Price: $350.00

    Code: 2515

    A film by Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina
    2014, 72 or 58 minutes
    (72 min version includes closed captions)
    Purchase: $ 350 | Classroom rental: $125

    A sensational portrait of a rebel who defied society’s prejudices and pinched her own version of the American Dream, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne relates the fascinating story of how a poor, single, African-American mother from segregated West Virginia became the world’s most notorious jewel thief. A glamorous 81-year-old, Doris Payne is as unapologetic today about the nearly $2 million in jewels she’s stolen over a 60-year career as she was the day she stole her first carat.

    Her modus operandi is to enter jewelry stores posing as a well-to-do woman, typically looking for a diamond ring. Using her charm, she would engage the clerk, asking to see an assortment of items. Eventually, she would "cause the clerk to forget" just how many items were outside the case; and, at some point, she would leave with one or two pieces.

    With Payne now on trial for the theft of a department store diamond ring, filmmakers Kirk Marcolina and Matthew Pond probe beneath her consummate smile to uncover the secrets of her trade and what drove her to a life of crime. The film traces Payne's journey from an impoverished childhood in West Virginia to a lavish life on the run around the world.

    Some particularly important moments from Payne's past are brought to life. We see how racism caused a young Doris to learn how easy it is to steal. We witness her father’s abuse, and hear Payne explain the connection between protecting her mother from violence and entering the world of diamond thievery.

    Judge Brown sums it up: "She’s charming. She’s Santa Claus’s wife. She’s a thief." A thief so singular in style and achievement, that Halle Berry has been in talks to play her in a biopic.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    Official Selection, Western Psychological Association Film Festival


    "A ripping good yarn… A peppy and beguiling portrait of a convict whose defiant streak of independence has a way of outshining her wrongdoing."- The New York Times

    "A carefully constructed and very clever study of a complex criminal mind. Payne’s reminiscences are brilliantly juxtaposed against the latest court trial she faces – giving this documentary suspense and an utterly absorbing ending." –The Royal Gazette

    "Fascinating! [Screenwriter Eunetta Boone] manages to honor the complexity of race, crime, American life, and the print-the-legend pleasures of a tale well told."- Village Voice

    "Unforgettable! The directors place their subject’s life in the grand tradition of Josephine Baker, Richard Wright and Miles Davis – great Black American artists who had to cross the Atlantic to reach their full potential." – Sound on Sight

    "An amusing reminder that crime doesn’t just belong to the usual suspects."- Film Journal

    "Elegant and sly, Payne steals the show. Her unapologetic attitude and matter-of-fact disclosure of how she learned to steal and continuously managed to nab such prized pieces are both entertaining and unsettling. True-crime buffs will enjoy this one." - Library Journal


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