When actress Nance O’Neil arrived in Boston in 1904 with her repertoire of tragic heroines, the critics hailed her as “the American Sarah Bernhardt.” But it was her relationship with the infamous Lizzie Borden that caused the bigger sensation. David Foley’s NANCE O’NEIL, imaginatively elaborated from a historical footnote, examines the fascinating relationship between these two women. Were they in love? Or were there other motivations at play?
The story of Lizzie Borden has captured the American imagination for well over a Century. Accused of the brutal hatchet murders of her father and stepmother, Lizzie was acquitted by a Fall River, Massachusetts jury, but her presumed guilt lingered in the small community where she lived. She has remained a notorious figurein American folklore.
The relationship between Nance O’Neil and Lizzie Borden has been rife with speculation. As a spinster, Lizzie’s sexuality has always been in question. With rumors of Nance’s numerous affairs with other women,some high profile, several historians and researchers have speculated that Nance and Lizzie were indeed lovers. However, historically this remains as elusive as Mr. and Mrs. Borden’s killer.