Lizzie Borden is occasionally mentioned in a film or TV show but seldom is she referred to by the name many of the children of her friends called her long after the infamous trial of 1893. Those children called her “Auntie Borden”, so we have learned from the magnificient book, Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River. Indeed, only those who have read this book learn of that fact as it was revealed for the very first time when the book was published in November of 2011. Imagen my complete surprise when I heard it mentioned while watching the 1972 movie “Sleuth”.
“Auntie Borden” in her later years.
About 35 minutes into the film, Lawrence Olivier (as playwrite Andrew Wyke) is attempting to find a costume for Michael Caine (Milo Tindle) to pretend to be a burglar in their plot to have Michael Caine’s character steal a cache of jewels. Olivier steps on a floor button and up pops a female skeleton to which Olivier says: “Oh, there you are Auntie Borden”. I cracked up and immediately Googled the playwrite.
Anthony Shaffer was born just one year before Lizzie Borden died (1926), but it is likely as a young adult he heard of the Borden case and when he came to write Sleuth included the subtle reference to one of America’s most notorious unsolved crimes. He was fond of true crime as we learn from his tribute web page, and he may have read the books on the case published up until his death.
Anyway, it made my ears perk up to a film I had seen 3 times previous but never caught the reference. I shall look for it in subsequent “Sleuth” films. Michael Caine, dear man, and a wonderful actor, enhanced his own career by playing both parts in different screen adaptations of the play “Sleuth”.
And that’s all, Auntie Borden. 🙂