“The Perfect Crime”


Earlier this year, PBS aired an episode on Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb’s murder case as a part of the American Experience television series. The episode titled “The Perfect Crime” examines how Leopold and Loeb murdered a 14-year-old Chicago boy in 1924 and the significance of the trial that followed. Broader issues of morality and capital punishment were brought to light in the heated debate amongst Cook County Prosecutor Robert Crowe and defense attorney Clarence Darrow. You can now check-out this episode on DVD from our library, and further explore this case in fact and popular imagination.

This case has been an inspiration for numerous other works, including:

  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, starring James Stewart, John Dall, and Farley Granger, released in 1948.
  • Meyer Levin’s novel, Compulsion, published in 1956.
  • Richard Fleischer’s 1959 movie, Compulsion, starring Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell, and Diane Varsi.
  • Swoon, a 1992 film by director Tom Kalin, starring Daniel Schlachet, Craig Chester, and Ron Vawter in lead roles.

Each adaptation adds something unique to the original story, while providing a true depiction of the original “thrill-seeking” motive of the crime.

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