The first trailer’s arrived for The Lady and The Dale documentary series which dives into the story of Elizabeth Carmichael and her three-wheeled car, The Dale. HBO Documentary Films’ four-part docuseries will kick off with episodes one and two airing back-to-back beginning at Sunday, January 31, 20201 at 9pm ET/PT.
Room 104‘s Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass executive produced the series with Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker directing. Cammilleri, Drucker, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, Mel Eslyn, Allen Bain, Andre Gaines, and Alana Carithers also executive produce.
HBO released the following description of the documentary series:
In 1974 in the midst of the Middle East oil crisis, a new, innovative automobile promised America high mileage and a low-price tag; its three-wheeled, slick design is a hopeful harbinger of things to come. Behind the development and promotion of The Dale, was Elizabeth Carmichael, who had previously lived a life of crime, on the run from authorities, and always cooked up preposterous mayhem. She claimed to have smuggled arms to Cuba during the revolution and was wanted by the FBI. With several ex-wives and children in her wake, she eventually wedded soulmate Vivian Barrett. They and their five children lived on the run from the law for many years with Liz starting her transition in 1966.
As a woman in the 1970s, with her past kept hidden and a new identity as a widow with a business degree, Liz Carmichael founded the 20th Century Motor Car Company and made a name for herself in the male-dominated business world. A savvy marketer, Carmichael claimed that The Dale would be the biggest thing since the Model T and would challenge Detroit’s iron grip on the auto industry.
Interest in the Dale intensified, accelerated by Carmichael’s boasts of its efficiency and safety but also fueled by the company’s dubious business practices. With that spotlight came increased focus on Liz’s identity and gender. As media attention was heating up and frustrated investors clamoring at her door, Carmichael was arrested for fraud and business code violations before The Dale could even hit the streets.
The trial that followed was one of the longest in Los Angeles criminal court’s history and became as much about Carmichael’s transgender identity as it was about The Dale. Representing herself in the high-profile case, Carmichael challenged the prejudices of the time, but the surrounding media circus obfuscated the issues; Liz as a person was under interrogation as much as her business practices. The scrutiny into her life would continue for decades, even as she continually found surprising ways to outwit her pursuers, persist in her own survival and keep her family together.
The Lady and The Dale uses an arresting and inventive technique of marrying archival material with photo collages and animation to illustrate Carmichael’s experiences, combining audio recordings with interviews while framing Carmichael’s story within a broader history of trans experiences. Shedding light on Liz Carmichael’s life and on the dogged investigations into her past and gender identity are Candi Michael, Liz’s daughter; Michael Michael, Liz’s son; Jeri Burchard, Liz’s granddaughter; Dick Carlson, local TV reporter; Pete Noyes, KABC news producer; Charles Richard Barrett, Liz’s brother-in-law; and lawyers, prosecutors and employees of 20th Century Motor Car Company. Historian Susan Stryker, Gender and Media Theorist Sandy Stone and criminal defender Mia Yamamoto add historical and legal context to the story.