Lifetime Movie Brings Daniel Brophy Murder to the Small Screen
What is the American Dream nowadays? Retiring to a beach in Portugal? Finding a man who praises your typeface choices, kisses you, and then offers you warm bread and homemade blackberry jam? Having Cybill Shepherd play you in a movie? According to the ripped-from-the-headlines Lifetime production How to Murder Your Husband: The Nancy Brophy Story, the Portland self-published romance author wanted the first, actually got the second but wasn’t satisfied, and is now treated to the Cybill Shepherd bit—assuming she can watch it from Wilsonville’s Coffee Creek prison.
When Nancy Crampton-Brophy was arrested for the 2018 murder of her husband, Daniel Brophy, a beloved teacher at the now-shuttered Oregon Culinary Institute, international media seized on the story of the self-published romance novelist who once penned a blog post titled “How to Murder Your Husband” accused of, well, murdering her husband.
Lifetime’s made-for-TV movie, set in a Portland that's gray and green and full of chickens, doesn’t dwell on the life-imitating-art bit. Instead it plays up the baby boomer ennui of Nancy (Shepherd, who appears to have decided to breathe and move as little as possible). She envies her husband, Daniel (Steve Guttenberg), for having a job he loves, and resents his refusal to prioritize profit. “You know there’s a tech billionaire born every minute in this town,” she says of Portland, coaxing him to be a private chef for the paycheck and not a lowly teacher. Meanwhile, collections notices are piling up from “Bank of Multnomah County,” and a check-writing montage makes clear that a Portuguese beach retirement plan is a long shot.
In Nancy’s attempt at a career, the Diana Gabaldon and Nora Roberts–revering members of her romance writers group keep calling out her plot holes, and literary agents reject her. Her endlessly positive and supportive husband says they’re just jealous, and reads the love scenes she's written aloud to her in bed.
The movie doesn't answer any questions about the true story or fill in any gaps. There's no insight on how these two got together—the real mystery, since the whodunnit is given away in the movie's title. Shepherd is draped in floral blouses and scarves, and surrounded by floral prints on wallpaper, curtains, and dishes, but she hates her husband’s garden and seethes when he brings her a bouquet. When Daniel suggests a “Portuguese vacation” in the form of a dinner of linguiça, she snaps.
While he is eternally Mahoney from the Police Academy series, it’s Guttenberg’s friendly nice-guy roles (Cocoon, the Oregon-set Short Circuit, Sharknado: The 4th Awakens) that seem to have gotten him cast to fill Brophy’s black kitchen clogs. He earnestly delivers the chanterelle shout-outs and “Brophyisms” that were part of real-life reminiscences from students and colleagues, who held a tribute dinner in his honor last year—a few months after Nancy had been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
How to Murder Your Husband: The Nancy Brophy Story premieres on Lifetime at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 14