Movie Excitement in Bismarck
The Soledad Brothers were three prison inmates nicknamed for their prison, the Soledad State Prison in California. In 1970, they were accused of killing guard John Vincent Mills. The trio, who weren’t really brothers, included George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Cluchette. They were accused of killing Mills in retaliation for the killing of three fellow inmates during a fight in the exercise yard.
On August 7, 1970, Jackson’s younger brother Jonathan burst into a courtroom to free three other prisoners who were standing trial for the attempted murder of a prison guard at San Quentin. They took hostages, including the judge, the assistant state’s attorney, and three women jurors. They intended to trade the hostages for the Soledad Brothers. Jonathan and two of the three convicts were killed in a gun battle with the police. Superior Court Judge Harold J. Haley also died, killed by the prisoners.
On this date in 1975, North Dakota travel director Joseph Satrom announced that major portions of a film about the Soledad Brothers would be shot in North Dakota using the State Penitentiary as a location. The producers planned to meet with Warden Joseph Havener to arrange for filming in an unused wing. Production was expected to take about five weeks. A cast had not yet been signed, but the studio representative said negotiations were under way with several major actors.
There would also be an opportunity for North Dakotans to participate in the filming. An advance crew would arrive in Bismarck on December 18 to audition for eight to ten minor speaking roles. The studio would also be looking for walk-on extras.
The movie was expected to provide a boost for the Bismarck economy, with a substantial portion of the movie’s budget being spent to support the 75 members of the crew and cast. 75 hotel rooms were booked, with plenty of business expected for local restaurants.
The movie “Brothers” was released 1977. It starred unknowns Bernie Casey and Ron O’Neal. The film was marketed as fiction, and the names of the people in the true-life events were changed, but it remained a thinly disguised rendition of the Soledad Brothers story. It received rather bland reviews from critics.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Bismarck Tribune. “Major Film to Be Shot at Pen.” 6 December, 1975.
History Is a Weapon. “The Letters of George Jackson.” "http://historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/soledadbro.html" http://historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/soledadbro.html Accessed 7 November, 2016.