OF THE BABY NAME EVELYN
Evelyn Nesbit is a real life character who was fictionalized in E. L. Doctorow’s best-seller, Ragtime, published in 1975, which was also adapted into a film and a musical. (Florence) Evelyn Nesbit is an impoverished, but beautiful, young girl at the turn of the century who makes it big as an artists’ model (one of the famous “Gibson Girls”) and an actress. She was involved in the most scandalous crime of the young century when her husband, disturbed millionaire, Harry K. Thaw, shot and killed her one-time lover, Stanford White, a renowned architect. At trial, having been promised a million dollars by Thaw’s mother, Evelyn perjured herself, testifying that she had been raped by White and that Harry was avenging her honor. Thaw was sentenced to an asylum for the criminally insane and later freed, but Mother Shaw reneged on her promise to poor little Evelyn. Nesbit enjoyed moderate success on the stage, married again and had a son, overcame alcoholism, drug addiction and depression, and left this mortal coil in 1967 at the age of 82. In 1955 she served as a technical advisor for the film of her famous escapades, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing, starring Joan Collins. This is practically the stuff of fiction already – how to improve on that?! In addition to introducing a couple of tame plot lines involving Nesbit, Doctorow has her represent the changing sexual and societal role of women at the dawn of the new century – and how!
Evelyn Cross is the female lead in Roman Polanski’s 1974 noir film, Chinatown, based on a script by Robert Towne. In a multi-layered , psychologically gripping plot involving murder, incest, kidnapping and municipal theft, Evelyn (played by Faye Dunaway) becomes involved with Jake Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson), the Los Angeles detective whom someone had hired to find evidence of Mr. Mulwray’s marital infidelity. Evelyn has been ill-used by life, but for a brief period of time, she is able to enjoy a semblance of normal joy and intimacy with Jake. A flawed character himself, Jake is able to draw out of her the terrible familial secret that drives her entire life, and offers up the possibility of redemption and salvation. Fate and the screenplay have other intentions, however, and in a tragic denouement, all hopes are dashed for Evelyn. It was said that the producer, Robert Evans, wanted a happy ending – if you watch this classic, you will be glad he did not have his way.