Hulu is adapting a new Victorian era TV limited series, from the historical non-fiction book “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America,” by Erik Larson.
To help keep this site running: Willow and Thatch may receive a commission when you click on any of the links on our site and make a purchase after doing so.
The Gilded Age drama centers on the true story of two men, who meet at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair – Daniel H. Burnham, the fair’s architect, and Dr. H.H. Holmes, an evil pharmacist.
There’s a really good guy: Chief architect Burnham and his colleagues designed the Chicago World’s Fair as an idealized city, following Beaux Arts principles based on symmetry, balance, and splendor. Known at the time as the World’s Columbian Exposition, the fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the New World by Europeans, and provided a sense of new hope and optimism to a city which had been largely destroyed by the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.
Fourteen light colored great buildings made up its “White City;” there were cultural events with artists and musicians from around the world, and many firsts: the first commercial movie theater, the first Ferris Wheel, the first moving walkway open to the public, and tragically, the appearance of America’s first documented serial killer.
And a really bad guy: The blue eyed, blonde haired Holmes was a charmer, a swindler, and the mastermind behind the fairground property that would come to be known as the “Murder Castle.” Holmes secured investors in the building under the guise that it would serve as a hotel for the fair’s visitors, with a pharmacy, restaurant, and a barber shop, on the ground floor. Holmes turned the second floor, ostensibly his living area, into an elaborately appointed pharmaceutical killing den with secret passageways and soundproofed rooms. Holmes was ultimately apprehended by detectives from the Pinkerton agency in 1894, and was sentenced to death the following year.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are the Executive Producers for Hulu’s “The Devil in the White City.” The team have previously paired up on the late 19th century-set historical film Gangs of New York, and on The Aviator. More recently they’ve worked together on an upcoming biopic “Roosevelt.”
Billy Ray, who created the 1930s-set period TV series The Last Tycoon from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final unfinished novel, is writing the screenplay. The news of the new period thriller “The Devil in the White City” was announced onstage Monday at the Television Critics Association’s 2019 winter press tour.
Presented in a novelistic style, the Erik Larson’s 2003 bestseller The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, combines meticulous research with “nail-biting storytelling.” While the book focuses on the creation of the 1893 World’s Fair, we can expect Hulu to give at least equal billing to the true crime story. Larson is also author of bestsellers Thunderstruck and In the Garden of Beasts.
Willow and Thatch exists because of you: You can shop our Jane Austen Period Drama Adaptations merchandise, click on our links (like these that take you to Etsy and Amazon) and make purchases on those sites, and buy period-inspired products from the Lovely Things Shop. You can also continue to share our articles, or make a financial contribution. All these things allow us to write feature articles, update The Period Films List, mail out our newsletter, maintain the website and much more. Thank you!
If you enjoyed this post, wander over to The Period Films List. You’ll especially like our Victorian Era List.