Growing up in an evangelical church I was very familiar with the story of Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her signature Supreme Court case that led to the dismissal of prayer in school. And I vaguely remembered her murder in 1995, but did not remember who committed the crime.
So I watched a short film about her life.
Despite a handful of well-known actors, I would give this Netflix original film a B-/C+ because it has a tabloid feel to it and it focuses mostly on her dark side. The storyline is about her kidnapping and murder so it moves forward in an ‘against the clock’ method by counting down the days until her death. Scenes from the motel are used to pull in the backstory of her life — which in many ways, and on many angles, was deeply troubled.
One of the more interesting aspects of the movie was the Rev. Bob Harrington and Madalyn O’Hair debate which was featured on the Phil Donahue show. The pair realized they had a ‘million-dollar idea’ and took the debate on the road — a profitable move for them.
And, as you will learn in the movie, it’s not her atheism that lead to her death. It’s much more American than that — it’s greed.
Bottom Line: Since the film does not delve very deeply into O’Hair’s life, it is perfect for anyone wanting to know the gist of why Life Magazine called her the ‘Most Hated Woman in America’ in 1964.
If you are looking for a short read (about an hour) on a subject you likely have not heard about — read Orphan Train Rider by Andrea Warren.
The book covers the life of Lee Nailling who rode the train from New York to the ‘West’ (the Midwest) with two of his brothers — after their mother died. The story tells what happened to each of the boys as well as the siblings that were not considered orphans.
Included in the book are data and stats about orphans and how children were generally treated up through the 1920s. For example, in the 1850s, a 7-year-old child could be tried as an adult. This meant that some orphans, like those who had committed petty theft — often to eat, were jailed with adults.
Orphan trains ran in the United States beginning in 1854 and the last one departed in 1930. More than 200,000 children were sent to find new homes this way. It represented the largest migration of children in our history.
It’s a story many Americans do not know — the 1966 mass murder on the University of Texas campus. A gunman climbed up to the top of the University’s signature tower and began shooting down on the students. Shortly after the sniper opened fire, a local TV station had a reporter on the scene — so a lot of the shooting is captured on film. Although film director Keith Maitland uses some of that footage, his decision to use animation to tell the story makes it fresh — and oddly enough — somewhat hopeful.
I won’t review the film to prevent revealing his storytelling method other than to say that the film is built around interviews with victims, bystanders and the officers involved that day. Their words become the backdrop to the shooting that left 14 dead and 31 wounded. As the roughly hour-long ordeal unfolds, ‘average people’ become real heroes on that hot August day. The action of one young woman is simply astounding.
Although some critics say Maitland tells an incomplete story (warning: review does give movie details) I disagree. I feel Maitland tells a very interesting and engaging story about the event that, unfortunately, ushered in the mass-shooting era that still exists today.
Rated 5 out of 5.