Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sometimes you get lucky

Sometimes you get lucky.
I recently wrote an article (which I’m including below) about a screenwriter named Richard Rosenzweig who is working on a screenplay that revolves around Morrissey’s 1853 prizefight at Boston Corners.

We met at a local bar after the article came out and discussed all things Morrissey. He provided me with a copy of some notes taken by a turn of the 19th century reporter who spoke with several locals that witnessed the fight. The first person accounts provide a new perspective on the fight, told from the point of view of the country people who were literally overrun by thousands of crazed fans mostly from New York City.

Here’s the article that originally appeared in the Register-Star Newspaper.

Oct. 12, 1853 was a fine fall day in Boston Corners and the perfect setting for an illegal bare-knuckle boxing match between John Morrissey and James “Yankee” Sullivan. At that time Boston Corners, more colorfully known as Hell’s Acres, was a tiny hamlet of 120 inhabitants located on the border between Massachusetts and New York.

The hamlet and surrounding 1,016-acre triangle of land was part of Massachusetts, having been incorporated as a district in 1838 — but in name only. There was no post office or police department, and the residents didn’t vote or pay taxes to the state. To the east of Boston Corners, the Berkshire Mountains presented a formidable barrier for law enforcement from Massachusetts. Connecticut to the south and New York to the north and west also acted to insulate the area from Massachusetts’ law.

Between 4,000 and 10,000 fight fans overran the hamlet for the match that ended with Morrissey winning in 37 rounds.

The strange history of the hamlet of Boston Corners and the illicit bare-knuckle prize fight held there in 1853 have caught the imagination of many people through the years and continue to do so today. One of those is Richard Rosenzweig, a jazz drummer by profession and screenwriter by avocation, who has spent three years researching and writing a script, “Hell’s Acres,” based on a somewhat obscure 1938 novel of the same name.

According to Rosenzweig, his fascination with the story of the hamlet began when he bought a house in Hillsdale four years ago. After visiting friends in Boston Corners he learned about the area’s history and when his brother, an artist who head been living in the county for several years, introduced him to the novel “Hell’s Acres” by Clay Perry and John Pell, he couldn’t resist.

“I fell in love with it,” he said, adding that he had never intended to write an historical drama, but felt the story was too good to pass up.

The story revolves around James Grayson, a horse breeder in Saratoga who goes undercover to break up a gang of horse thieves from Boston Corners. The climax of the story takes place during the Morrissey-Sullivan fight.

“It reads like a boy’s adventure story,” said Rosenzweig.

According to him, many of the novel’s characters and settings were based on fact, but the main character and the story itself are fictional.

Rosenzweig said he read the book once and skimmed through it from time to time in order to make the story his own.

“I loved doing the research,” he said. “And it was cool that I got to write most of it here.”

He said he would often drive by many of the locations where the story took place.

Rosenzweig recently had the chance to hear his words come alive at Time and Space Limited in Hudson, during the March 2 read-through of “Hell’s Acres.” The event was part of the Movies Without Pictures program by Upstate Independents, an organization that acts as a resource for independent filmmakers in the Northeast.

There are plans for a similar event in April.

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