media saint before she staged her own death. The nation went into mourning, followers panicked. When she surfaced in Mexico, the faithful were faced with the saint as scam artists. The marriage of media and religion continues to this day as tainted by Tammy Faye Bakker as it was by Aimee Semple Mcpherson.

Crossing The White Line

Jack Johnson, the first black World Boxing Champion brought a sport back to life and racial hatred to light. Johnson fought the first Fight of the Century in 1910. His victory carried over the radio, telegraph wires and news reels caused riots across America. An America that disapproved of his lifestyle enough to create a law just to get him into jail. The injustice he suffered is paralleled with the fate of one of the greatest athletes if the century Muhammed Ali.

Unspoken Lies

A frenzy of investment surrounded the Windfall Mines Company in the 1950’s. The owners, George ad Viola McMillan, seemed to be sitting on a fortune. Yet very little information about the contents of the mines was getting out, only speculation. When it was proved that the mine was empty and the scam had caused thousands of investors to lose millions, Viola McMillan was put behind bars. Such ‘disasters’ were never to take place again. In the 1990’s, rumoured gold in the Indonesian hills created instant millionaires until the truth appeared and billions of dollars were lost. Now it is Bre-X that has changed the mining world forever.

Southern Knights

Atlanta Georgia, 1913. The body of 14-year-old Mary Phagan is found in the National Pencil Company factory. She had been beaten, raped and strangled to death. Leo Frank, the Jewish 29 year-old part owner of the factory was accused. The ‘Jewish outsider’ was quickly sentenced to hang. The case caused an outrage where petitions from around America demanded a re-trial. Before the truth could be found out. Twenty-five men, the ‘Knights of Mary Phagan’ broke into the jail and took Leo Frank to the woods where he was hanged. Southern Knights exposes for the first time the inside story of this gross miscarriage of justice.

Writers and directors: Simcha Jacobovici, Dennis Murphy, Roger Pyke, Tim Wolochatiuk, Yuval Daniel and David Harel

Producer: Dennis Murphy
Series Producer: Simcha Jacobovici
Executive Producers: Elliott Halpern and Jack Rabinovitch

Award highlights:

  • Silver Plaque, Chicago International Television Competition.