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Forty-two years after Texan housewife and mother Betty Gore was murdered in 1980, two new true-crime series -- Hulu’s Candy starring Jessica Biel and HBO Max’s Love and Death starring Elizabeth Olsen -- explore how friend and homemaker Candy Montgomery was accused of killing her with an ax. But as seen onscreen, especially in Candy, which premieres first in May, the story is far more complicated than one woman taking an ax to another.
Married to Pat Montgomery and a mother of two children, Candy was a seemingly typical, 30-year-old housewife living in Collin County, Texas, who became close friends with Betty Gore, a fellow housewife and mother who was also a middle school teacher.
According to Texas Monthly, it was the regularly attended service at the First United Methodist Church of Lucas “that first brought Candy Montgomery and Betty Gore together, and it was the church that led them to their times of closeness and, eventually, to their mutual hatred and Betty’s brutal death.”
The church is also where Candy, who had grown bored with Pat, decided to have an affair with Betty’s husband, Allan Gore. More specifically, the moment that pushed her over the edge “happened on the church volleyball court, on a late-summer day in 1978,” when the two collided during a play.
After that, Candy set her sights on Allan. And after months of negotiating with him, he finally agreed to cheat on his wife and the two engaged in an extended affair that only ended after Allan wanted to focus his attention on Betty, who had grown more anxious about their relationship, and their family.
On June 13, 1980, Betty confronted Candy about the affair before attacking her with an ax. As the two fought, Candy gained control of the weapon and “brought the blade down on the back of Betty’s head,” before killing her. (Betty was reportedly assaulted 41 times.)
Eventually, Candy was arrested and charged in the murder of Betty. In court, she pleaded self-defense with her lawyer arguing that “after being struck twice with the ax by [Betty] and then gaining control of the weapon, the heavier and larger [Betty] refused to let [Candy] go.” The prosecution, meanwhile, argued that Candy could have fled “rather than bludgeon” Betty to death.
Months later, on Oct. 30, 1980, a jury of nine women and three men found Candy not guilty of Betty’s murder.
When it comes to the series’ unsettling tone, “it really does hold up,” Simons says, giving credit to Veith and director Michael Uppendahl for establishing “that tone in such a beautiful way. I think you really feel that in the setup of each of these marriages and the kind of monotony of suburban life that is established in this.”
He adds, “That really leaves you feeling unsettled and like something bad can come from this and is lurking just on the other side.”
As for the series’ portrayal of mothers, especially women in their time, who faced constant pressure to maintain an ideal home and family life, Biel found it very relatable -- even over 40 years later. “I think every mom and every dad in the entire world can relate to at least one day feeling overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed almost every day, truly,” Biel says.
“I think, like the women at that time and in that community, it was just a given that they would do all of that work,” Lynskey adds. “It wasn’t a discussion. And to think of doing all of that, being so tired and no thanks for it just kind of makes the expectation that every single day of your life is gonna look like this would be really overwhelming.”
Additionally, writers Jim Atkinson and John Bloom, who wrote the Texas Monthly articles, serve as consulting producers on Candy, while their book, Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs, is being adapted by David E. Kelley for Love and Death.
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, the upcoming HBO Max series stars Olsen as Candy, Jesse Plemons as Allan, Patrick Fugit as Pat and Lily Rabe as Betty. Additional cast members include Brian d’Arcy James, Elizabeth Marvel and Krysten Ritter.
“This is a gripping story about the frustrations and desires of two women in a small town that culminates in a terrible act of violence,” said Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content at HBO Max. “We are thrilled to be partnering with David, Lesli, Nicole, and Per and incredibly fortunate to have Elizabeth at the center of our story to bring out all the layers of Candy that make this story so unforgettable.”
“We cannot imagine a more perfect artist to play the leading role of Candy than Elizabeth Olsen. Her talent, charisma and energy can bewitch audiences like no other,” Kevin Beggs, Chairman, Lionsgate Television Group, said when the series was announced. “We’re proud to be collaborating with a world-class creative team of Lesli, David and Nicole on this thrilling and intriguing series and to bring another exciting premium property to our partners at HBO Max.”