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Belva Gaertner: Wikis


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Belva Gaertner (September 14, 1884 - May 14, 1965) was acquitted on a charge of murder in Chicago.

On March 11, 1924, Belva Gaertner, a thrice-divorced cabaret singer who used the professional name Belle Brown, shot and killed her lover Walter Law (a married man with one child). Law was found sprawled out dead in the front seat of Belva's car, a bottle of gin and a gun with three shots fired lying beside him: Belva, found at her apartment, with blood-soaked clothes on the floor, confessed that she was drunk, was driving with Law, but couldn't remember what happened. Belva was arrested for the murder of Law in Chicago on March 12, 1924, and admitted drinking with Law at various bars and jazz houses, saying she carried a gun for fear of robbers. One of Law's co-workers testified that Law had confided that Gaertner was a possessive lover who had threatened him with a knife when he tried to leave her, and that Law believed she would kill him one day.

Gaertner told Maurine Dallas Watkins: "No woman can love a man enough to kill him. They aren't worth it, because there are always plenty more. Walter was just a kid - 29 and I'm 38. Why should I have worried whether he loved me or whether he left me? Gin and guns - either one is bad enough, but together they get you in a dickens of a mess, don't they?"[1] Gaertner was defended by William Scott Stewart.

Gaertner's defense was that Law might have killed himself; she was acquitted in June 1924.

Gaertner was born Belva Brown and married a man named Overbeck. In 1917, she married William Gaertner, who was 31 years her elder, in Crown Point, Indiana.[2] Five months later, William Gaertner successfully sued to have the marriage annulled, claiming that Belva's divorce to Overbeck hadn't been finalized. They were married a second time, but by the time Belva was accused on murdering Law, they were separated.[2] In 1925, following her acquittal, she remarried Gaertner, a wealthy industrialist.[2]

In 1926, William Gaertner filed for divorce, claiming she was abusive and an alcoholic. On July 5, Gaertner claimed his wife threatened to murder him after he found her with another man. [3]

She was convicted of drunk driving in November 1926.

By 1930, she and Gaertner had moved to Europe. In the 1940s she moved to California and lived with her sister, Ethal Kraushaar. She died of natural causes in May 1965 at the age of 80.

Stage and screen adaptations

She attended the 1927 opening of Watkins's play Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. The play has since been adapted into a 1927 silent film, 1975 stage musical, and 2002 movie musical (which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), all by that name, as well as the 1942 romantic comedy film Roxie Hart.

Velma Kelly, the 1975 musical character inspired by her, won Bebe Neuwirth the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for its acclaimed 1996 revival; it also won Catherine Zeta-Jones the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the 2002 film based on it. The character was known as simply "Velma" in the 1927 film and as "Velma Wall" in the 1942 film; both were lesser characters in comparison to Velma Kelly as well as Roxie Hart, the Beulah Annan-inspired character who appeared in all versions of Chicago.

Further reading

  • Thomas H. Pauly (Ed.): Chicago: With the Chicago Tribune Articles that Inspired It. Southern Illinois University 1997. ISBN 0809321297, ISBN 978-0809321292


  1. ^ "No Sweetheart Worth Killing-Mrs. Gaertner" Chicago Daily Tribune March 14, 1924, p.17.
  2. ^ a b c "Belva Gaertner Marries Former Husband 3d Time" Chicago Daily Tribune May 3, 1925, p.4.
  3. ^ "Husband Sues Belva Gaertner, Freed in Murder" Chicago Daily Tribune August 1, 1926, p.5.


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