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 Post subject: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 10:05 am 
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Let’s discuss the effect of the women in John Dillinger’s early life. His mother died when he was very young. He and his first true love, and supposed first fiancée, Frances Thornton, were broken up by her parents, which according to Girardin, “With the failure of this love affair John Dillinger experienced a great sense of loss, and memories of Francis Thornton would remain with him the rest of his life.” His first wife, Beryl Hovius, divorced him after four years of incarceration which he later said, “I began to know how you feel when your heart is breaking. For four years I had looked forward to going back home, and now there wasn’t going to be any home to go back to.” Do you believe these losses affected his future?



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 12:03 pm 
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Dillinger's reckless 'live for today, for tomorrow may never come' lifestyle may have been a result of the effects of the losses of his mother, first girlfriend and wife. Though he seemed to adjust to his mom dying when he was only three, there may have been an emptiness and feeling of insecurity that he covered up with his personality; he seems to have needed a woman in his life. Though he was said to be haunted by the memories of his first girlfriend for the rest of his life, he quickly rebounded into a marriage with Beryl when he was only twenty. When she defected after he'd been in prison for four years, that left JD with many long years behind bars with no significant other. He fell quickly and hard for Billie when he got out, but after she was imprisoned, and as much as he cared for her, it didn't take him long to have another girlfriend. (I prefer to think Billie was still his true love :twohearts: , and Polly was just a date.) So I think his early losses left him with a subconscious urge to have someone to love him and to believe that love and life can be taken away in an instant, so don't waste any time in going after what you want. :tommygun:



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 3:31 pm 
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I find it hard to think that the loss of a teenage crush could affect him so deeply for the rest of his life, except that perhaps it became symbolic of everything else that was wrong with his life and intensified the other losses he suffered. But when his wife divorced him while he was in prison, that might be a different story. The promise of marriage is that a wife will be loyal forever no matter what, and Dillinger must have felt that her divorcing him was an unfair betrayal. Logically, who could blame her for not wanting to spend ten years of her young life waiting for him to serve his sentence with no guarantee that he would stay out of trouble afterward! But I am sure he looked at the situation in a much more emotional fashion, and he was completely helpless to do anything about it.

As Betty Sue suggested, I think his early love experiences had an effect on him in combination with other losses and other circumstances. Putting blame on those early lost loves might be too easy.


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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:18 pm 
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I recently watched part of a tv special called 18 months of mayhem. I didn't see it all, but I recall a girl called "Mary" who seemed to be a significant girl friend, at some point (after prison).



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:20 pm 
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I can't say that Dillinger's lost of his first love didn't effect him deeply. He was said to feel things more intensely than average teenage boys. The lost of Frances Thornton may have really opened his eyes to his place in the world and his latent ennui. And when that happens, I guess bored kids do stupid things like run off to the big city or join the military. Of course losing his mother also had a profound effect on him but I don't think it had anything to do with his life of criminal activity. Not to mention, Old John Dillinger married a very nice lady who loved and mothered the young man and John had an extra mother in his sister. He was definitely not without family or a matriarch's love. We know Dillinger felt as if home was no more after Beryl divorced him, but he could have gone back to his family. No, while the women surely left an imprint on John Dillinger's life, I could make a better case for the men having a greater effect on his future. But I think Betty Sue makes a good point about Dillinger's search for love. He was a heart on his sleeve type of guy. The man wasn't very good at being alone. Dillinger just needed to have a woman in his life.



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 5:57 pm 

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Betty Sue wrote:
Dillinger's reckless 'live for today, for tomorrow may never come' lifestyle may have been a result of the effects of the losses of his mother, first girlfriend and wife.
Interesting thought, Betty Sue. I hadn't thought of it that way, but you might be on to something there!

It sure seems Dillinger was an intensely loyal guy (I think you have to be a pretty loyal friend to help them break out of prison!) His wife leaving him had to hurt, but it may have hurt him more than the average man because of this very loyal nature. I think the very positive female influences of his sister and step mother kept him from disliking women in general, and made him want to try again. He never gave up hope of finding happiness in that regard.

I agree with trygirl that the male influences in his life probably had more to do with his bank robbing/public enemy future.


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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:20 pm 
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I think the break up with Frances also hurt because of how her parents thought of him, like he was not good enough for their daugher. The quote about how he had been looking forward to going back home and since his wife divorced him he didn't have anything to go home for is telling. Maybe that was a culmination for him of the other losses he had suffered and also an "excuse" (for lack of a better word) to justify to himself the career choice he was about to make. I agree RamblinRebel, trygirl and Betty Sue that he was a loyal and heart on the sleeve kind of guy. It was important to him to take care of his family and stay in touch with them. He was also intensely loyal to his friends and their families it seems.

sleepy, I have seen that documentary too, in fact caught a short part of it the other night as well. Bryan Burrough is one of the featured authors and Helmer is interviewed briefly as well. It has been a while since I saw the whole show and I don't remember the part about Mary, I probably just missed it the other night. I wonder if she is mentioned in Burrough's book?



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 6:51 pm 
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Dillinger seemed to like and "need" ladies early on. I'm sure he was charismatic, flirtatious, fun to be with. Somehow I was a bit disappointed when he didn't hang alone longer when Billie was incarcerated. Maybe she remained big in his heart, but, again, he needed someone, therefore Polly. Too bad, because from Polly, came Sage, came the end. Dillinger was disappointed when his wife didn't, couldn't wait for him, but, he didn't wait for Billie.


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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:22 pm 
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sleepy wrote:
I recently watched part of a tv special called 18 months of mayhem. I didn't see it all, but I recall a girl called "Mary" who seemed to be a significant girl friend, at some point (after prison).

Hi Sleepy. Nice to have you join our discussion. :cool:

Mary Longnaker was mentioned in both books. She was the GF between Beryl and Billie. She lived in Dayton, OH. And Dillinger was put in the Lima, Ohio prison because marshalls were watching her rooming house. Apparently she made a trip to Mooresville with him prior to that. I couldn't find much else on her---like why their relationship ended. Could be that the cops were watching her.



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:30 pm 
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deppaura wrote:
Dillinger seemed to like and "need" ladies early on. I'm sure he was charismatic, flirtatious, fun to be with. Somehow I was a bit disappointed when he didn't hang alone longer when Billie was incarcerated. Maybe she remained big in his heart, but, again, he needed someone, therefore Polly. Too bad, because from Polly, came Sage, came the end. Dillinger was disappointed when his wife didn't, couldn't wait for him, but, he didn't wait for Billie.

I was disappointed that he took up with Polly also. But I chock it up to the fact that he was a typical man. I do think that if Billie had gotten out of jail, he'd have gone back to her. But where would that have left poor Polly?

Whatever the reason (losing his mom early, being raised by his loving sis, having a father who didn't pay much attention to him), I think that women and having relationships with them were very important to him. I think that shows in his letters to his sis and to his niece and in how he treated other women.



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 8:10 pm 
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I don't know if I can believe that the forced ending of his relationship with Frances could have such an influence on Dillinger later in life. Everyone has a first love and if it doesn't last - you get over it. His marriage to Beryl seemed to be a rebound thing. Her divorce while he was in prison hurt him deeply. As his life of crime began, he needed someone exciting and not afraid to "take the ride". Billie fit that description. He seemed to enjoy the female companionship and had a need to nurture and be nurtured. Billie being sent to prison didn't stop him from seeking female companionship - Polly. As Dillilnger's life would have it - a woman (Sage) did him in as much as the FBI.


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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:25 pm 
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Again, this might be incorrect, but didn't they say he had a pic of Polly on him somewhere, (I think, his billfold) when he was shot? I have 3 different Dillinger books but I haven't read through them in several months. I know the movie wanted to play up the relationship with Billie, but the real Dillinger might not have been as loyal as the movie version. Not to say that if Billie had not been arrested, he wouldn't have still been with her. In the movie they played it like Polly was just a girl hanging around the brothel, who tagged along to the movies with him and Anna. Let's face it, if Johnny played Jack the Ripper, we'd probably feel sympathy for him!



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 9:28 pm 
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I tend to agree with those of you who say John needed to have a woman and wore his heart on his sleeve. I think he did fall in love with many of them but when things went south his flamboyant personality made it easy for him to find someone new. I do think his first love hurt him and so did his wife but he tried to move on. To me, he loved Billie, but by the time she was arrested he was living his life day to day and didn't look at things like someone who had the rest of their life ahead of them. I don't think he liked Billy any the less, he just knew that he may never get to see her again. If I remember correctly, Polly was a professional, so he may not have started out looking for love but ended up in another relationship.



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 10:07 pm 
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Liz, thanks for clearing up the Mary question. Now I know why that rang a bell.

sleepy, to answer your question about the picture...the movie portrays Dillinger carrying a picture of Billie in his locket but apparently when he was shot the locket he had in his possession had a picture of Polly.

I agree they movie did not portray Polly as his girlfriend, I suppose because it was trying to tell a love story and that would have ruined the ending. The movie also hit the point hard that Dillinger knew Anna Sage for quite some time and therefore could have known Polly as well.



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 Post subject: Re: Dillinger Question #3 ~ The Women in His Life
PostPosted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 11:25 pm 
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sleepy wrote:
Let's face it, if Johnny played Jack the Ripper, we'd probably feel sympathy for him!

Look at Sweeney Todd. I had bucket loads of sympathy for that man. :eyebrow: And don't forget Mort. :mort3:



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