• Steven Heller

Dead Dolls in a Nutshell

In the days of noir, police recreated crime scenes using dolls and doll furniture called “Nutshells.” A documentary narrated by John Waters, Of Dolls and Murder directed by Susan Marks ,reveals this distinct crime-solving methodology. Created in the 1930s and 1940s, the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” is a collection developed by Frances Glessner Lee for over a decade. The collection was designed as a tool for crime solving. The macabre dollhouses each depict a different homicide. By peering into “crime scene,” police used the miniature stage as a basis for analyzing clues and questioning suspects.

“The strange juxtaposition of child’s plaything and forensic science — the murders are all meticulously and graphically rendered — yield a haunting result,” notes Lauren Knapp on ArtBeat/PBS NewsHour.  “By peering into the tiny world, detectives could analyze the clues and learn how to ask the right questions from an exclusive vantage point.” See trailer here. And a conversation with the filmmaker, Susan Marks here.