Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Evelyn McHale

It has been called the most beautiful suicide ever, when Evelyn McHale ended her own life by jumping off the Empire State Building on May 1, 1947. The photography student Robert Wiles was there to take a picture of her. This picture then ran in Life Magazine a couple of weeks after, with the following caption:

On May Day, just after leaving her fiancé, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale wrote a note. 'He is much better off without me ... I wouldn't make a good wife for anybody,' ... Then she crossed it out. She went to the observation platform of the Empire State Building. Through the mist she gazed at the street, 86 floors below. Then she jumped. In her desperate determination she leaped clear of the setbacks and hit a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. Across the street photography student Robert Wiles heard an explosive crash. Just four minutes after Evelyn McHale's death Wiles got this picture of death's violence and its composure.

In the NY Times, the obituary stated:

Empire State ends life of girl, 20:

At 10:40 A. M., Patrolman John Morrissey of Traffic C, directing traffic at Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, noticed a swirling white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the Empire State. A moment later he heard a crash that sounded like an explosion. He saw a crowd converge in Thirty-third Street.
Two hundred feet west of Fifth Avenue, Miss McHale's body landed atop the car. The impact stove in the metal roof and shattered the car's windows. The driver was in a near-by drug store, thereby escaping death or serious injury.
On the observation deck, Detective Frank Murray of the West Thirtieth Street station, found Miss McHale's gray cloth coat, her pocketbook with several dollars and the note, and a make-up kit filled with family pictures.

Andy Warhol later used this photo for a print called "Suicide (Fallen Body)":

Dramatic story that ends in beautiful tragedy. After a fall like that it's amazing the way she looks. Almost like she's a model posing for a morbidly themed fashion shoot - "Fashion Suicide", or "Fashion Victim". Her arms perfectly positioned around her red lipped face. I have to say I prefer the one photograph before Warhol's print though. I think it's beautiful in it's sadness, and could actually put it up on my wall...

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