The Many Wives of Eliot Ness
Eliot Ness is most often known the character portrayed in The Untouchables, both on television and film. In both depictions, Ness is seen being somewhat of a family man with a wife. The television series starring Robert Stack brings out a more accurate depiction as it gets the name of his wife correct and gives him a son. The Brian DePalma film changes the names of his wife and gives him two fictional biological children.
The prohibition agent who is credited with bringing down Al Capone is depicted in fiction literature as well. In Nemesis, he is seen going through a divorce, although the driving force of the story is his failed search for the Cleveland Torso murderer. In Chasing Eliot Ness, he is also seen going through a divorce from his first wife, Edna and at the end of the book, has remarried.
Eliot Ness was married three times. Edna, Evaline and Elizabeth. He never had any biological children, although he and his third wife adopted a three year old son, Robert. He has no living descendants as his son died before having any children of his own. None of the women he married had biological children.
According to his biography, Edna was his college sweetheart and first wife. She left Eliot Ness in 1938 and moved back to Chicago. At this time, Ness had a high profile job in Cleveland. This is depicted in both Nemesis and Chasing Eliot Ness.
The second wife was Evaline, an artist. Like the prohibition agent, she liked the night life and did not seem to want to settle down with kids. Ness never owned a house, he always rented and traveled frequently. This marriage was of short duration and ended tumultuously, although neither party discussed what exactly caused the split.
In television series, the Robert Stack character refers to his wife as Betty, although she is never seen on camera. This depiction is more accurate of the real life Eliot Ness character as he is rarely seen at home and his wife or family never comes between his zest for solving crimes. Although the television series is highly fictionalized when it comes to his crime solving, it is pretty accurate when it comes to his marriage.
The reason for the confusion is due to the fact that Ness never told Fraley about his two previous marriages. Fraley did not know the crime stopper was married twice before when he wrote The Untouchables, which is pretty much just as much a work of fiction as Chasing Eliot Ness with regard to the personal life of this man.
His wives are all long dead. None of them got into details about their personal life with the man who is credited with bringing down Al Capone. But according to books written on the subject, both fictional such as Chasing Eliot Ness and of a biographical nature, such as The Real Story Of Eliot Ness, all of the wives did have one complaint about him which might explain as to why he went through two divorces at a time when one was shocking.
He was simply never home.