Friday, March 27, 2015
Whenever Chicago The Musical, is touring in the Albany area, I always have too much going on to attend a performance. But I was thinking of the musical and the story behind it a few days ago. I showed the students in my crime and mass media class a clip from the movie. As many of you know, the 1926 play was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, inspired by two high-profile murder cases in which women accused
of murder of a lover of husband had been acquitted. She wrote the play as a satire on crime and celebrity while attending Yale Drama School.
I always think of Watkins' play in conjunction with Susan Glaspell's play "Trifles" (1916) about the murder of John Hossack. Glaspell adapted the play as a short story, "A Jury of Her Peers" (1917).
Glaspell was a reporter for the Des Moines Daily News when she covered the trial of Margaret Hossack. Hossack was accused of killing her husband, a wealthy farmer, with an axe while he slept. Hossack was first convicted and sentenced to prison. But she was freed after a second trial resulted in a hung jury. No one was ever convicted of the crime, but the case affected Glaspell deeply. If Watkins's play is about a garish, brightly-lit world, Glaspell's is about the isolation of Midwestern farm life. I'd be interested in hearing what you think of her story.