The year 1920 was a pivotal one for the Lemp family in St. Louis, and not just because of the enforcement of Prohibition. One hundred years ago this week, the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch proclaimed that Elsa Lemp Wright — part of a local beer dynasty that had long rivaled Anheuser-Busch — had taken her own life.
"This is the Lemp family for you," her brother William Lemp Jr. said at the scene of her death.
But was that really what happened? Local filmmaker Franki Cambeletta explores this question in his soon-to-be-released documentary from Shift Films, “Lemp’s Last Wright.”
It’s set to premiere in late April at the Chase Park Plaza Cinemas, spotlighting the knowledge of several local historians along with other source material and dramatization.
On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Cambeletta about the project, which represents the culmination of many years of interest and research into Lemp Wright’s life.
"When you read about Elsa’s life, she is fairly fascinating," Cambeletta said. "She is somebody you kind of embody — this is a woman that the minute that cars became available, especially race cars, Elsa goes out and picks up three with her brothers. … She’s a very adventurous young woman, was born into wealth, and she knew how to flex that."
"But at the same time she did come from a family that was an immigrant family. So she also understood, you know, the working class as well. … I think people just have a tendency to fall in love with her when you find, you know, what she’s doing. I mean, she does go on a lot of different trips — she goes to Europe, but she’s also braving the Bering Sea, and she takes on this crazy voyage with other St. Louisans … and when she comes back, she [meets] Thomas H. Wright."
Wright, her husband, is a key figure in Cambeletta’s film and in the mysterious circumstances surrounding Elsa Lemp Wright’s death.
What: The premiere of “Lemp’s Last Wright”(purchase tickets online)
When: Various showtimes between 7 and 9:45 p.m. Thursday, April 23, 2020
Where: Chase Park Plaza Cinema (212 Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108)
What do you find most fascinating, or perhaps most baffling, about the Lemp family history? Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group, and help inform our coverage.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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