The Honeymoon Killers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Honeymoon Killers is a 1970 American film written and directed by Leonard Kastle, and starring Shirley Stoler and Tony Lo Bianco. It tells the true story of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez, the notorious "Lonely Hearts Killers" who murdered at least 12 women in the 1940s and who were executed on March 8, 1951. The soundtrack is a selection from the works of Gustav Mahler. Martin Scorsese originally was hired to direct the film, but was replaced due to creative differences with the producer. See lonely hearts.


Martha Beck is a sullen, overweight nurse who lives in a southern town with her elderly mother. To help her find a man, Martha's friend Bunny writes to a "lonely hearts" service, which results in a letter from Ray Fernandez of New York City. Overcoming her initial resistance, Martha corresponds with Ray. He visits Martha and seduces her. Later, Ray sends Martha a letter ending their "relationship" and Martha calls him, threatening to kill herself because she cannot live without him.

Moved by her devotion, Ray asks Martha to visit him in New York. There, Ray reveals that he is a con man who correspondes with lonely women with the intent to seduce and swindle them. Martha still proclaims her love for Ray, however, and she accompanies him as he moves from woman to woman. Posing as his sister, Martha can barely contain her jealousy as she watches Ray romance other women, though Ray promises her that he will never sleep with them. Ray marries a pregnant woman, Myrtle Young, and Martha gives her a fatal dose of pills after Myrtle aggressively attempts to sleep with Ray.

Martha and Ray move onto their next target, though Martha attempts to drown herself after catching Ray in a compromising position. To placate her, Ray buys Martha a house in the suburbs; however, their attempt at living as a "normal" couple fails and they resume their criminal activities. Ray, under the alias "Charles Martin," becomes engaged to the elderly Janet Fay and takes her to the house he shares with Martha. Janet entrusts Ray with a check for $10,000, but she becomes suspicious of the couple. When Janet tries to contact her family, Ray and Martha hit her in the head with a hammer and strangle her to death. Her body is buried in the cellar.

Martha and Ray then spend several weeks living with the widowed Delphine Downing and her young daughter. Delphine confides in Martha, hoping that she will help convince Ray to marry her as soon as possible because she is pregnant with Ray's child. Furious, Martha attempts to kill Delphine when her daughter enters the room with Ray. Ray shoots Delphine in the head and Martha drowns her daughter in the cellar. Ray tells Martha that they'll move onto another woman, reaffirming his promise never to betray Martha with one of his marks. Realizing that Ray will never stop lying to her, Martha calls the police and calmly waits for them to arrive.

The epilogue takes place four months later, with Martha and Ray in jail and awaiting trial. Martha receives a letter from Ray in which he tells her that, despite everything, she is the only woman he ever loved. Titles on the screen then conclude the story, saying that Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez were executed on March 8, 1951.

Historical accuracy

The film was inspired by true events and uses the real names of the 'Lonely Hearts Killers', but it takes substantial liberties with the historical record. The film does not disclose that the real Martha Beck had been married and had children whom she abandoned. In addition, the assertion that Beck called the police contradicts accounts of the case, as does the movie's portrayal of Beck as being homicidal and Ray Fernandez as being more passive.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Honeymoon Killers" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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