Content warning: this post deals with suicide and may be distressing for some readers.
On the morning of July 15, 1974, television news reporter Christine Chubbuck shot herself on live television.
“In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in ‘blood and guts’, and in living colour, you are going to see another first — attempted suicide,” she said, before pulling the trigger on a gun, pointed behind her right ear.
The 29-year-old had a known history of depression and suicidal tendencies, but the exact catalyst for her death remains unknown, according to her own mother: “Her suicide was simply because her personal life was not enough”.
Chubbuck’s story lends itself to film, not least because of the dramatic nature of her suicide, and it is the subject of two separate films premièring at Sundance film festival this year.
The first, starring Rebecca Hall, is a straight biopic called Christine and is already being praised by critics.
The second is a documentary-style film about an actress preparing to play the role of Christine in a fictional film about her life.
The real film is called Kate Plays Christine.
“[She] is a woman who desperately wants to live, and she tries very, very, very hard — and you watch her trying,” Hall told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview about the role.
“That’s what is compelling and moving about it.”
Chubbuck was approaching her 30th birthday when she decided to kill herself, she had never had sex with a man and had had an ovary removed the year before.
Her struggle to form romantic relationships and even close friendships is believed to have contributed to her depression.
The morning of her death she confused co-workers but insisting on beginning the Suncoast Digest talk show with a news report, despite it being highly unusual.
After reading three national news stories and a report about a local shooting, she shot herself in the head.
The broadcast was ended immediately, but not before the Florida audience watched Chubbuck fall forward violently onto her desk — she was rushed to a local hospital where she died 14 hours later
The news director later found a complete script of her program, which included both the shooting and a third-person account of it — to be read by whichever staff member took over the broadcast afterwards.
Her condition was even listed as “critical”.
No footage exists of Chubbuck’s death, her parents were given the only tape and they destroyed it.
If you find yourself in need of help, for any reason, crisis support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14.