After the great ratings and enthusiastic reception of the less-than-accurate Lifetime attempt at telling the Borden story, you can be sure a little flurry of books will soon be out there, hopefully getting it right. Random House has signed up a new Lizzie young adult book to be published in Spring ‘16. It’s a narrative non-fiction book called The Borden Murders, and is by Sarah Miller. Another released this month is now available on Amazon. Keep your fingers crossed for accurate research. We can only hope, Lizziephiles!
So, Bordenphiles everywhere are probably burning up their keyboards tonight writing reviews of the much-hyped Lifetime movie, Lizzie Borden Took an Axe. Before the verdict is in, why indeed was this production rushed to the screen? Clearly with a gross lack of fact checking on the case, the culture and mannerisms of the times, set dressing and costume, this was a low-budget rush job to get something in the can to beat out the anticipated Playtone-Tom Hanks production starring Chloe Sevigny. Ms. Sevigny, a visitor to Fall River and a case enthusiast would have done the role justice.
The never-ending inaccuracies, too numerous to mention in full, indicate a total laziness on the part of the scriptwriters to even consult Google for the most basic of facts on the case. In fact, other than the undeniable truth that two people were murdered in Fall River, most probably with a hatchet, there is not much else this version of the story got right.
Filmed in Halifax, presumably for the vintage atmosphere and possibly budget constraints, the film begins with a house which looks nothing like the Borden house, a city which looks nothing like a city and most certainly nothing like Fall River. There is no flavor of the mills, Main Street, the Hill section or the river. At least they did not attempt the distinctive Fall River accent.
Even those not in the know about speech patterns, costume, mannerisms and culture of 1892 will instantly sense something is quite wrong on all these counts. For example, a woman would never have appeared on the street without a hat, and most assuredly not at an inquest. When making a period piece, attention to the smallest detail is essential lest the entire screen illusion of the event be destroyed. And speaking of destroyed- what did you think of Lizzie’s playlist?
• The Black Keys, “Psychotic Girl”
• Ian Clement, “The Hammer & the Nail”
• Sons of Jezebel, “Whoo Boy”
• Kreeps, “Pennsylvania Boarded House Blues”
• Paul Otten, “Dangerous Mind” *
• The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer, “Are You Listening Lord,” “Shake It”
• Pow Wow, “All In” *
• Lady of the Sunshine, “White Rose Parade”
• Cavendish Music Library, “Razzamatazz Man”
It is always a great risk to incorporate contemporary music in a period piece. The end result may be campy or it may turn out to be another Marie Antoinette film disaster of recent years. In this case, the spectacle of Christina Ricci striding out defiantly to a forbidden party in what might be construed as a “Soiled Dove”, cleavage-baring bodice to the strains of “Whoo Boy” is laughable. At the party Lizzie meets Nance O’Neil who makes her entrance into Lizzie’s life at least 12 years too early. Understandably, in a two hour film, many factual sequences must be collapsed or even omitted in the interest of time. What is unforgiveable is that in this production, they managed to find precious minutes for total fabrications which never occurred, or did not serve the history timeline in the least, while leaving out vital information and actions and incidents crucial to the case. It’s almost as if the script writer had a large handful of facts about the case scribbled on post-it notes, threw them all up in the air, and whatever order they landed in was the order in which they appear, sometimes tarted up or altered at will and with zero relationship to the actual timeline of the true events.
As in the Elizabeth Montgomery 1975 film, (a vastly superior effort), Lizzie’s Uncle John Morse was left out as well as Mrs. Churchill, the very important star attorney and former Massachusetts Governor Robinson, Mr. Moody for the Prosecution, and others. Andrew Jennings was the sole embodiment of Lizzie’s defense. With the actual Borden trial transcript available, the screen writer for this sad attempt himself should have been hanged for Laziness in the First Degree. Kudos for getting the famous line uttered by Lizzie in response to whether she and her mother were cordial, “It all depends on your idea of cordiality”.
Also disappointing was the performance of Christina Ricci, a talented young actress who turned in a one-note song as Lizzie. The real Lizzie Borden was a multi-faceted and subtle person; refined, dignified, meticulous, affectionate to friends and also stubborn, having feelings of inferiority, and a full spectrum of traits as most human beings possess. Ricci has made her name as a quirky, Goth-Girl, dark performer and is good at it. She is better than the lines given her in this production. Ricci’s distracted, crazy poses, bulging eyes, and defiant little outbursts did not make for much depth-of character.
So many disappointments for even the most casual Lizziephile: Lizzie standing over a cauldron stirring up that infamous dress, outside, while Emma shrieked and Alice Russell peered out a second storey window, City Marshal Hilliard played as a fool, Andrew Borden with dark hair and a mustache, Lizzie racing around in her underwear with hair streaming wantonly down her back, the missing scene where neighbor Addie Churchill spies the corpse of Abby Borden under the bed, Dr. Bowen popping out of his house like a jack-in-the-box when Bridget hammers on the door. All so incorrect. All so maddening. When will anyone recognize that this story deserves to be told as it actually happened? If Cameron could not get it right with his Titanic epic, as pretty as it was to look at- then there is little hope the real, and truly fascinating story of the Borden case will ever see the light of day. Another golden opportunity missed.
Two thumbs way down. Not released tonight, it escaped. Airing again on Sunday. Give it a miss.
Once again Fall River is about to tear down a fine old building to make room for a parking lot. The Morgan Street School, known as the N.B. Borden School more recently, was sold for a pitiful sum. Last used in 2007 as a grammar school, there had been plans for the redundant building to be converted into a community center. The layout inside would have been ideal for a city museum. Timetoast.com ran this article on its timeline about the sale of redundant schools in the city: “
In February 2012, the city council delays sale on Belisle; awards bids for Osborn to SB&A Realty Group, Fall River, for $3,111 for professional building, and for N.B. Borden to TA Restaurant Inc., Fall River, for $5,000 for parking and possibly apartments. Council President Linda Pereira removes Pat Casey from RE Committee related to Belisle School controversy.
For more information on Lizzie at the school visit the W&W link below.
The Pear Essential Productions’ annual August 4th dramatization at the Borden house will have a few new faces this year. Mike Shogi, from Cleveland will be directing this year for the first time as long-time producer-director and script writer Shelley Dziedzic steps down after a long run. She will still assist with ticket sales, script and costuming.
There will be some big changes in casting this year as well as a few old familiar faces reprising their usual roles. Stay tuned for more cast announcements here.
Below: The cast from August 4, 2012.
A much-anticipated series debuted today in the Sunday Providence Journal. ” Projo” writer Paul Davis certainly did his homework for this six-part article which runs all week and features some new, never-before-published information. The writing is crisp, accurate and thought-provoking and highlights trial coverage from 1893 Providence Journals. Lizziephiles will be over the moon with the expansive coverage. If you cannot obtain a hard copy of the paper, read all about it at the newspaper online link.
A short trailer was put up on Saturday night to heighten anticipation.
A promotional online video is also on the Projo site and Youtube which features Warps and Wefts writer, Shelley Dziedzic who made a tour with Journal reporter Paul Davis in May. The tour encompassed all things “Lizzie” in and around Fall River and a jaunt to the New Bedford courthouse to visit the scene where the 1893 trial unfolded.
First, a big thank you to followers and readers of Warps & Wefts as we mark the 600th post since 2007. Comments and emails are much-appreciated.
Well, just as seen posted here every October, Lizzie is back in time for Halloween in every fun house, horror venue, costume contest, and not more than a few really BAD films. Usually seen in a red and black dress with puffy leg-o’-mutton sleeves and red hair, she is swinging a bloody hatchet- or even more often an axe, and looking maniacal. Sadly, a really intriguing mystery goes missing in all the gore, and much misinformation about the case gets repeated as Gospel truth which makes a lasting impression. The true story is as scary as anything: two harmless old people savagely slashed and bludgeoned in the head right in the safety and comfort of their family home; home- a place which should be the haven of safety. If this can happen there- then who is safe? Horrifying thought. Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock got it right. Horror truly comes in the unexpected violence which intrudes into the safe and simple day-to-day, ordinary life.
So this year, W&W is not going to comment on Halloween Lizzie doings all over America. Rather, try having a really good historical scare by reading the source documents on the case. The witness statements, inquest, preliminary, and trial are all available on Amazon, and some free online. And while you are waiting for your Amazon delivery, here is something interesting to read.
After the annual August 4th dramatization by the Pear Essential Players, visitors on tour at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum were asked to fill out an exit poll and give any comments they wished to leave. Some of the results were surprising and humorous.
Lizzie Guilty 55, Lizzie Innocent 11, Lizzie undecided or neutral 1, Uncle John Morse Guilty or Involved 24, Billy Borden, Guilty 1, Typhoid Mary 1, Emma Borden Guilty 1, Hired Professional Killer 1, Bridget Sullivan Guilty 6, Uncle John and Bridget together 1.
Motives ran the gamut: greed and hatred of stepmother, money and revenge, secret love affair between Lizzie and her Uncle John, mental instability, resentment, payback, anger, jealousy, incest, left out of will, freedom, and envy of her wealthy girlfriends on the Hill.
Other suspects considered were: an evicted tenant of Andrew Borden’s, and Lizzie and Bridget working together, Bridget aiding in the cover-up.
One very interesting motive for murder proposed was the effect that “overly busy patterns on the wall paper and carpeting brought on mental stress”, as did the killing of Lizzie’s “pet raven” which was probably confused with the pigeons Andrew Borden killed by wringing their necks.
Under the category of weapon, all agreed on HATCHET, with one writer filling in the word “Sufficient”!
For the most part all agreed that the murders would never be solved, with only two claiming confidence that they would be.
After the performances ended, there was a drawing for an overnight stay for two at the B&B. The Aruda family, who live in Fall River, won. The cast of 16 was the largest ever since the B&B opening in 1996. Carol Ann Simone debuted as Lizzie this year to an appreciative crowd. Tickets had sold out by lunch time.
The Fall River Historical Society special August-4-Sept 30 exhibit will display, for the first time, the post mortem photographs of Abby and Andrew Borden. Other rare and never-displayed items from the trial and trial lawyers will be on exhibit.
For those who cannot get enough of the Borden Case, this will be a four-star weekend featuring the annual dramatization at the house on Second Street ( tickets on sale now at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast) and a VERY special exhibit which opens on August 4th and runs through September 30th at the Fall River Historical Society. For Letterboxers, a special letterbox will be hidden in Fall River to mark the 120th anniversary of the historic crime. Atlasquest.com will have the clue, so bring your stamp and notepad, an inkpad is provided in the box. To see the clue type Fall River, MA in the locator box at the Atlasquest.com site. Got Lizzie? And how!
The Pear Essential Players Present
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Reserved Tickets are Now On sale at
The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum
Turn back the clock to the morning of August 4, 1892. The bodies of Abby and Andrew Borden have been discovered cruelly murdered at their home on Second Street. The friends and neighbors have gathered around daughters Emma and Lizzie as the police and doctors collect evidence and question the inhabitants of #92. Can you help the police solve the mystery? Who could have committed such a grisly deed?
A drawing for the day’s tour visitors will be held after the last performance for a Gift Certificate for Two for a night at the Bed & Breakfast. The Drawing is at 4:15 p.m. Follow the Pear Essential Players on Facebook and at http://pearessentialproductions.org/
Abby Borden- Shelley Dziedzic
Andrew Borden- Don Sykes
Lizzie Borden- Carol Ann Simone
Emma Borden- Barbara Morrissey
Uncle John Morse- Joe Radza
Bridget Sullivan- Suzann Rogers
Marshal Hilliard- Ray Mitchell
Officer Phil Harrington- Mark Lomastro
Dr. Bowen- Jack Sheridan
Mrs. Phebe Bowen- Ellen Borden
Addie Churchill- JoAnne Giovino
Dr. Dolan- Michael Shogi
Miss Manning- Eliza Marks
Nellie Bly, Intrepid Globe-Spanning Reporter- Katrina Shogi
Undertaker Winward- Jerry Pacheco
Alice Russell- Kristin Pepe
A new Miss Lizzie is making her debut! Tickets go on sale July 15th! Call 508-675-7333 to reserve.
Under a nearly-full moon and windy night, the guests from the Lizzie Borden B&B Museum visited Lizzie’s grave on the 85th anniversary of her death at Maplecroft. A marigold had been planted along with a vase of cut flowers, several small pebbles and a geranium were at the headstone.
Along Plymouth Avenue, Sonic Nova and Millbillyart.com have painted median flower boxes, including one decorated with a familiar lady.
Celebrated author, biographer and renaissance man, Charles Higham has died at the age of 81. He will probably be best remembered for his sometimes scathing biographies of world figures and celebrities. Two years ago Mr. Higham called to discuss his current project, a theory book on the Borden case. He thought he had come up with something new and exciting. His thought was that Emma and John Morse were thick in the plot to do away with the Bordens. I suggested he come to Fall River to get a better perspective on the crime scene, the city, and the circumstances. He adamantly refused to consider a trip, which is unfortunate. He also seemed dismayed that this idea of Morse and Emma was far from being a new theory. He never called again and the manuscript remained dormant on the shelf. Was he discouraged that he had not solved the crime? One wonders if his manuscript will now ever be published.
Over the holiday weekend, the Boston Pops paid tribute to New England icons, including Lizzie Borden, by playing selections from the Morton Gould musical score for Agnes DeMille’s FALL RIVER LEGEND of 1948.
Miss DeMille was one of the very few allowed into the Second Street home of the McGinns as she worked on the choreography for the ballet featuring the Borden case. This Youtube sampler from the ballet suite was composed by Gould in 1947. Gould died in 1996.
( Prologue & Waltzes 03:30 – Elegy 06:25 – Church Social 10:27 – Hymnal )
This past weekend the cordial society of armchair sleuths returned to #92 Second Street for the annual flocking of the Second Street Irregulars (Muttoneaters) for a jam-packed tour of many Borden-related sites around the area. Friday morning the group of 16 visited the Fall River Historical Society to bestow the yearly awards upon the recent publication by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, Parallel Lives. The flock enjoyed a coffee hour, tour and photo session in the beautiful Victorian garden before heading off to Fairhaven for a picnic at Fort Phoenix and a city tour given by Chris Richards who was dressed to impress!
Chris fired off a vintage rifle, explained how teeth were extracted, limbs were amputated and the life and activities of a wartime barber-dentist-surgeon, a role he re-enacts in costume with a local history group at Fort Phoenix annually. Afterward the Muttoneaters toured city hall and learned about Mark Twain’s dedication speech given on the stage there, visited the locales of the homes in which Helen Brownell stayed (Emma Borden’s alibi), and visited the beautiful Millicent Library where a letterbox was found in a very special place inside. (see Atlasquest.com for clues!) The group then returned to Fall River for a pizza party and presentations on the Villisca murders of 1912 and discussions on Andrew Jennings, one of the attorneys for Lizzie whose journals they saw at the historical society earlier.
Saturday was a busy day which began with a trip to Oak Grove Cemetery to see the room in which the Bordens were autopsied on August 11, 1892, and to inspect the interior of the holding tomb used to house the coffins of the Bordens both before and after the heads were removed by Dr. Dolan.
The morning concluded with a very special visit to Maplecroft and a great tour by Mr. Bob Dube who conducted the group through every room of the three-storied home and explained what was original to Lizzie’s tenure there. This was a very special and much-appreciated opportunity as the house is currently for sale with the future owner still unknown.
After lunch the Muttoneaters visited the Animal Rescue League of Fall River, an annual stop, to bring dog and cat treats and a special 1927 newspaper detailing Lizzie and Emma Borden’s donation to this worthy cause, bequeathed in their wills.
The afternoon brought a real surprise when the group was invited to visit the cellar of the Lodowick Borden (also known as Dr. Kelly’s) home next door to the Borden house on Second Street to view the chimney and cellar where in 1848 Eliza Darling Borden threw three of her children in a cistern and then committed suicide behind the chimney. Beautiful cabinetry with little drawers and cupboards were added much later when the Kellys moved to the house in 1891 and are still intact. The room was most likely used then as Dr. Kelly’s home office.
Saturday evening concluded with a visit from the “Women’s Christian Temperence Union” with Muttoneaters dressed as Mrs. Brayton, Carrie Nation and Mother Willard, followed by a Sunday-style chicken Gospel bird dinner and many hours of animated conversation about the famous Borden case. As always, nobody wanted to leave on Sunday morning and the planning begins again for next year’s adventures.
This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. This year will mark the 120th anniversary of the Borden tragedy. It would be hard to conceive any possible connection between the two- until last month’s revelation.
With the publication of BUILT FROM STONE: THE WESTERLY GRANITE STORY, the sketch and work order for the Borden Oak Grove monument revealed the names of all the workers who worked on the main monument and the four small headstones. The headstone lettering, A.J.B. (Andrew Jackson Borden), A.D.B. (Abby Durfee Borden) for the victims, S.A.B. (Sarah Anthony Borden, Lizzie’s mother), and ALICE (Lizzie’s other sister) were cut by William J. Drew. R&P stand for “raised and polished”on the headstones. J.F. Murphy did the polishing of the letters.
William John Drew and his two brothers came to America in the 1880′s from Cornwall, near Falmouth, England. The sons of an early-widowed mother, the boys had gone to work in the famous granite quarries of Cornwall at a very young age. Simon Drew would head to Maine but William and his brother James Vivian Drew would eventually start a marble and granite monument business in Greenport, Long Island, N.Y. William’s first wife, Louisa, died in 1894 and for a time William J. Drew lived in Westerly, and did some work for Smith’s Granite Company, easily the most prestigious monument company in the Northeast. Orders came in from all over the country for the Westerly blue, red, and rose granite which had a fine grain. The blue was especially easy to carve. Smith’s was the most-desired company to fill the order. Lizzie and Emma Borden placed their order through the Smith’s Providence branch.
William Drew soon found a new love in Elizabeth Brines of Westerly, and on June 24, 1903, they were married. With the Greenport business now growing, the two brothers and their wives found a home together. James Vivian Drew married Mary Louise (Lulu) Thorne Christian and they all settled happily into married life and work at the new business on the harbor in Greenport. William’s son by his first wife had died in 1898, and when his new bride of only a year gave birth to a son on March 30, 1904 life was looking hopeful. The child was called Marshall Brines Drew. About three weeks after his birth, Mrs. William Drew (Elizabeth), died, leaving Marshall motherless and William Drew yet again, without a wife.
His brother James V. Drew and his wife Lulu took the infant in to raise. They had lost their only son Harold not long before so Marshall seemed a godsend.
In October of 1911, James, Lulu and little Marshall decided to go back to Cornwall to visit Grandmother Priscilla Drew. They sailed on the sister of the R.M.S. TITANIC, the OLYMPIC, making them among the very few who ever sailed on both. In April, 1912, Marshall, now aged 8, boarded TITANIC in second class with his aunt and uncle. On the night of April 14, the ship hit the iceberg and sank on the morning of April 15th about 2:20 a.m. Uncle Jim had bundled Lulu and Marshall into lifeboat #11 and both were saved. Jim never had a chance. His body was not found. Back in Greenport, his brother William was devastated at the news and hastened with Lulu’s father to meet the rescue ship, CARPATHIA, in New York harbor, only to find the worst was true. Jim was gone. William Drew carved this monument, a cenotaph, to his late brother Jim out of Westerly blue granite. The brothers were famous for their carved lilies and roses. It is in Oak Grove Cemetery- but not Oak Grove in Fall River- in Ashaway, Rhode Island where Aunt Lu and Marshall lived after Aunt Lu remarried Mr. Richard Opie.
William Drew died of tuberculosis in 1917 in Greenport, L.I. His son lived to be 82, and died in June of 1986. His stone was designed by this site’s administrator and funded by Titanic International Society, It is made of Westerly blue granite and carved by one of the last of the old Westerly granite men, Donald Bonner.
Below is the work order showing William Drew’s name. History is full of strange coincidences and unlikely links. It is hard to know if William Drew was familiar with the notorious case of Lizzie Borden, or that his work would find its way to the heads of two of crime history’s most famous victims.
Photos and text: Shelley Dziedzic, March 2012
So much has been happening in the Borden sphere of late that you need a program to keep up. Not all has been happy news, but most has been cause for celebration.
1. The Central Congregational Church: Things are looking grim for Lizzie’s old church on Rock Street with hopes high yet for a reprieve once again. http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x962233671/Fall-Rivers-former-Central-Congregational-faces-wrecking-ball
2. HBO Mini Series The much-anticipated four-hour series starring Chloe Sevigny and backed by Tom Hanks’ Playtone Productions is still simmering on the back burner. Hopefully when Miss Sevigny wraps her latest project, this fresh take on the Borden saga will get cookin’!
3. Donation of Andrew Jennings’ private notes and journal to the Fall River Historical Society was the exciting news this past weekend as the famous “hip bath collection” yielded one more treasure which was turned over to the historical society. http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x1785609188/Handwritten-journals-from-Lizzie-Borden-lawyer-donated-to-FRHS
4. Parallel Lives is recognized at New England Book Fair http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x570348962/Parallel-Lives-book-on-Lizzie-Borden-wins-honorable-mention
5. Coming Soon! Fall River Revisited by Stefani Koorey. Preorder now at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0738576840/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk
6. The Dead Files visit in January to the Borden house should be airing March 16th at 10 p.m. on the Travel Channel. Check the website for schedule and more on hosts, Amy and Steve. http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/the-dead-files