Artistic Depictions of Lizzie Borden

12 Apr

From Liberty Magazine,1929

Just “Google” Lizzie Borden and click “Images” and you’ll find all sorts of artistic depictions of Fall River’s most famous (infamous) celebrity.  The murders occurred on August 4, 1892 and since then this classic “Who dunnit” has been the subject of countless website and blog references,  magazine articles, books and documentaries.

Here is only a partial listing of other media and formats  in which our favorite enigmatic vixen has been represented:

Most widely known is the made-for-tv film, “Legend of Lizzie Borden” starring Elizabeth Montgomery, Paramount Pictures, 1975.  (Note:  There has never been a major studio or independent theatrical release of this case so Stephen Spielberg are you listening?)

Lizzie was the subject of the operas Lizzie Borden (1965) by Jack Beeson and Lizbeth by Thomas Albert.

Lillian Gish played “Effie Holden,” a character based on Miss Borden in 1933’s Nine Pine Street.

Rick Geary used the device of a fictional journal written by a Fall River contemporary of Lizzie’s as the basis of his comic book “The Borden Tragedy: A Memoir of the Infamous Double Murder at Fall River, Massachusetts, 1892.”

Lizzie appears as a character in Monkeybone (2001), Joe Killionaire (2004), and Saturday the 14th Strikes Back (1988), played by Shawnee Free Jones, Alice Alyse, and Lauren Peterson, respectively.

“Blood Relations” by Sharon Pollock premiered at Theatre Tree, Edmonton Canada in 1980. The play is set in 1902, with its “dream thesis” set in 1892, in Fall River.  It explores the events leading up to the trial.  (Of all Lizzie plays this one is performed most often in theaters, schools, community centers, and all sorts of other venues all across the country).

Borden was depicted in The Simpsons episodes “Treehouse of Horror IV” (1993), where she was one of the jurors in a trial for Homer’s soul, and “Cape Feare” (same year), in a part where Mrs. Krabappel puts Bart in a play about Borden with class nerd Martin Prince as the title character.

A figure of Borden appears on Captain Spaulding’s ‘Murder Ride’ in Rob Zombie’s film House of 1000 Corpses.

Lizzie was the topic of The Chad Mitchell Trio’s aptly named “Lizzie Borden/You Can’t Chop Your Poppa Up in Massachusetts.” It was written by Michael Brown for “New Faces of 1952.”

She was also the subject of the cockney knees-up style song “Oh, Mother Borden” by late 80s UK musical satirists The Dubious Brothers.

The Disney Channel show Smart Guy alluded to the Borden murders in an episode in which Yvette and a few friends pretend to be axe murderers and chant the well-known rhyme.

Angela Carter wrote a short story, entitled “The Fall River Axe Murders”, on the events leading up to the murders, as well as a short story entitled “Lizzies Tiger”, a strange little story written as a mock children’s tale.

W.O. Mitchell’s “The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon” features Lizzie as a minor character.

Alexander Woollcott of The New Yorker magazine, was fascinated by Lizzie and commented on her during his 1930’s radio broadcasts. He was the inspiration for the Sheridan Whiteside character in the George S. Kaufman and Moss Hartplay The Man Who Came to Dinner which had a very minor character supposedly Lizzie.

The song She Took An Axe by the thrash metal band Flotsam and Jetsam tells Lizzie’s story, portraying her as a demon inspired woman, treating the subject with humor.

In Mary Higgins Clark novel, No Place Like Home, the main character is compared to Lizzie Borden for having killed her mom as a child

Morton Gould wrote a ballet on the subject of Lizzie Borden, Fall River Legend, which was premiered by Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on April 22, 1948. He later abridged the music into a suite which is the more commonly performed version.

The Mezco Toyz production Living Dead Dolls created one of their child-like dolls in honor of Lizzie Borden. As with all Living Dead Dolls, the Borden doll comes with a “Death Certificate” and poem (the poem for the Borden doll is the famous, “Lizzie Borden took an axe…” poem). The doll was released in the second series and can be seen at Living Dead

Lizzie Borden is buried at her father’s feet in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, Mass.  If his skeletal foot isn’t kicking her in the head at the stroke of 11:00 every day – perhaps her skeletal jaw is twisted downward signifying her perpetual disapproval to all of the above.


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