The One Real Aspect of Edgar Allen Poe’s Life That Inspired “The Pale Blue Eye”
Netflix kicked off 2023 by dropping a thrilling mystery-drama with a star-studded cast – “The Pale Blue Eye,” starring Christian Bale (“The Dark Knight,” “American Psycho”), Lucy Boynton (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), and Gillian Anderson (“The Crown,” “Sex Education”). The film follows 1830s detective Augustus Landor (Bale) as he teams up with Edgar Allen Poe (Harry Melling) to solve a series of murders in West Point, NY.
While “The Pale Blue Eye” includes American detective novelist and poet Edgar Allen Poe as a character, it is not based on a true story. The murder mystery, however, does include ties to real-life events that occurred in the American literary genius’s life. Read on to find out which true facts were included in the streamer’s film adaptation of Louis Bayard’s novel by the same name.
What Is True About Edgar Allen Poe in “The Pale Blue Eye”?
In the film, tenured detective Landor is enlisted to investigate murders at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Landor accepts help from one of the enrolled military cadets, Poe, who’s eager to help out with the case. The real Poe really did enlist in the US Army in 1827 under the alias “Edgar A. Perry” at age 18. While he transferred between Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia early in his Army career, he eventually enrolled at West Point in March 1830 at age 21. He quit in January 1831 and was formally dismissed that March.
Director Scott Cooper explained to Tudum, “Of course, this is a work of fiction, although Poe was at West Point.”
Although Poe did attend the Academy featured in the thriller, the author’s enrollment at West Point is where the true facts end. In film production notes obtained by Decider, Cooper shared, “Though Poe was only at West Point for seven months (before getting kicked out), no murders took place there that I’m aware of.”
What Else Inspired “The Pale Blue Eye”?
“The Pale Blue Eye” was heavily inspired by Cooper’s enjoyment of Poe’s work. In an interview with Tudum, the Virginia-born director noted that he has his father to thank for his interest in Poe. “Because my father taught English and there was lots of literature strewn about our house, Poe came into my world at a young age, and I was just fascinated with his works.”
Cooper accredits that fascination with how Poe inspired the film. “What I’m saying is that it’s these events that occur in our film that shaped [Poe’s] worldview and helped him become the writer that he became,” Cooper told Tudum. “With the recurring themes that deal with the questions of death and the effects of decomposition and reanimation of the dead and mourning; all those are considered part of his dark romanticism.”
Similar to Cooper, Bale had a deep and life-long appreciation for Poe. “Watching TV in England when I was growing up, [I’d see] films that I didn’t know were Edgar Allan Poe [adaptations],” Bale explained to The Los Angeles Times. “When I started to look at his work with more intention, it was a surprise [to discover] how much he has infiltrated culture and my brain without me even knowing that it was him doing so. I love ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ ‘The Mystery of Marie Rogêt’ and ‘The Raven.'”
Stream “The Pale Blue Eye” on Netflix now.