Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chicago: The Girls of Murder City

Look at those eyes. In their time, in their prime, they must have held all the power of incantatory spells. They were the eyes of a killer.

They belonged to Beulah Annan, who was the inspiration for Roxie Hart of Chicago — the 1924 play, the 1927 silent, the 1975 musical and the 2002 Oscar-winning film (and that 1942 Ginger Rogers flick). A married woman accused of shooting her lover in the back, Annan’s murder trial was inescapably tabloid-ready.

And as Douglas Perry explains in his new book, The Girls of Murder City: Fame Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago, all Chicago was ready for a ripping-good yarn. Except, arguably, for Belva “Belle” Brown, more formally known as Mrs. William Gaertner as well as “Stylish Belva,” whose own sordid accused-murder tale scored headlines a few weeks before Annan’s. A multiple divorcee and cabaret performer, she was the inspiration for the one and only Velma Kelly.

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