The Legend of Lizzie Borden

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The Legend of Lizzie Borden
Elizabeth Montgomery Legend of Lizzie Borden 1.JPG
Borden rises in court to learn what the jury has decided.
Written by William Bast
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Starring Elizabeth Montgomery
Katherine Helmond
Ed Flanders
Fionnula Flanagan
Fritz Weaver
Amzie Strickland
Hayden Rorke
Music by Billy Goldenberg
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) George LeMaire
Cinematography Robert Hauser
Editor(s) John A. Martinelli
Running time 96 minutes
Production company(s) Paramount Television
Distributor ABC
Original network ABC
Original release February 10, 1975 (1975-02-10)

The Legend of Lizzie Borden is a 1975 American made-for-television historical mystery-drama film starring Elizabeth Montgomery as accused murderer Lizzie Borden, along with Katherine Helmond, Fritz Weaver and Hayden Rorke. It premiered on ABC on February 10, 1975.


The film, although based on fact, is a stylized retelling of the events of August 4, 1892 when the father and step-mother of New England spinster Lizzie Andrew Borden were found brutally murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts home. The subsequent incarceration of the prime suspect (Lizzie herself) as well as the coroner's inquest and trial are largely faithfully depicted, using actual testimony. In what may be seen as deviation from the film's docudrama narrative, as Lizzie hears her verdict, flashbacks are shown of her actually committing the murders in the nude and bathing after each death, thus explaining why no blood was ever found on her or her clothes; however, it is left ambiguous whether Lizzie was actually reminiscing about the crimes or simply fantasizing how she herself would have disposed of her victims. In another deviation, after Lizzie's acquittal, her sister Emma asks her point-blank if she killed their parents; Lizzie does not answer. The epilogue states that the killings of Andrew and Abby Borden remain unsolved.


Sisters Emma and Lizzie Borden played by Katherine Helmond and Elizabeth Montgomery.

Elizabeth Montgomery and Lizzie Borden were sixth cousins once removed, both descending from 17th-century Massachusetts resident John Luther. Rhonda McClure, the genealogist who documented the Montgomery-Borden connection, said, "I wonder how Elizabeth would have felt if she knew she was playing her own cousin."[1] One of the gowns worn by Montgomery in the film is on display at the bed-and-breakfast that now occupies the Borden house.



The film won writer William Bast the 1975 Edgar Award for Best TV Feature/Miniseries.[2] It also won two Emmy Awards, for Costume Design (presented to Guy C. Verhille) and Film Editing (John A. Martinelli), and received nominations in three other Emmy categories: Lead Actress (Montgomery), Art Direction (Jack De Shields), and Sound Editing (Harry Gordon).[2]

The film was also nominated for Best Motion Picture Made for Television in the 1976 Golden Globe Awards.

European version[edit]

The European theatrical version is more explicit than the one broadcast on ABC, showing Borden nude in the scenes where she kills her parents. This version also runs an extra 4 minutes, 104 minutes total versus the United States version of 100 minutes.[3]


A Region 1 DVD release of the film was released on October 7, 2014 and is now available for purchase.


  1. ^ Pylant, James (2004). "The Bewitching Family Tree of Elizabeth Montgomery". Genealogy Magazine. "Rhonda R. McClure. Finding Your Famous (& Infamous) Ancestors. (Cincinnati: Betterway Books: 2003), pp. 14-16. 
  2. ^ a b Derry, Charles (2009). Dark Dreams 2.0: A Psychological History of the Modern Horror Film. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 370. ISBN 9780786456956. 
  3. ^ In appreciation of Elizabeth Montgomery

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