Thursday, October 29, 2015

Where was child protection?

The knife-thrower Louella Gallagher throws knives at her daughters Connie Ann, 5, and Colleena Sue, 2.5 yrs old, in Austin, Texas. As the newscaster comments: “…Evidently Colleena Sue has more trust in Mother’s aim than the audience has. It takes a steady eye and a stout heart to heave knives at the apple of your eye, but this female William Tell has no qualms and plenty of faith…”


  1. See also:

  2. When a friend sent me this link for a Texas newsreel featuring “an interesting mother daughter relationship,” I knew I had hit the mother lode. Knife throwing might be a quaint 19th century amusement, but this 1950s iteration cut me to the quick.1 Instead of a dashing man hurling Bowies at a scantily clad assistant, here was a stolid woman in a day dress, skillfully flinging blades at two unflinching little girls. “Quite the family, the Gallaghers,” quips the jovial voiceover, “Connie Anne, 5 years old, and Colleena Sue, 2 ½, are a big help to mother Luella, who is no mean hand with a handful of knives.” Indeed, this mother outlines each of her daughters with great dexterity, nicking neither one. But it is the possibility of that nick that we wait for, a slip rather than sleight of hand that promises the forbidden thrill of blade piercing flesh, here especially unsettling because the targets are children. Although their smiles are as unwavering as their mother’s concentration, their poses carefully choreographed for maximum theatrical effect, this sideshow act nonetheless feels like a trauma in the making, one capable of wounding our sense of the sanctity of the mother daughter bond.

  3. A selection of comments on the newsreel:

    The Archives rightly classifies this film under the dual categories of Motherhood and Surrealism, and motherhood has never seemed so surreal as we watch a grim-faced Texas mother hurl knives at her two desperately smiling daughters. This scary film was made in the 50s, but it seems more reminiscent of the kind of stunts that poverty-stricken Americans resorted to during the Depression. A crowd watches and circus music plays as she throws the knives. There doesn't seem to be a father around. Maybe she was a single mom and she supported her kids by taking them to rodeos and county fairs and doing this knife stunt. We can sympathize with her lot, but it certainly doesn't make this film any easier to watch. Connie Ann and Colleen and Sue must be in their fifties now. It would be interesting to hear their side of this story...

    A wonderfully irresponsible knife-thrower, hurling cleavers (for a shortish distance) at her two very young daughters for a crowd of children. Charges of child endangerment would ensue if this ever happened these days; a cool little look into the into what was considered harmless entertainment way back when...

    Like some other reviewers allude to, at first it seems all scary and dangerous but when I was kid only special needs people wore helmets and they got picked on and either learned to fight or make love like charlie sheen. We rode our bikes against traffic alone at night... OMG, I cannot believe I am still alive. Today we subject ourselves to sedentary occupations, reducing our life span and filling our minds with useless drivel.

    Strange how the pharma companies, lawyers, and doctors have added a hundred new diagnosis's, a thousand new medications and a million more laws to keep us distracted as we move from a liberty based society to an equality (regardless of effort or ability) based society.

    I wish that my worst memory was my mom throwing knives at me. I still have the bullet my ex step dad shot at me....

  4. Considered an ‘impalement art', knife-throwing as performance and entertainment characteristically features human targets. It has enjoyed a long history as part of circuses and side-shows of the 19th and 20th centuries. Not much is known about this film of Louella Gallagher throwing knives at her daughters, Connie Ann and Colleena Sue, as a crowd of children look on, but it represents well the tone of most national newsreel stories about Texas – a little nonsense, a little awe, and more than a little disbelief!

  5. If anyone has any more information about these newsreels than I seem able to find,
    please enter a comment or contact me at

  6. A recent exchange with a colleague:

    This is a trick anyway:

    My response:

    It is occasionally alleged that knife throwing acts are actually a trick in which the thrower palms the knife as he pretends to throw it and a knife springs out from the target, giving the illusion of perfect aim. Although this technique has been used by at least one magician to emulate knife throwing, the great majority of knife throwers perform genuine acts.[20] There are secret tricks behind certain stunts, such as throwing while blindfolded, but they do not involve fake knives springing from the target board.[citation needed].

    [20] A magician who demonstrated the fake knives trick was Val Valentino in the TV series Breaking the Magicians' Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed . See also knife throwing. (this is the youtube above) There is a picture of a mid-air knife en route to the target.

  7. Re the above comment: Also see 0:45 of where a knife clearly strikes the backboard and falls off.