Features and Columns · TV

The Real Story Behind ‘Candy’

Jessica Biel and Melanie Lynskey star in this retelling of the famous ax-killing.
Candy Real Story Hulu Series
By  · Published on April 28th, 2022

Real Stories is an ongoing column about the true stories behind movies and TV shows. It’s that simple. This installment focuses on the true story behind the miniseries Candy.

In the television miniseries Candy, Jessica Biel stars as a homemaker-turned-killer (later acquitted)The series takes its title and real story from Candy Montgomery, who in June of 1980 killed her friend, Betty Gore, played in the series by Melanie Lynskey. Candy killed Betty after having an affair with her husband, Allan Gore (Pablo Schreiber).

Here is a look at the shocking and absolutely true story behind the series.

A Proposition

Before Candy killed Betty in Wylie, Texas, the two met in church on June 13, 1980. According to a stellar, multi-part series of articles by Jim Atkinson and John Bloom, published in Texas Monthly, the Methodist Church of Lucas was the “center of Candy Montgomery’s universe, almost from the day in 1977 when she moved to her dream house in the country.”

Their reporting would also feature as the subject of the 1984 book, Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs. Love and Death, a crime drama TV series set to debut in 2022 on HBO Max, is based on the same story and Atkinson and Bloom’s reporting.

The Build-up

A year into living the quintessential country life, Candy began wanting an affair, even casually mentioning it to friends. She was unhappy in her marriage to Pat, played by Timothy Simons. According to Texas Monthly: 

She was explicit about the kind of affair she was interested in: transcendent sex. As she put it, “I want fireworks.”

She first grew interested in Allan Gore on the volleyball court. The two went for a ball at the same time and collided. A seemingly harmless bump became the catalyst for the relationship. Candy thought Allan, Atkinson, and Bloom reported, “Smelled sexy.”

The volleyball court bump soon turned into jokes. Candy and Allan seemed to gel:

He was a lot like her: active in the church, a lover of kids, the outgoing, personable half of a mismatched couple. Allan sang in the choir, helped organize the sports teams, he did all the things that Betty never seemed to want to get involved in.

Soon, Candy told herself he wanted to have sex with her just as badly as she wanted to have sex with him.

The Chance

One night, in 1978, after choir practice, Candy put her cards on the table. She jumped into Allan’s care in the parking lot and told him of her attraction. “I’m tired of thinking about it,” she said, “so I wanted to tell you.”

According to Texas Monthly, Allan was surprised and pleased and felt guilty. Betty “was as dour as ever,” and he was drawn to Candy’s “self-confident, easygoing, warm” demeanor.

What would he do?

The Marriage

Allan and Betty had married in 1970, and he was her college math teacher. By accounts shared by Texas Monthly, people were surprised that the pretty Betty had fallen for the “plain man with horn-rim glasses and puffy cheeks and, even at a young age, signs of a receding hairline.”

Allan worked for an electronics conglomerate and defense contractor. He traveled often. Betty worked as an elementary school teacher. But she soon left her job, and the two had their first child and then another.

Atkinson and Bloom report that by the time the two decided to have their second child, their sex life was virtually nonexistent. This fueled his interest in Candy:

That, combined with Betty’s usual complaints about minor illnesses, made Allan’s marital future look bleak indeed when compared with the bright, happy-go-lucky face of Candy Montgomery, full of promise and, he had to admit, allure.

He still loved Betty, but he found Candy’s proposition impossible to ignore.

A Plan

A week or so after Candy’s initial overture, the two met again after a volleyball practice. Again she asked if he would like to have an affair. At first, he said no. He loved Betty, he said, adding that she had an affair once that hurt him deeply. He didn’t want to do the same to her. Allan then kissed Candy on the lips and left the car.

For weeks, Candy, Texas Monthly notes, felt foolish. She wanted to move on, but his kiss kept her interested. Perhaps something could still happen.

The two later met at an auto repair shop in a nearby town. He gave her a birthday card. They went to a teahouse and began to talk about the affair, each noting they were simply in it for the sex, not the emotion of it all. The last thing they wanted was to hurt someone.

For several weeks, they continued to talk. Atkinson and Bloom write:

The next month consisted of strategy sessions for what must have been the most meticulously planned love affair in the history of romance.

Then, in November 1978, Candy invited Allan over for lunch, and the two put the finishing touches on their plan. A few days later, Allan agreed to the affair. At their lunch, Candy said:

Allan, as far as I’m concerned, this is just for fun. I’m not serious about it. It’s just a companionship thing, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. Whatever happens, we’ll do it for a while and then it will be over.

The Affair Begins

The Candy-Allan affair had an official start date: December 12, 1978. They agreed to meet at a motel, at which Candy arrived first. Candy called him when she got there, and Allan said he would be along in a few minutes.

In the lead-up, both grew unexpectedly nervous. Things grew more intimate soon after his arrival, and the two had sex. As Texas Monthly chronicles in great detail:

Candy felt well pleased. Despite Allan’s apparent inexperience, she hadn’t had to fake her responses much at all. And he did show great promise as a lover. Allan was just as satisfied by the lunchtime rendezvous and was looking forward to the next one. When he went back to work, he felt weak the rest of the afternoon.

Things Get Serious

Soon, the two were meeting regularly. They switched to a cheaper motel, always renting the same room. They made “glorious love every other week” into the first three months of 1979. They would relax and talk about their lives, each feeling revitalized.

Candy began having doubts. She questioned whether the sex would get better and live up to the hype. She also began to worry she had feelings for him.

One day, she brought up these concerns to Allan. He said he wasn’t concerned and said they should let the affair “run its course.” Things continued, primarily out of Candy’s fear she may lose their friendship.

Each wondered privately whether they should suspend the affair. After all, Betty was nearly seven months pregnant, and a new child would require a lot of Allan’s time and attention.

The Beginning of the End

In July 1979, Betty gave birth to a daughter, Bethany. At first, the new child brought her parents back together, Atkinson and Bloom report. But that didn’t last long.

Candy and Allan’s affair resumed. But that too did not seem to be the same. Allan was relieved when he could get space from Candy and take a family trip to Kansas to see relatives.

When he returned, he called Candy, telling Betty they talked about church matters. Candy grew mad when Allan said he wouldn’t be able to see her for a few weeks. After the call, Betty grew suspicious, remarking that the conversation went on for so long.

On their first night away, Betty, to Allan’s surprise, made a sexual advance. Earlier that day, he had been with Candy, so he made an excuse not to have sex with Betty. According to the Texas Monthly report:

Betty began to cry. She was embarrassed and humiliated and deeply hurt. It would have been different if she were in the habit of making advances, but to have the very first one rebuffed was too much for her. She jumped to conclusions. Allan didn’t love her anymore. He hated her because she was fat after having the baby. Allan tried to reassure her, but nothing worked. She had been rejected, and she couldn’t stand it.

A Marriage Saved, An Affair Ended

When Allan returned from the trip, he recounted the story to Candy. Both cried. He suggested they end the affair. Candy disagreed.

Over the next several weeks, they talked through what to do. Candy told Allan she loved him. Allan took a new job (in part to work less and spend more time with Betty) and told Candy he would not have the time to see her. The end of the affair was in sight.

On Betty’s suggestion, she and Allan began going to marriage counseling. They went away to a religious program called Marriage Encounter. They grew closer. Betty started writing “love letters,” many of which addressed their sex life and how she was feeling. “Sometimes it’s so hard to feel calm and quiet as you need to be to enjoy sex,” she wrote. “I guess the relaxation part is the hardest for me.”

Guilt began to set in for Allan. He wasn’t being fully honest with her in the way she was being towards him. They continued to exchange warm letters. At the end of the program, they were “remarried” in a ceremony with the other couples in attendance.

When they returned, they picked up Bethany, who was being taken care of by none other than Candy.

A week later, Allan and Candy met for lunch. He said he wanted to focus on his family. And soon, they were both crying. Their relationship was over. Each felt bittersweet. And Candy and Pat attended the marriage counseling program too, but with less effect.

The Killing

All hell broke loose months later, on June 13, 1980. Earlier that day, Allan had left to attend a business meeting in Minnesota. A week later, he and Betty planned to travel to Europe on their first childless vacation in four years. She had described it as a second honeymoon.

While traveling, Allan tried to call Betty on that day, but she didn’t answer. He grew nervous. After several failed attempts, he asked some friends and neighbors to go check on the house. When they arrived, they found pools of blood. They surmised that Betty was dead from gunshots, not daring to look directly at the body.

Distraught, Allan called Candy to tell her the news. Candy, who had been in bed with Pat, began to sob. She wondered if Betty had committed suicide and, if so, what had caused her to do it.

Eventually, word got to Candy that Betty had, in fact, been killed with an ax. Candy went into the backyard to do yardwork. In the following weeks, she would become the main suspect.

The Hypnotist

The police questioned Candy a few times, and everything seemed fine. But then Allan admitted to their affair. The police had a motive, and Candy was arrested and charged with murder. She denied the charges.

A friend from church agreed to represent her. She received countless cards from friends who believed she was innocent. To help her remember the events of the day, the attorney set up an appointment for Candy to see a psychiatrist who was also a clinical hypnotist.

The doctor soon hypnotized Candy, as Atkinson and Bloom recount in great detail in their reporting. While hypnotized, Candy soon began to discuss how much she hated Betty and how she ruined her life. As shocking as it may be to believe, after many sessions, the doctor was able to reconstruct the day’s events from Candy.

She had, in fact, killed Betty. Little about the day’s goings-on were publicly available in the lead-up to the trial. And so, people were understandably shocked when Candy decided to make the case she had acted in self-defense.

What Happened

The trial brought out the events of June 13. On that day, Candy knocked on Betty’s door to see if Alisa, their first child, wanted to go see a movie with her and the children. Betty welcomed Candy into her home.

Once Candy was in the door and seated, Betty asked her if she had an affair with Allan. Reportedly stunned by the question, at first, Candy said no. But then, after Betty asked again, she said yes, adding that it was a long time ago.

Atkinson and Bloom report, that Betty then got up and went to their utility room. She came back “clutching the curved wooden handle of a three-foot ax.” Betty told Candy never to see Allan again, adding she didn’t want to see Candy anymore either.

Candy saw the pain on Betty’s face. Betty asked Candy to take Alisa to the movie and bring her back tomorrow. Candy apologized, but then:

All at once Betty’s rage erupted. She flung the hand from her arm and shoved Candy backward into the utility room. Betty grabbed the ax resting by the doorway and rushed in after her, holding it like a weapon, diagonally across her chest. The blade was pointed at the floor. “You can’t have him,” Betty screamed, crowding Candy. “You can’t have him. I’m going to have a baby, and you can’t have him this time.”

Candy asked Betty to stop, but Betty responded by saying she had to kill Candy. The two began fighting over the ax, and Betty swung the ax, which Candy dodged, screaming. The ax fell on the floor and caused “a gash in Candy’s toe.”

The Ax

With the ax on the floor, Candy reached and grabbed the blade. Betty grabbed the handle, and the two jostled back and forth.  Eventually, Candy was able to push Betty away and onto the floor.

According to the Texas Monthly report:

As Betty struggled to regain her balance, her body facing away, Candy brought the ax up with both hands and brought the blade down on the back of Betty’s head.

Candy began to run, but Betty, “like some nightmarish vision of a corpse,” followed her. The two continued to fight. Eventually, Betty got her hands on the ax but was too weak. Candy got it back, and after more fighting:

Candy had time to raise the ax and bring it down with all the adrenaline-fueled strength she could gather. There was no pity or remorse or conscience now.

And according to the report:

There were, in all, 41 chop wounds. Forty of them occurred while Betty Gore’s heart was still beating.

The Trial

Atkinson and Bloom report that the courtroom was silent as Candy recounted the day’s events. She said she did not mean to kill Betty. But she admitted that she had and that it was an act of self-defense.

Prosecutors in the case later recalled that Candy, in their eyes, was excellent on the stand. Atkinson and Bloom describe the thoughts of prosecutor Tom O’Connell:

This is what he had been afraid of. Candy was intelligent, attractive, direct, she handled herself well, and she used the best possible explanation, the “I freaked out” excuse.

And he was right. On that Friday, testimony ended. The following Wednesday, the jury heard the final arguments. And later that same day, they ruled that Candy was not guilty.

The Fallout

Not everyone was so willing to accept Candy’s story. According to one report from the time, spectators outside the courtroom shouted, “Murderer! Murderer!” at Candy.

According to the Daily Mail, Candy and Pat moved to Georgia after the trial. They later divorced. She reportedly worked as a mental health therapist and now goes by her maiden name.

Candy debuts on May 9, 2022, on Hulu.

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Will DiGravio is a Brooklyn-based critic, researcher, and video essayist, who has been a contributor at Film School Rejects since 2018. Follow and/or unfollow him on Twitter @willdigravio.