In May of 2015, in Magazine racks at the checkout stands of supermarkets across the US featured a special edition Life Magazine with the cover boldly stating, “100 women who changed the world.” Amongst these powerful women is the mother of investigative journalism, Nellie Bly.
On May 5th, the anniversary of Nellie Bly’s birthday, Google devoted a doodle to Bly with their first ever commissioned song by Karen O about Bly. 3.5 billion internet searchers were introduced to Nellie Bly that day.
On that same day, on invite from the flagship film festival co-created by Geena Davis with Walmat, the Bentonville Film Festival Celebrating Women and Diversity was premiering a movie about Bly on it’s opening day.
The movie 10 Days in a Madhouse, closely based on Nellie Bly’s played to a packed house and received a two minute ovation at the finale. Many audience members were in tears from the film, which critics have been calling powerful and intense.
The experience was repeated when 10 Days in a Madhouse played at Le Marché du Film – Festival de Cannes in late May, 2015.
The international audience of critics and industry professionals were again moved to tears and an extended ovation.
“Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.” – Nellie Bly
So who is this most amazing woman? A woman nearly 100 years after her death who is still capable of inspiring anyone who faces a difficult challenge with her courage and phrases she coined such as, “Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.” These weren’t just words. Nellie Bly lived them.
Writer Jessica Ferri in an article for the Daily Beast summed it up this way, “Long before Jessica Mitford would publish The American Way of Death, her explosive exposé on the corrupt American funeral system in 1963, there was a young muckraker who called herself Nellie Bly. Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864, Bly responded anonymously (but with much verve) to an article in the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1885 that mocked women looking for work. The editor was so impressed with the response that he advertised for the responder’s identity, hoping to hire her. Hire her he did, and when she became frustrated by only receiving assignments related to the domestic sphere, she became a freelancer, chose the pseudonym Nellie Bly, and went on to write some of the most provocative journalism of her time.”
The new movie now playing in select theaters and opening in a few days on March 4th at the Laemmle NoHo 7 Theater in North Hollywood, tells the origin story of Bly on her first big assignment from Joseph Pulitzer (of the Pulitzer Prize), who’s world magazine sent her undercover into Blackwell’s Insane Asylum to report on horrific abuses within.
As her cover, Nellie Bly had to convince a group of women, the police, a judge and an array of expert doctors and nurses that she was clinically insane. She did this without any help from her newspaper.
Above: Caroline Barry as Nellie Bly in 10 Days in a Madhouse practices insanity in front of her mirror in preporation to feign insanity to get herself commited.
Once Bly was behind the locked doors and barred windows of Blackwell’s she began to immediately regret her course. The conditions were unimaginably worse than she could have ever imagined. In the 10 days of her commitment, Bly witnessed abuse, and murder.
The result of her expose was the first time a serious journalistic article written by a women graced the front page of The World, the most powerful Newspaper on Earth. Her story shocked readers and resulted in multiple government and Grand Jury investigations which led to an award of 1 million dollars a year for the patients and caused the shutdown and raising of the institution.
Blackwell’s Island was eventually renamed Roosevelt Island, and high priced condominiums were built where Blackwell’s Asylum once stood.
Nellie Bly was never stopped by her gender. She spent a lifetime exposing corruption and championing orphans and those with no voice. She was the first woman reporter on the front lines in World War One where along with 60,000 soldiers was pinned down for weeks under direct artillery fire.
Later in her life, Bly designed and patented the first metal barrel, the 55 gallon drum which is used for thousands of purposes and all oil companies use to measure their profits to this day.
Bly died in St. Marks hospital in Manhattan on January 27th, 1922, where she had succumbed to pneumonia.
The movie 10 Days in a Madhouse stars Caroline Barry as Bly, who has been gaining 2017 Oscar buzz for her portrayal of the legendary brave journalist. Christopher Lambert, known for Highlander, Mortal Kombat, Tarzen: Legend of Greystoke, and the currently in theaters Hail, Caesar!, plays the troubled superintendent of the Asylum, Dr. E.C. Dent.
Also in the cast is Kelly Le Brock, former supermodel and movie star in films such as, Woman in Red, Weird Science.
10 Days in a Madhouse has been receiving rave reviews since it opened on November 11th at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square, NYC.
Playing select theaters, the movie is expanding into North Hollywood at the Laemmle NoHo 7 on March 4th, coinciding with Women’s History Month.
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