Separated by Murder (1994) starring Sharon Gless, Steve Railsback, Ed Bruce, Mark W. Johnson, Jim Ostrander, Bob Penny directed by Donald Wrye Movie Review

Separated by Murder (1994)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Sharon Gless as Holly Faye Walker in Separated by Murder (1994)

Gless & Gless

As a child growing up in the UK during the 80s there wasn't many TV channels, in fact we only had one TV in our house, so routines formed and one of those was watching "Cagney & Lacey". It's because of this and the fact I recognized the name Sharon Gless that I was attracted to watch 90s TV movie "Separated by Murder" where Gless plays twins. I would hazard a guess that anyone else who watches "Separated by Murder" will do so for the same reason and probably be as unaware as I was that it is based on a true story of twins Betty Wilson and Peggy Lowe who were arrested and tried for the murder of Betty's husband. The thing is when you've finished watching "Separated by Murder" you will probably know not much more about the true story because this is a weak movie, made messy by some confusing editing and a lot of padding.

Whilst Holly (Sharon Gless) and Lily (Sharon Gless) may be twins they couldn't be more different as Holly has clawed her way to marry a rich husband whilst Lily is happy in her quite family life, singing in the church choir. But despite their differences they are close and so when Holly's husband is murdered and the police arrest handyman Jesse Dixon (Steve Railsback) he implicates both sisters in the murder.

Sharon Gless as Lily Mae Stokely in Separated by Murder (1994)

Now maybe it's because the true story of Betty Wilson and Peggy Lowe happened a long time ago or the fact it probably wasn't big news here in the UK I had no idea that "Separated by Murder" was based upon a true story until the credits rolled and we got some blurb about what happened to them. But the thing is the dramatization of their story is rather ordinary and frankly not that well put together. For the first half of the movie we get padding, we learn that Holly (Betty) having married a wealthy man is prone to affairs and drinking whilst Lily (Peggy) lives a quieter church going life. And this is reinforced again and again to the point where you wonder if anything will happen.

Well something happens and we have handyman Jesse Dixon murdering Holly's husband and when the police arrest him, and it is a bit too convenient how they come to suspect him, he implicates both sisters in the murder. Now this should be where "Separated by Murder" becomes really interesting because going on Jesse's account Holly wanted her husband dead and because Jesse was in love with Lily she manipulated his loyalty to get him to do it. Unfortunately that bit is not played on enough and what follows is two dull court cases where first Holly is tried and then Lily with neither of the court cases being the stuff of riveting courtroom drama. It is to be honest a bit of a let down because for a drama about murder it is not very dramatic.

Now there is of course the reason why I watched "Separated by Murder" in the first place which is Sharon Gless playing the part of the twin sisters. And to be honest Gless is the best thing about the movie because the sisters are total opposites with Gless playing Holly as brash whilst Lily as loyal and homely. Unfortunately director Donald Wrye uses the fact that Gless is playing two parts as a gimmick and so we get moments of almost humour as one sister exits the room and the next minute the other walks in. It's not needed in what is a drama and whilst it is only occasionally that he does it you groan when it happens.

What this all boils down to is that "Separated by Murder" ends up a bit of a let down, a mundane TV movie which never really finds a heartbeat. It is a case that whilst it is based on a true story it doesn't bring that story to life and fails to deliver the drama, especially in the courtroom where the best part of the story lies.