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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Beth Henley
BornElizabeth Becker Henley
(1952-05-08) May 8, 1952 (age 66)
Jackson, Mississippi
NationalityUnited States
Alma materSouthern Methodist University
University of Illinois
Notable awardsPulitzer Prize for Drama (1981)

Elizabeth Becker "Beth" Henley (born May 8, 1952) is an American playwright, screenwriter, and actress. Her play Crimes of the Heart won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the 1981 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play, and a nomination for a Tony Award. Her screenplay for Crimes of the Heart was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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  • ✪ 6 Incredibly Frustrating Unsolved Mysteries in the United States


6 Incredibly Frustrating Unsolved Mysteries in the U.S 1. The Gardner Museum Heist. Prosecutors contend that Robert Gentile, 80, knows the whereabouts of paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, in Boston in 1990 A mobster who prosecutors contend knows the whereabouts, of paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, in Boston in the largest art heist in US history is near death, his attorney said on Saturday. Robert Gentile, 80, had been scheduled to stand trial last month for selling, a loaded firearm to a convicted killer, charges his attorney contends were the product of a federal, sting operation intended to pressure Gentile into leading agents, to paintings stolen in 1990. The brazen theft was carried out by two men dressed in police uniforms, who apparently overpowered a night security guard, who buzzed them in a back entrance. None of the 13 artworks, which include Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee and The Concert, by Vermeer, have been recovered. Gentile’s trial was delayed by his failing health, and a request by defense attorney Ryan McGuigan, that he be evaluated to determine, if he was mentally capable of standing trial. McGuigan said he visited Gentile in South Carolina this week, after being advised by federal officials to tell Gentile’s wife, also 80 and in ill health, and son, in his early 50s, to prepare for the possibility of the man’s death. “I told him that if there ever was a time, to give up some information that you haven’t yet, that I don’t know, this would be it,” McGuigan said in a phone interview. He said he believed that if Gentile were to offer up new information about the paintings, federal officials would allow him to see his family in Connecticut. “He said, ‘Yeah, but there’s no painting,’” McGuigan said. “His story has never changed in the six years that I have represented him.” A spokesman for federal prosecutors in Connecticut declined to comment. McGuigan said he could not provide more detail on where Gentile was being held. Gentile has repeatedly denied knowing the whereabouts, of any of the art taken in one of Boston’s longest unsolved high profile crimes. Due to a quirk in Gardner’s will, the empty frames that once held the paintings remain on the walls, of the museum she built to house the collection, she amassed with her husband. The art must be displayed in the way that it was during her lifetime, preventing curators from hanging new works, and leaving a constant reminder of the theft. At a court hearing last year, federal prosecutors said Gentile had been secretly recorded telling an undercover, FBI agent that he had access to at least two of the stolen paintings, and could sell them for $500,000 each. A 2012 FBI search of Gentile’s home turned up a handwritten list of the stolen art, its estimated value and police uniforms, according to court documents. 2. The JonBenet Ramsay murder District Attorney Stan Garnett the prosecutor for Boulder County, Colorado, USA has revealed to he hopes to go to trial, so he can point the finger at the six-year-old’s murderer. If anyone can solve the infamous case, locals believe it is Garnett, who came to the job after a string of errors by his predecessors prevented justice being found. Asked if he thought he knew who killed JonBenet, Garnett replied: “I do.” He added: “If we can ever file a case in open court, I’ll tell the world.” asked him to reveal his view on who was responsible for the death, but he declined to say. The DA last week announced he was retesting DNA evidence, from the 20-year-old crime scene using the latest techniques, but warned he would need, “several different pieces of evidence to come together” to prosecute. JonBenet was found dead in the basement, of her family home on Boxing Day 1996, with a blow to her head, and a homemade garrotte around her neck. Her mother Patsy had reported JonBenet missing, that morning and said she had discovered a ransom note, which some have claimed she wrote herself. Garnett told there were “problems with the case from the start”, and DNA testing was one of the issues. This was highlighted in September’s dramatic CBS special, The Case of JonBenet Ramsey, when a team of top forensic experts revealed, the genetic material found in the dead child’s leggings, and underwear came from two different unidentified sources, and not necessarily her murderer. Previous Boulder DA Mary Lacy cited the DNA evidence, as her reason for exonerating the little girl’s parents Patsy, and John Ramsey and her brother Burke of her murder in 2008. But Garnett said her exoneration letter was an example, of how “my predecessors wandered a bit” from what their role was supposed to be. He said the prosecutor’s job was “to review the evidence, and decide if evidence can be brought, and if it can, to go to court.” The DA at the time of JonBenet’s murder, Alex Hunter, decided in 1999 to go against the vote of nine grand jury members, and not indict Mr and Mrs Ramsey on charges of child abuse resulting in death, and accessory to a crime. Even at the crime scene, there were many errors. Police failed to search the home after Mrs Ramsey reported JonBenet missing, with her body discovered by her father eight hours after the 911 call. Mr Ramsey was then allowed to carry his daughter up the stairs from the basement, contaminating the evidence. The parents were not separated and questioned, and were not asked to attend police interviews for weeks after JonBenet’s death. There was little co-operation between the Boulder Police Department, and the DA’s office. “It’s a frustrating case,” said Garnett, who revealed he studied the murder at length before taking on the job. “Everybody involved in the case at certain points made mistakes... A lot of these we can’t do anything about. It doesn’t do much good to dwell on it. “We’d love to solve the Ramsey case.” He said whether he could file a case would depend on, “what the evidence turns into.” A trial is not inconceivable. Garnett has already solved a number of cold cases, that his predecessors failed to prosecute, and his team regularly receives tip-offs. There are two detectives still assigned to solving JonBenet’s murder, as the 20th anniversary approaches. In the meantime, the prosecutor has implemented changes, to how his office works to ensure no other victims like JonBenet face the further, insult of being failed by the legal system. We have a really strong relationship with the police, and people we send to crime scenes,” he said. “We have an officer who goes to court a lot. Jury trial is a skill. “One issue in the 90s was that the prosecutor hadn’t been, and was a little leery of going to trial. “They didn’t have lawyers who knew how to use a grand jury, they waited almost two years.” Forensic pathologist Werner Spitz, who appeared on The Case of JonBenet Ramsey, speculated the six-year-old’s brother Burke, then nine, could have bludgeoned his sister to death. Burke, now a 29 year old software engineer, strongly denies the claims and in October filed a defamation lawsuit against Dr Spitz, who he claimed was a publicity seeker “with a history of interjecting himself in high profile cases”. He sought a jury trial and at least $150million, (£122million) in damages. A hearing on Dr Spitz’s motion for summary, disposition is scheduled for February 24, 2017. Back in the affluent town of Boulder, at the base of the Rocky Mountains foothills, the wait is on for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, to complete a new round of DNA testing. Then the final crucial pieces of this decades-old puzzle may fall into place. The case remains unsolved. 3. The Wheaton Bandit Robberies. The statute of limitations to catch a man, who allegedly robbed 16 local banks, runs out tomorrow, Dec. 7 five years after his last known offense. The criminal, dubbed the “Wheaton Bandit” due to the bulk, of his crimes happening in Wheaton, first struck January 14, 2002 robbing a bank in the 200, block of West Loop Road. Almost one year later on January 3, 2003, the bandit struck another branch in the 200 block of West Street. Less than two weeks later on Jan. 11, the bandit robbed his original bank target, according to In all, the serial bank robber allegedly robbed 16 banks in the western suburbs, seven of which were in Wheaton and four in Glen Ellyn. The bandit was known to rob the same banks repeatedly. The two banks in Wheaton were robbed a total of five times. Since 2006, the trail has grown cold. “So far we have been unable to identify this dangerous criminal, and the statute of limitations is running out,” said Wheaton Deputy Police Chief Tom Meloni in May. Meloni said Wheaton investigators have partnered with detectives, from other areas where the Bandit struck as well as agents, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI spokesman Ross Rice told the Chicago Tribune, the FBI has two investigators working on the case, but did not provide further details. He told the Tribune that the Bandit's behavior indicated, he had carefully planned the robberies. Meloni said in May he was confident and hopeful, that an arrest will be made before the Dec. 7 deadline, five years since the Glen Ellyn robbery. The federal statute of limitations for bank robbery is five years, so even if caught, the Wheaton Bandit could only be charged with the three 2006 robberies, including those in Winfield, Geneva and Glen Ellyn. “We need to catch this man before he hurts someone. Armed robbery is a heinous offense,” Meloni said. He added the Wheaton Police Department pays special attention to financial institutions, and to businesses due to the chance for armed robbery. Meloni said with each subsequent robbery, investigators have learned more and more about the bandit. However, he said he could not comment on specific tactics, or investigation routes the task force is employing. Authorities received several breaks in the case, including a possible witness who saw the bandit without, his trademark ski mask prior to a 2006 robbery of the Winfield bank. Additionally authorities obtained a bank surveillance photo of someone; they call a person of interest who may have been scouting a Glen Ellyn bank prior to its robbery in 2004. According to the FBI, witnesses described the Wheaton Bandit as a white male, between the ages 25 – 35, (at the time of the robberies), between 5' 10”- 6’ 2” in height, of medium build, with blue eyes. During the robberies, he used a hood or ski mask to help conceal his identity, according to an FBI press release. He is possibly left handed, and has been armed with a semi-automatic handgun during each of the robberies, which he has used to threaten bank employees and customers. He is also thought to have prior law enforcement, or military training due to the way he handled the weapon, Special Agent Robert Grant wrote in the press release. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000, for information leading to his identification and arrest. 4. The Amy Wroe Bechtel Disappearance. In a meadow behind a sturdy log house above Red Lodge, JoAnne Wroe has found a place to feel connected with her lost daughter. Without a grave to visit, it is here among the flowers, and trees and a meandering mountain creek that Wroe feels closest to Amy. "When I go out and enjoy, I think Amy is watching me," Wroe said. "Where I'm living now, that's what this does for me. I go out and I look at the flowers because …" Wroe's voice trails off as she tries to describe how it is possible that a place, even a beautiful place such as this, could begin to fill the emptiness in her heart. "I'm doing it because Amy would have liked it," she said. Amy would have liked this place among the aspen trees, wildflowers and songbirds, JoAnne Wroe explains. And Amy would be happy to know that, her mother has found some solace in the mountains. On July 24, 1997, Amy Wroe Bechtel disappeared in the mountains outside Lander, Wyo. At least, that's where her car was found. What happened to the 24 year old woman remains a mystery. An intensive 10 day search and rescue operation turned up few clues beyond her white Toyota, which was parked on the side of a two-lane road in the Shoshone National Forest. Evidence remained elusive when the search for Amy, evolved into a criminal investigation. Over the past decade, law enforcement has developed little, more than theories about Amy's fate. Profiles of the case on national television, and in magazines have generated little that has been useful to law enforcement. A $25,000 reward went unclaimed, for so long that the family last year converted it into two college scholarship funds in Amy's name. Fremont County Sheriff Sgt. Roger Rizor has been the lead investigator since shortly after Amy disappeared. She is still officially listed as a missing person, Rizor said. "But I believe it was a homicide, and I believe what happened to her happened on the day she disappeared," Rizor said. The detective won't describe anyone as a suspect, choosing instead to use the words "a person of interest." "In my mind there is only one person that I want to talk to, only one person who has refused to talk to law enforcement, and that's her husband," Rizor said. Steve and Amy Bechtel were married for 13 months before she disappeared. They met at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and moved together to Lander to pursue their passion for outdoor activities: She was a runner, he a rock climber. Steve Bechtel met with investigators only once, shortly after Amy disappeared. He then got a lawyer and has refused to provide further statements. He did not respond to a recent request by The Billings Gazette for an interview. Steve Bechtel left Lander for Utah after Amy disappeared. Three years ago, he had Amy declared deceased, JoAnne Wroe said. He has since remarried and moved back to Lander, where he owns a fitness center. His decadelong silence has only intensified speculation that, he knows what happened to Amy. "If a man's wife disappears mysteriously, you don't clam up, you don't refuse to cooperate with the cops," Rizor said. Joanne Wroe is equally suspicious of her former son in law. About a year after Amy went missing, Steve Bechtel met with JoAnne and her husband, but he was evasive and provided few answers to their questions, she said. "We still don't know anything about where she is and what's become of her," JoAnne Wroe said. "And we have concerns that after all these years Amy's husband has still not agreed to work with law enforcement and answer questions. We are still waiting for Steve to come forward so that he can be cleared. It's the only way he can clear himself from being a person of interest." After Joanne Wroe's husband died in January 2000, she built the log house in the mountains near Red Lodge, on property the couple bought as an investment years before. It was finished three years ago. If Amy were there, JoAnne Wroe and her other three children would be celebrating Amy's 35th birthday on Aug. 4. Wroe will be in California attending her niece's wedding, on the 10-year anniversary of Amy's disappearance. At 65, she continues to work as a part time teacher in Powell, where she moved from when the cabin was done, and at a wildlife rescue center in Red Lodge. As the years have passed, Wroe stopped marking the anniversaries since Amy was last seen alive. "I want to just get through it and past it," she said. Five years ago, Wroe made the three hour drive from Powell to Lander, searching for something that could bring her answers. "I wanted to put up yellow ribbons again," she said. "I just had this thing, that somebody there in Lander knows something." She started visiting stores, asking the owners to consider putting up her daughter's posters again. One store owner complained: "Haven't we let this rest yet?" "He didn't know I was her mother," Wroe said. "It hit me hard. It wasn't his fault. But it suddenly made me realize how other people feel. I decided then that I didn't want to do anything special after that." Her other children Amy was the youngest of four deal, with Amy's disappearance in their own way, JoAnne said. Some of the ways they cope are clearly visible to their mother, such as her oldest daughter's protective nature toward her two children. Other signs are more subtle and private. "It hurts me to see my kids hurt," she said. "Their lives are so affected. Even my grandson, who is a freshman in college, is very protective of his mother. It has affected all of us." It is hard for Wroe to accept that her daughter might be a victim of crime. Amy, she said, was caring, kind and concerned, not only for those closest to her but also for the world she shared with everyone. Amy was adamant about recycling and "very conscientious about taking care of the Earth." Wroe said she was slow to react when investigators asked the family, to provide Amy's dental records, and any material that could supply them with some of her daughter's DNA. She collected a lock of Amy's hair saved in a baby book. "That was when things hit me," she said. "It was like, 'OK, this means they think she's dead.' There's just no way, because nobody would hurt Amy." Wroe is still reluctant to fully accept that Amy might be dead, although she knows that after 10 years there is little hope of another explanation. She is drawn to news accounts of other missing children. "Sometimes I can't watch," she said. "Other times I am really curious, hoping that it will give me ideas or answers on Amy's disappearance. "A part of me is realistic, and I'm aware that she is probably not alive," she said. "I have learned to live with the fact that Amy is gone. But I have not accepted it, and I will not until I know what happened." 5. The Disappearance of Maud Crawford. It is, however, better known, not for its grandeur, but for its link to one of Arkansas’ most enduring mysteries. Sometime between 8:30, and 11:30 p.m. that cold March night more than 50 years ago, Crawford vanished without a trace. Crawford was born Maud Robinson on June 22, 1891 in Greenville, Texas. When she was 9 years old, her mother died, and she moved to Warren, Ark., to live with her grandmother. A bright, inquisitive girl, she graduated as valedictorian at her high school, and attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She married Clyde Falwell Crawford in 1925, and in 1927 was admitted to the Arkansas Bar, becoming the first female attorney in the history of Camden. She practiced at the same law firm in, which U.S. Senator John McClellan had been a partner. She was well known about town and was frequently seen walking her Dalmatian, or driving her dark blue, two door 1956 Mercury sedan. Active in civic affairs, she had won awards for her contributions to the community. But when she disappeared, it was not just Camden that stood up and took notice. It was the whole country. Her story made national headlines because of her ties to McClellan. He was chairing a Senate inquiry into organized crime, and speculation arose that Maud may have been abducted by the Mafia in retaliation against McClellan. But when no threat or ransom note was ever received, friends and neighbors were mystified as to why anyone would want to harm Crawford. Two weeks after the disappearance, Police Chief G. B. Cole was quoted in The Camden News as saying, “We have not turned up a single clue.” Of that night, only a few facts are known. At 8:30 p.m., Maud’s cousin phoned and talked to her for a while. Everything seemed normal. Clyde had gone downtown to see a movie at the Malco Theatre. Afterwards, he stopped by Carter Liquor Store for a few beers before returning home at 11:30 p.m. The lights and television were still on, and a pan of beans was on the dining table, but Crawford was gone. Her clothes were in the closet; her car was in the driveway; and her purse was in the living room. Her billfold still had $142 in it. Her dog, Dal, was unharmed and resting peacefully on the floor. Nothing was missing, except her. Shortly after his wife’s disappearance, Clyde Crawford sold her car to a friend, and it ended up in the possession of Don Harrell, a student at Hendrix College in Conway. One evening in April 1957, Harrell and a friend found a grocery store receipt under the car’s front seat. It was dated March 2, 1957, the same day Crawford had disappeared. A Camden telephone number had been written on the back of the receipt. Harrell sent the ticket to Chief Cole, thinking it might have some significance. Cole thanked Harrell for the potential evidence, and said he would add it to the case file. Harrell never heard any more about it. In 1969, the Probate Court of Ouachita County declared Maud Crawford dead, a victim of foul play. For nearly 30 years after her disappearance, the Maud Crawford case remained unsolved and shrouded in the myth and mystique of a small southern town’s nostalgic past. Then in 1986, Camden native and award-winning actress, screenwriter, producer, and director Beth Brickell wrote a newspaper exposé, blowing the lid off a cover-up that had scared some people into decades of silence. At the time of Crawford’s disappearance, Brickell was attending the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and never imagined that one day she would be the person to elicit the long hidden truths about Crawford’s disappearance. Even though nearly 30 years had passed, and many players in the true life drama were dead, Brickell found some people were still afraid to talk. She stepped on some big toes, and as a result, her life was threatened. The Arkansas Gazette was told to abandon the project or face legal action. The newspaper and Brickell stood their ground and proceeded with the sensational story. Brickell researched old records in the Hempstead County Courthouse, and conducted numerous interviews. “I traveled all over Arkansas,” Brickell said, “And from Washington, D.C. to California, talking to anybody who knew a piece of the puzzle.” Among those interviewed was Odis A. Henley, the original State Police detective on the case. Henley said he had found evidence implicating a man by the name of Henry Myar “Mike” Berg, a member of the Arkansas State Police Commission. After Henley reported his suspicions to his superiors, he was taken off the case and reassigned. His files disappeared as mysteriously as had Maud Crawford. So who was Mike Berg, and what was his connection to the missing attorney? Brickell discovered Crawford had been legal counsel for Rose Newman Berg, Berg’s elderly aunt. Rose’s estate was valued in excess of $20 million dollars, but she was senile, probably suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In 1955, the Ouachita County Court declared Rose incompetent, and appointed Crawford as her guardian and the executor of Rose’s will. Rose intended to leave her estate to her three nieces, leaving nothing to Berg. While carrying out her duties as Rose’s legal counsel, Crawford discovered fraudulent deeds that conveyed Rose’s valuable real estate holdings, and oil royalties to Berg. Before Crawford could have the deeds decreed null and void, she disappeared and so did Rose Berg’s will. Berg ended up with his aunt’s entire fortune after settling a claim by her nieces. None of these shenanigans were made public in 1957. Publicity from Brickell’s articles, however, caused the Crawford case to be re-opened. The prosecuting attorney subpoenaed Berg’s bodyguard, Jack Dorris, but Dorris had cancer and died without talking. Berg died in 1975 … 11 years prior to Brickell’s investigation. No charges were ever brought against anyone. There lies the tragic tale of greed and murder. Where Crawford’s body lies is anybody’s guess … her body was never found. 6. The Purolator Armed Truck Robbery. Even after nearly 30 years, authorities still can't identify the men, who used cunning in lieu of violence to pull off the largest local robbery in history, the $2.5 million theft at an armored truck terminal in Brentwood on March 17, 1982. By contrast, it took only hours Tuesday for Pittsburgh police, to identify an armed security guard as a suspect in the fatal shooting of his partner, and the theft of more than $2 million from their armored truck left idling in the Strip District. Whoever committed the Brentwood robbery, on St. Patrick's Day 1982 got away with the crime, and nearly $6 million in loot when adjusted for inflation, because the statute of limitations expired five years later? In Tuesday's crime, Pittsburgh detectives quickly alerted law enforcement agencies nationwide, to be on the lookout for the suspect, Kenneth John Konias Jr., 22, of Dravosburg. The difference between the cases is striking, said retired FBI agent Larry Likar, chairman of La Roche College's Justice, Law and Security Department. The bloodless Brentwood heist was the result of meticulous planning and execution by professionals, said Mr. Likar, who as an FBI agent investigated the robbery as a cold case in 1987. By contrast, he said, the slaying Tuesday of the armed guard, Michael Haines, 31, of East McKeesport, and Mr. Konias' reported actions afterward fleeing in his own car, returning home where he left his blood splattered uniform coat, using his cell phone seemed to indicate there had been little or no effective planning. "Armored vehicles are normally the realm of professionals," said Mr. Likar. "It takes planning, connections. You have to do it effectively to get away with it." And, he said, that's exactly what happened in the Brentwood case. The drama began about 11:30 p.m. when two men slipped under the garage door of the Purolator Armored Inc. terminal. The door was closing after a Purolator truck pulled out for a delivery. James Powers, a 54 year old security guard from Brookline, later told investigators that a white man, and a black man both about 6 feet tall, dressed in trench coats and wearing dark glasses, and carrying walkie talkies flashed badges, and said they were from the FBI. They had been tipped the terminal was going to robbed, they said. Mr. Powers let down his guard in the presence of the would-be G-men. That's all the robbers needed to yank a shotgun out of his hands, turn him around and snatch his pistol from its holster. He was handcuffed, his legs were tied at the ankles, and his eyes were taped shut. Later, in the only act of violence, he was struck on the head. Forced to lie on the concrete terminal floor, he heard the two men talking on their walkie-talkies and a vehicle pull into the garage. The robbers used steel carts to roll, to their getaway vehicle 30 bags full of $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills, all of which weighed about 500 pounds. They left behind about $55 million. And just like that, they vanished into the night and into Pittsburgh crime lore. "It was a classic ruse type of operation," Mr. Likar said. "Not every criminal can pull that off. Some robbers are more comfortable displaying physical force, but the ability to use subterfuge, to be an actor in a script, demands a higher degree of skill and intelligence." Investigators believed the bandits had inside help, and organized crime was involved but could find no evidence to pin the theft on anyone. The FBI grilled Mr. Powers as part of its investigation and ultimately cleared him. Fired a month after the robbery, he filed a lawsuit against his former employer, which was settled out of court in 1984. He died in November 1996. Likewise cleared was a Pittsburgh police officer, who abruptly quit his job in the days following the robbery? FBI agents hypnotized a witness who had reportedly caught a glimpse, of the getaway vehicle to try to learn its license number, but it didn't work. Investigators never publicly identified any suspects, but they received tips from throughout the country. The only time a name was connected to the robbery was in September 1990, during an organized crime trial in Pittsburgh. Federal informant Joseph Rosa, a convicted drug dealer from Penn Hills, testified that one of the defendants in the trial, Geno Chiarelli, had confided that he had committed the Purolator robbery. But nothing ever came of that assertion and, besides, the statute of limitations had expired. "It was a dead end," Mr. Likar said of his look at the cold case. "I came away with the belief it was linked to organized crime, but I couldn't be sure any one individual was involved. "I was impressed. It was a successful job and they didn't get caught, and there was a lot of money." Retired Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Ronald Freeman, a college professor and police historian, said the case was unlike any other he knew of locally. "It was well thought out, well executed and very successful. You had multiple agencies such as the FBI, Pittsburgh police, Brentwood police and other local police and an internal investigation looking at it, and the combined efforts of all of them came up with nothing, which again shows how well planned it was," he said. "These people had to have monitored, observed and paid attention to what was going on [at Purolator] and planned accordingly. They had to plan this over a long period of time. "It's the kind of stuff you read about in novels or see in the movies, created by writers. This is a crime we rarely ever see."



Henley was born in 1952 in Jackson, Mississippi. She was one of four sisters. Her parents were Charles Boyce, an attorney, and Elizabeth Josephine Henley, an actress. Henley attended Murrah High School in Jackson, followed by Southern Methodist University, where she was a member of the acting ensemble.[1] While at college, Henley completed her first play, a one-act piece entitled Am I Blue. She graduated from Southern Methodist in 1974 with a BFA.[2] From 1975 to 1976, she taught playwriting at the University of Illinois (Urbana) and the Dallas Minority Repertory Theater.[1]

In 1976 Henley moved to Los Angeles and began work on her play Crimes of the Heart.[1]

For many years, Henley dated actor, writer and director Stephen Tobolowsky, whom she met while they were students at Southern Methodist University. Their relationship ended in 1988.[3]

Playwright and screenwriter

Crimes of the Heart was Henley's first professionally produced play. It opened at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1978, where it was declared co-winner of a new American play contest.[4] The play then moved to New York and was produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club.[5] Crimes of the Heart won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1981 as well as the award for Best American Play of 1981 from the New York Drama Critics' Circle.[6] The play also earned Henley a nomination for a Tony Award, and her screenplay for the film version of Crimes of the Heart was nominated for an Oscar as Best Adapted Screenplay.[5] Henley has stated that growing up with three sisters was a major inspiration for her play Crimes of the Heart.[7]

Henley's first six plays are set in the Deep South: two in Louisiana and four in Mississippi, where she grew up.[8]

Henley adapted her 1984 play The Miss Firecracker Contest into a 1989 film starring Holly Hunter entitled Miss Firecracker. Henley's play Ridiculous Fraud was produced at the McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey in 2006. Her play Family Week was produced at MCC Theater, New York City in 2010, directed by Jonathan Demme.


The themes in her plays often consider the importance of love, the contrast between family love and romantic love,[9] how family and society define and confine her female characters,[8] and the alienation and suffering of the human condition. Characters in her plays may seek happiness but are betrayed by modern civilization.[10] Henley's work suggests the influence of Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Her Southern sense of the grotesque and absurd experienced in daily existence have caused her to be compared to other southern writers such as Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor, or to be considered part of the Southern Gothic tradition.[10]

Her plays written in the 1980s have been characterized as naturalistic portrayals of the relationship between the inner self and the world,[11] and her characters often are outsiders and nonconformists unable to share their feelings and experiences.[1] Her plays of the 1990s, including Abundance, the first play not set in the South, are considered more experimental than her earlier work.[12] Henley applies new techniques and styles in these plays.[13] Her play Revelers employs some older and traditional theatre techniques.[1]


  • Am I Blue (1972)
  • Crimes of the Heart (1978)
  • The Miss Firecracker Contest (1979)
  • The Wake of Jamey Foster (1981)
  • The Debutante Ball (1985)
  • The Lucky Spot (1986)
  • Abundance (1990)
  • Control Freaks (1992)
  • Signature (1995)
  • L-play (1996)
  • Revelers (1996)
  • Impossible Marriage (1998)
  • Family Week (2000)
  • Sisters of the Winter Madrigal (2003)
  • Ridiculous Fraud (2007)
  • The Jacksonian (2013)[14]



  1. ^ a b c d e Andreach, Robert (2006). Understanding Beth Henley. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. ISBN 1-57003-639-X.
  2. ^ Andreach, Robert (2006). Understanding Beth Henley. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. ISBN 1-57003-639-X. page 8.
  3. ^ Tobolowsky, Stephen. The Dangerous Animals Club, 2012, pp. 98, 102 and 139, Simon & Schuster ISBN 978-1-4516-3315-3
  4. ^ Andreach, Robert (2006). Understanding Beth Henley. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. ISBN 1-57003-639-X. page 1.
  5. ^ a b McTague, Sylvia Skaggs (ed) (2004). The Muse upon My Shoulder: Discussions of the Creative Process. Cranbury, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-3996-8.
  6. ^ McTague, Sylvia Skaggs (ed) (2004). The Muse upon My Shoulder: Discussions of the Creative Process. Cranbury, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-3996-8. p. 27
  7. ^ McTague, Sylvia Skaggs (ed) (2004). The Muse upon My Shoulder: Discussions of the Creative Process. Cranbury, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-3996-8. p. 23
  8. ^ a b Karen L. Laughlin. Perry, Carolyn, ed. "The History of Southern Women's Literature". Southern Literary Studies. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press: 588–593.
  9. ^ Andreach, Robert (2006). Understanding Beth Henley. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. ISBN 1-57003-639-X.
  10. ^ a b Plunka, Gene (July 3, 2006). "Freudian Psychology and Beth Henley's Popular Culture Satire: Signature". The Journal of Popular Culture. 39: 639–660. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5931.2006.00283.x.
  11. ^ Andreach, Robert (2006). Understanding Beth Henley. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. ISBN 1-57003-639-X. page 10.
  12. ^ Andreach, Robert (2006). Understanding Beth Henley. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. ISBN 1-57003-639-X. page 53.
  13. ^ Hucheon, Linda. "The Politics of Parody", The Politics of Postmodernism, New York: Routledge, 1989. pp. 93–117
  14. ^ "The Sweet Smell of Decay Pervades a Whodunit". The New York Times. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2016.


  • Andreach, Robert (2006). Understanding Beth Henley. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. ISBN 1-57003-639-X.
  • McTague, Sylvia Skaggs (ed) (2004). The Muse upon My Shoulder: Discussions of the Creative Process. Cranbury, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-3996-8.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

Further reading

External links

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