“Christine” Recounts An On-Air Suicide
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Back in 1976 the black comedy “Network” gave us a TV anchorman who shouted “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” This satirical story (written by three-time Oscar-winner Paddy Chayefsky) ends with the TV anchor’s death on live television.
The film’s shocking finale admittedly was based on the on-air suicide of television news reporter Christine Chubbuck that took place two years earlier at WXLT in Sarasota, Florida.
The actual story of Christine Chubbuck is now being told in “Christine,” a new film playing at Tropic Cinema.
Christine Chubbuck hosted an early-morning talk show called “Suncoast Digest.” It covered “matters of interest to the growing beach community.”
Turns out, Christine suffered from severe depression. She’d attempted to overdose on pills a couple of years earlier, but her family kept it hushed to protect her job. She’d been seeing a psychiatrist, but had recently stopped. She suffered from bipolar disorder.
Apparently she had a crush on one of her co-workers, but he was going out with her best friend. She was turning 30 and still a virgin.
Christine convinced the station’s news director to let her to do a story on suicide. She met with the local sheriff’s department asking about the best ways to kill oneself. She bought a gun.
On the morning of July 15, 1974, Christine opened her program with the news. When the tape about a local shooting jammed, she said, “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts,’ and in living color, you are going to see another first -- attempted suicide.” Then she pulled out her revolver and shot herself behind the right ear. The broadcast quickly faded to black, followed by public service ads and a movie. Viewers called in to ask if the shooting was staged.
Afterward, the night news editor recalled that she had joked about killing herself on air, but he didn’t take her seriously. He’d considered it “sick humor.”
For the new film, director Antonio Campos follows the true-life events fairly closely. Rebecca Hall (“The Town,” “Iron Man 3”) stars as the titular Christine. Michael C. Hall (TV’s “Dexter”) plays the newsman for who she had romantic feelings. And Kim Shaw (“She’s Out of My League”) is cast as the sports reporter that he was dating.
“She was very gifted and she never felt like she was good enough and she was constantly doubting herself, and I mean morosely doubting herself,” says her brother Greg Chubbuck. “And she would come out of it and she would be better and we would think with all the outside help with the professionals maybe this would be the time she would get her wind and be fine. But it just never really happened completely for her. It is a really sad, tragic circumstance.”