‘How to Murder Your Husband’: Cybill Shepherd plays Nancy Crampton Brophy in TV movie about Oregon murder case
The Lifetime cable channel has long specialized in “Ripped from the Headlines” TV movies, notably with fictionalized takes on true-crime sagas. While Lifetime is known for its women-in-peril tales, the female-focused channel hasn’t forgotten about women who commit crimes, the more sensational, the better.
(Don’t have cable? You can stream Lifetime movies on DirectTV Stream; and on fubo TV, which offers a free trial.)
So, it’s no surprise that the case of Nancy Crampton Brophy, the Oregon woman who was convicted of murdering her husband, Daniel Brophy, in 2022, is already coming to the Lifetime airwaves. “How to Murder Your Husband: The Nancy Brophy Story,” premieres Saturday, Jan. 14, and offers a TV-movie version of the case that made national headlines as it was played out in a Portland courtroom.
The title of the Lifetime film sums up a key aspect of media fascination with the case, namely, that Crampton Brophy was an aspiring romance novelist who had earlier written an online essay titled, “How to Murder Your Husband.” The fact that a woman accused of murdering her husband had written something with the title that turned the tragic death of Daniel Brophy into the kind of true-crime story bound to be covered by everything from “Dateline” to People magazine.
Written and directed by Stephen Tolkin (whose other true-crime TV movie credits include “Doomsday Mom” and “The College Admissions Scandal”), “How to Murder Your Husband” stars Cybill Shepherd as Crampton Brophy, and Steve Guttenberg as her husband, Daniel Brophy, an Oregon Culinary Institute instructor who, on June 2, 2018, was found at the culinary school, dead after having been shot.
The film covers some of the elements the prosecutors brought up during the trial, such as Daniel Brophy having multiple life insurance policies, the couple’s financial difficulties, and the argument that Crampton Brophy killed her husband to collect his life insurance. Though Crampton Brophy’s defense attorneys suggested that a homeless man might have committed the murder, and claimed that Crampton Brophy loved her husband, in 2022 a jury found that Crampton Brophy had shot her husband. She was sentenced to life in prison.
In the film, Shepherd’s Crampton Brophy seems to be mainly motivated by her desire to be a rich, successful romance novelist. She bristles, for example, when members of her romance writers’ group criticize her for improbable plot twists.
“You want gritty realism, watch a documentary,” Crampton Brophy said to the group. “It’s supposed to be escapist entertainment.”
Nobody’s likely to mistake “How to Murder Your Husband” for a gritty documentary. Not with dialogue of the sort that includes Guttenberg’s Daniel Brophy saying, “I’ve got to teach Hollandaise in three minutes.” The film was filmed in Vancouver, BC, not in the Portland area. And, as an onscreen note says at the end, “Although based on a true story, some characters are fictionalized or composites, and some events have been compressed, reorganized or fictionalized for the purposes of dramatization.”
“How to Murder Your Husband” is part of a four-movie “Notorious Women” package which will air on Lifetime on subsequent Saturday nights. Other titles include “Bad Behind Bars: Jodi Arias,” a follow-up to a previous Lifetime film about a woman convicted of murdering her boyfriend; “Hoax: The Kidnapping of Sherri Papini,” about a woman who falsely claimed she’d been abducted; and “Gwen Shamblin: Starving for Salvation,” about the late Christian leader and diet guru.
In a recent virtual press day, cast members from the movies, and Tanya Lopez, Lifetime Television executive vice president, talked about the films. Shepherd said she was “disturbed” by her character, and Guttenberg said of Daniel Brophy, “He was known as a quiet guy,” and that the actor wanted to honor Brophy.
After discussing how Lifetime movies generally intend to tell stories from a woman’s perspective, Lopez was asked whether the producers felt a sense of responsibility to survivors or family members of victims when making “Ripped From the Headlines” projects.
“The question of respect and sensitivity is a real important one that we always ask,” Lopez said. When it comes to family members, she said, “We want to make sure that they’re shown in a positive light. I think we are doing our best to try and be respectful.”
“How to Murder Your Husband” airs at 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 14 on Lifetime.
— Kristi Turnquist
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