THIS IS FOR PAGE 5, NOT TV : ‘DEADLY FORCE’ FOCUSES ON CONTROVERSIAL BOSTON DEATH
“A Case of Deadly Force,” a CBS fact-based television drama airing at 9 tonight, tackles a sensitive subject involving the black community and the largely white police department of Boston, a city where racial tensions are highly charged.
Representatives of the real-life principals involved have previewed the film and the response--from both the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and Boston’s Mayor Raymond Flynn--has been favorable.
The two-hour TV movie stars Richard Crenna as Lawrence O’Donnell Sr. and John Shea as his son and partner Michael O’Donnell. They portray two Boston lawyers who waged a protracted court battle to prove the wrongful death of a black man shot in 1975 by members of Boston’s now-disbanded tactical police force. The court ruled on behalf of the black, James Bowden Jr., and two years ago the city of Boston awarded a settlement to Bowden’s widow, Patricia.
At a screening of the film here for an invited audience, Felecia Kessel of the NAACP called the movie “a perfect example of where so-called '(black television) programming’ can go.
“It’s entertaining and it’s accurate,” she continued. “And it deals with a very sensitive area to the black community, especially in Boston, yet focuses on the message rather than on the differences (between) black and white.”
Mayor Flynn, who sent a representative to the screening, issued a statement from Boston’s City Hall, stating, in part: "(The film) represents a dramatic presentation of a chapter in Boston’s history which has fortunately been closed.” Flynn, a Democrat, campaigned for office two years ago on a platform that included a pledge to award the Bowden settlement.
Filmed on reportedly “tense” locations in Boston last year under the direction of Michael Miller, the TV movie was based on a book about the Boston case, “Deadly Force” by Lawrence O’Donnell Jr. It was produced by Michael Lepiner and Kenneth Kaufman, who said they were attracted by the “human emotions” surrounding the case rather than by the controversy.
They expressed the hope that this is one TV project that may cool rather than inflame racial tensions, in that the black principals are seen as strong, dignified and in the right, while the city of Boston is also seen as acting on the side of the right in the end.