Here’s Why Black Panthers Got Really Hostile With Cast & Crew On “The Mack” Movie Set
There was a LOT of danger and gangster-style drama surrounding the filming of the ’70s classic, The Mack. There was murder, there was beef with the Black Panthers and there was mayhem. The film was based on the real life pimp and drug dealer from Oakland, Ca., Frank Ward.
Max Julien’s role as “Goldie” was the film’s portrayal of Frank, who was known as one of the biggest African American dope dealers and pimps of that era. The movie was shot in his “territory” and the only problem was that the Black Panthers also controlled a large amount of Oakland , so things got ugly real quick. Here are the details of what happened:
Via Soul Train: “The fact that the film got made is a miracle,” said the film’s director Michael Campus in the documentary Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, about the making of The Mack.
The movie was set in Oakland, which in the early seventies was a dangerous place. Still, Campus wanted it to be the setting of the film.
According to Soul Train, the underworld scene of the Oakland area was controlled by four brothers, with the last name Ward. Max Julian described Frank Ward as “a serious criminal,” in the documentary. It was also revealed that the film crew and Campus had to seek special permission from Ward, to be able to film in the neighborhood.
“Were the Ward brothers going to back us?” Campus wondered. “Frank asked, ‘What’s in it for [me]?’ I immediately told him he had to be in the film. Then he said, ‘Okay man, let’s understand one thing. I take you in my world, you take me in your world. I show you what I do, you show me what you do.’ Frank opened up all the doors. I could go anywhere in Oakland with Frank’s permission.”
After Ward gave them the okay on The Mack, the crew had access to locations that were like a golden treasure for that type of film- underground barbershops, fancy nightclubs, pool halls, etc. The pimps, women, homeless people, and junkies shown in the film were all authentic and supplied by Ward, under his close supervision. -via Soul Train
There were a ton of problems that transpired on set, with the Black Panther Party members:
The producer, Harvey Bernard, said that Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panthers, barged into his hotel room one night and informed him that he and his crew were shooting in “Black Panther territory.” But Bernard was not worried since he had the Ward Brothers to protect him. Black Panthers founder Huey P. Newton wanted $5,000 in exchange for making the film in their territory. “But the check bounced,” Bernard said. The next day when the crew was shooting, bottles and glass started raining down from rooftops and the crew ducked for cover and scattered.
“Frank was so enraged…he felt this was his picture and we were under his protection, not the Panthers. He stayed around us to make sure things were right. We never knew what was going to happen from day to day and if we were going to complete this picture,” said Campus. -via Soul Train
Then things took a turn for the worse after Max Julien attempted to calm the tension down. Max was really cool with Huey P. Newton, so he met up with him to act as a middle man and ease situation. But then this happened:
Frank Ward was shot in the back of the head and killed as he sat in his Rolls Royce with his ‘bottom woman,’ whom was also killed. Many blamed the Panthers for the hit on Frank Ward and without Ward’s protection, the filmmakers and cast had to retreat to safer grounds in L.A. to finish filming. The Mack was dedicated to Frank Ward, but Black Panther leader, Huey P. Newton, still insisted that the premiere benefit the Panthers’ milk fund in Oakland city. -via Soul Train
After Frank Ward’s funeral was over, his brother and partner in crime, Ted Ward, allegedly fled to New Orleans, La., never to be heard from again.
It was never confirmed who actually killed Frank Ward and the young lady. Sadly, Frank was actually starting to go into legitimate business, but unfortunately when you live that lifestyle, there’s no time limit in the code of the streets.
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Source: Mackin’ Ain’t Easy, SoulTrain