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Was Sweeney Todd Real?

actingtrey Profile Photoactingtrey Profile Photo
Was Sweeney Todd Real?#1
Posted: 12/12/07 at 1:10pm
I just saw the preview for the new Sweeney Todd film, and Iíve got to say, it looks like its going to be great! Iím a huge fan of the play (I actually played Sweeney Todd in it back when I was in High School!) and itís always been one of my favorite shows. Part of what excited us in high school was that we thought it was based on an actual serial killer. However, I know the movie is being promoted as a fictional piece. I wonder if thatís just because the movie has differed so much from actual events or if itís because it really is completely fictional. It would be a shame if it wasnít true because I think thatís part of the allure of it. People are intrigued by gruesome stories, especially ones that actually happened. Where can I find more information about it? Iíve read a lot of blogs that have popped up about it and both sides seem to make a good case. From what I gather, Sweeney Todd himself was real, but his life story and additional details were fictionalized. Iím not an actor anymore but as an aspiring playwright, I often get ideas from things I see on the news. Does anyone know of any serial killers he might be based on in history or where I could look to find old articles? Anyways, the movie looks amazing, and Johnny Depp is one of the greatest actors working today! I canít wait to see it!

I started a blog about it too so you can answer me on there if you want.
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#2
Posted: 12/12/07 at 1:30pm
He is real, and in real life, he survived the story, and now runs a barbershop in the Lower East Side. He's going to be appearing on Oprah next week with Burton, Depp, and the rest of the cast to promote the film.
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#2
Posted: 12/12/07 at 1:31pm
Crime Library: SWEENEY TODD - Man or Myth?

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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#3
Posted: 12/12/07 at 1:33pm
You're really worried about this Sweeney Todd guy coming to get ya, huh? I've heard that if you say his name five times to a mirror in the dark, he comes out of it and eats your mom.
yr ronin,
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#4
Posted: 12/12/07 at 1:36pm
She may enjoy that.
"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> ďI hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.Ē <<>> -whatever2
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#5
Posted: 12/12/07 at 2:03pm
From the site: "Extensive, painstaking research by British author Peter Haining has shown this without a doubt. "

Okay, now wait. From what I have read, Haining tended NOT to give proper sources for his book, and none of it is taken as proven fact.

This is the probably the most accurate actual newspaper article:

December 1784, in the Annual Register. The newspaper entry read:

A most remarkable murder was perpetrated in the following manner, by a journeyman barber, who had been for a long time past jealous of his wife, but could no way bring it home to her: a young gentleman by chance coming into his masterís shop to be shaved and dressed; and, being in liquor, mentioned his having seen a fine girl home to Hamilton-street, from whom he had certain favours the night before, at the same time describing her person; the barber, concluding it to be his wife, in the height of his frenzy cut the gentlemanís throat from ear to ear, and absconded.

ETA: From what I have found, the first appearance of Sweeney Todd by that specific name was in print, during 1846. His tale appeared as ďpenny dreadful,Ē as a horror tale published as a series in The Peopleís Periodical.
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Updated On: 12/12/07 at 02:03 PM
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#6
Posted: 12/12/07 at 2:50pm
The Overture is part of the show, people. Please shut your pie hole.
St. Louis Theatre Snob
Updated On: 12/12/07 at 02:50 PM
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#7
Posted: 12/12/07 at 3:00pm
He's real and he worked for me for a brief period several years ago. Anger issues and unreliable work habits led to his departure. Our HR director went missing just days after he left, and she's never been found.
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#8
Posted: 12/12/07 at 5:26pm
So THATS what that smell is...
Happy...Everything! Kaye Thompson
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#9
Posted: 12/12/07 at 8:16pm
I had many a meat pie (or as they often put it in London, a "Barrymore" or a "faggot") which made me suspect that Sweeney IS a real story and a hideous tradition.
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#10
Posted: 12/12/07 at 8:37pm
You had faggots in London? With or without their privates?

For all the twits who are giving actingtrey crap for asking the (not so stupid) question... there's nothing wrong with wanting to more about the genesis of a story. So shut the hell up.

Fortunately several have helped to answer the question. Sweeney "stories" go back to the late-1700s. This is were the murdering barber was first reported. The first time he appeared as "Sweeney Todd" in print was in the mid-1800s in the Penny Dreadfuls. But even by that point, he was something of a London legend. In fact a full decade before the Penny Dreadfuls came out, Washington Irving was inspired enough by the urban legends to fictionalize his own American "legend"... in Sleepy Hollow.
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re: Was Sweeney Todd Real?#11
Posted: 12/12/07 at 11:33pm
The London Dungeon does a bit on Sweeney Todd, so I've always assumed he was real and the story took a bit of artistic license with the actual details.
I remember days
Or at least I try
But as years go by
They're sort of haze
And the bluest ink
Isn't really sky
And at times I think
I would gladly die
For a day of sky

And Starbucks will use the words 'large' and 'small', not pretentious crap like grande and tall.
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