Visit the Grave of an Owensboro Native Whose Trial Inspired the Musical ‘Chicago’
My oh my, do we have a lot of history in Daviess County. Sometimes you just have to know where to look.
Those gold and brown historical markers are a big help and I try to read them whenever I can. Most of them, however, are right on the roadside and I'm not that fast a reader.
A piece of history I recently discovered, after a little quick research, has no such marker, but should.
The Next Stop on Townsquare Tour de Tri-State
Here at Townsquare Media, we have a new series called Townsquare Tour de Tristate. Each month, we're featuring some of the wild and crazy things that really put the tristate, its people, its restaurants, businesses, and landmarks on the map. And there's no doubt that THIS is one of those things.
THE PLAY'S THE THING
According to BroadwayinChicago.com, a reporter named Maurine Dallas Watkins was assigned coverage of the 1924 Chicago murder trial of Belva Gaertner--charged with killing her lover, although it was believed she had committed two other murders for which she wasn't charged--and Beulah Annan--also on trial for murdering her lover.
The proceedings inspired Watkins to write a play about these women and their stories. But she decided to combine Gaertner and Annan into one woman--her lead character--Roxie Hart. Their attorneys were folded into the flamboyant Billy Flynn. Others involved in the trial also became characters in the play.
THIS STORY NEEDS MUSIC
Fifty years later, the great Broadway director and choreographer Bob Fosse got a hold of the material, which so impressed his wife--theater legend Gwen Verdon--that she convinced him to transform it into a musical called Chicago. It premiered in 1975 and has become one of Broadway's most iconic musicals.
And, as we all know, it was adapted into a blockbuster movie musical that eventually won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2003--the last musical to do so.
FROM OWENSBORO TO CHICAGO TO THE STAGE TO THE SCREEN
Well, guess what. Beulah Annan, aka Roxie Hart, is originally from Owensboro and was, in fact, laid to rest in Daviess County, at the Mount Pleasant Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetery on Highway 81.
Annan was born Beulah May Sheriff and, in March of 1920, moved to Chicago with her second husband Al Annan. Soon after, she began an affair with a man named Harry Kalstedt, the man she was charged with murdering.
An account at PeoplePill.com indicates there were multiple versions of what happened the night of that shooting. Perhaps that cast enough reasonable doubt on the case to get her acquitted, which it is important to note that she was.
Annan died of tuberculosis in 1928, but a portion of this native Owensboroan's life has been somewhat immortalized on stage and on the big screen.
It's interesting to me that the same actress has now portrayed someone from my hometown AND Judy Garland.
You never know what kind of surprises life has to offer, do you?