Children of a New World: Society, Culture, and Globalization

By Paula S. Fassdear | Go to book overview

4
Making and Remaking an Event
The Leopold and Loeb
Case in American Culture

The act which created a stir far beyond this country is so frightful,
psychologically so incomprehensible, so singular in its unfoldment
that, if Poe or a writer of detective stories wished to unnerve his
readers, no better tale could be invented; no harder knot to unravel;
no events could follow each other more effectively than life, or rather
disease, has here woven them together.

—Maurice Urstein, Leopold and Loeb:

A Psychiatric-Psychological Study, 1924

What a rotten writer of detective stories Life is!

—Nathan Leopold, Life plus 99 Years, 1958

From the instant it broke on public awareness in 1924, the Leopold and Loeb case was enveloped by the mass media. In fact, journalists gathered critical evidence that helped crack the case. And two newsmen on the Chicago Daily News, James Mulroy and Alvin Goldstein, eventually shared some of the reward money as well as the Pulitzer Prize for helping to connect Nathan Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb to the abduction and murder of Bobby Franks. As they pursued leads, rumors, and suspicions, journalists not only helped solve the crime, but gathered materials for stories that became the basis for public knowledge of the presumed events. Journalists and storytellers continued their active involvement with the case throughout the twentieth century as the Leopold and Loeb affair maintained a hold on the American imagination. Journalists, novelists, and screenwriters interpolated fictions into the facts of Loeb's murder in prison, testified at Leopold's parole hearings, and fictionalized the case in novels and movies. When Meyer Levin published

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