Cornell George Hopley Woolrich (// WUUL-ritch; December 4, 1903 – September 25, 1968) was an American novelist and short story writer. He sometimes used the pseudonyms William Irish and George Hopley.
|Born||Cornell George Hopley Woolrich|
December 4, 1903
New York City, US
|Died||September 25, 1968 (aged 64)|
New York City, US
|Pen name||William Irish, George Hopley|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
Violet Virginia Blackton
(m. 1930; annulled 1933)
Woolrich was born in New York City; his parents separated when he was young. He lived for a time in Mexico with his father before returning to New York to live with his mother, Claire Attalie Woolrich.
He attended Columbia University but left in 1926 without graduating when his first novel, Cover Charge, was published. As Eddie Duggan observes, "Woolrich enrolled at New York's Columbia University in 1921 where he spent a relatively undistinguished year until he was taken ill and was laid up for some weeks. It was during this illness (a Rear-Window-like confinement involving a gangrenous foot, according to one version of the story) that Woolrich started writing, producing Cover Charge, which was published in 1926." Cover Charge was one of his Jazz Age novels inspired by the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. A second short story, Children of the Ritz, won Woolrich the first prize of $10,000 the following year in a competition organised by College Humor and First National Pictures; this led to his working as a screenwriter in Hollywood for First National Pictures. While in Hollywood, Woolrich explored his sexuality, apparently engaging in what Frances M. Nevins Jr. describes as "promiscuous and clandestine homosexual activity" and by marrying Violet Virginia Blackton, the 21-year-old daughter of J. Stuart Blackton, one of the founders of the Vitagraph studio. Failing in both his attempt at marriage and at establishing a career as a screenwriter (the unconsummated marriage was annulled in 1933; Woolrich garnered no screen credits), Woolrich sought to resume his life as a novelist:
Although Woolrich had published six 'jazz-age' novels, concerned with the party-antics and romances of the beautiful young things on the fringes of American society, between 1926 and 1932, he was unable to establish himself as a serious writer. Perhaps because the 'jazz-age' novel was dead in the water by the 1930s when the depression had begun to take hold, Woolrich was unable to find a publisher for his seventh novel, I Love You, Paris, so he literally threw away the typescript, dumped it in a dustbin, and re-invented himself as a pulp writer.
When he turned to pulp and detective fiction, Woolrich's output was so prolific his work was often published under one of his many pseudonyms. For example, "William Irish" was the byline in Dime Detective Magazine (February 1942) on his 1942 story "It Had to Be Murder", source of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window and itself based on H.G. Wells' short story "Through a Window". François Truffaut filmed Woolrich's The Bride Wore Black and Waltz into Darkness in 1968 and 1969, respectively, the latter as Mississippi Mermaid. Ownership of the copyright in Woolrich's original story "It Had to Be Murder" and its use for Rear Window was litigated before the US Supreme Court in Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207 (1990).
He returned to New York where he and his mother moved into the Hotel Marseilles (Broadway and West 103rd Street). Eddie Duggan observes that "[a]lthough his writing made him wealthy, Woolrich and his mother lived in a series of seedy hotel rooms, including the squalid Hotel Marseilles apartment building in Harlem, among a group of thieves, prostitutes and lowlifes that would not be out of place in Woolrich's dark fictional world". Woolrich lived there until his mother's death on October 6, 1957, which prompted his move to the Hotel Franconia (20 West 72nd Street). In later years, he socialized on occasion in Manhattan bars with Mystery Writers of America colleagues and younger fans such as writer Ron Goulart, but alcoholism and an amputated leg (caused by an infection from a too-tight shoe which went untreated) left him a recluse. As Duggan writes:
[After] Woolrich's mother died in 1957, he [went] into a sharp physical and mental decline.
Although he moved from Harlem's decrepit Hotel Marseilles to a more upmarket residence in the Hotel Franconia near Central Park, and later to the Sheraton-Russell on Park Avenue, Woolrich was a virtual recluse. Now in his 60s, with his eyesight failing, lonely, psychologically wracked by guilt over his homosexuality, tortured by his alcoholism, self-doubt, and a diabetic to boot, Woolrich neglected himself to such a degree that he allowed a foot infection to become gangrenous which resulted, early in 1968, in the amputation of a leg.
After the amputation, and a conversion to Catholicism, Woolrich returned to the Sheraton-Russell, requiring the use of a wheelchair. Some of the staff there would take Woolrich down to the lobby so he could look out on the passing traffic, thus making the wizened Woolrich into a kind of darker, self-loathing version of the character played by James Stewart in Hitchcock's Rear Window.
With the type of closure that is usually only encountered as a literary device, the Woolrich story turns full-circle around the Oedipally charged foot motif, the writing career that apparently began with a period of confinement attributed to a foot infection ends with an amputation, and the deep Freudian resonance that amputation induces.
Woolrich did not attend the premiere of Truffaut's film of his novel The Bride Wore Black in 1968, even though it was held in New York City. He died weighing 89 pounds and was interred with his mother in the 'Shrine of Memories Mausoleum', Unit 1, Tier G, Crypt 102 at Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York.
Woolrich bequeathed his estate of about $850,000 to Columbia University to endow scholarships in his mother's memory for writing students. His papers are also kept at the Columbia University Libraries.
Most of Woolrich's books are out of print, and new editions were slow to come out because of estate issues. However, new collections of his short stories were issued in the early 1990s. As of February 3, 2020, the Faded Page has seven titles available as ebooks in the public domain in Canada; these may be still under copyright elsewhere. In 2020 and 2021, Otto Penzler's "American Mystery Classics" series released new editions of Waltz into Darkness and The Bride Wore Black in both hardcover and paperback.
Woolrich died leaving fragments of an unfinished novel, titled The Loser; fragments have been published separately and also collected in Tonight, Somewhere in New York (2005).
|1926||Cover Charge||Cornell Woolrich|
|1927||Children of the Ritz||Cornell Woolrich|
|1929||Times Square||Cornell Woolrich|
|1930||A Young Man's Heart||Cornell Woolrich|
|1931||The Time of Her Life||Cornell Woolrich|
|1932||Manhattan Love Song||Cornell Woolrich|
|1940||The Bride Wore Black||Cornell Woolrich|
|1941||The Black Curtain||Cornell Woolrich|
|1941||Marihuana||William Irish||Published in paperback only|
|1942||Black Alibi||Cornell Woolrich|
|1942||Phantom Lady||William Irish|
|1943||The Black Angel||Cornell Woolrich|
|1944||The Black Path of Fear||Cornell Woolrich|
|1944||Deadline at Dawn||William Irish||Also published as an Armed Services Edition|
|1945||Night Has a Thousand Eyes||George Hopley|
|1947||Waltz Into Darkness||William Irish|
|1948||Rendezvous in Black||Cornell Woolrich|
|1948||I Married a Dead Man||William Irish|
|1950||Savage Bride||Cornell Woolrich||Published in paperback only|
|1951||You'll Never See Me Again||Cornell Woolrich||Published in paperback only|
|1951||Strangler's Serenade||William Irish|
|1952||Eyes That Watch You||William Irish|
|1952||Bluebeard's Seventh Wife||William Irish||Published in paperback only|
|1959||Death is My Dancing Partner||Cornell Woolrich||Published only in paperback|
|1960||The Doom Stone||Cornell Woolrich||Published only in paperback|
|1987||Into the Night||Cornell Woolrich||(Posthumous release, manuscript completed by Lawrence Block)|
Short story collectionsEdit
|1943||I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes||William Irish||Also published as an Armed Services Edition|
|1944||After-Dinner Story||William Irish||Includes his noted 1941 novella "Marihuana". Also published as an Armed Services Edition|
|1946||If I Should Die Before I Wake||William Irish||Published in paperback only|
|1946||Borrowed Crime||William Irish||Published in paperback only|
|1946||The Dancing Detective||William Irish|
|1948||Dead Man Blues||William Irish|
|1949||The Blue Ribbon||William Irish|
|1950||Somebody on the Phone||William Irish||A.k.a. "Deadly Night Call"|
|1950||Six Nights of Mystery||William Irish||Published in paperback only|
|1956||Nightmare||Cornell Woolrich||Includes both previously published & unpublished stories.|
|1958||Violence||Cornell Woolrich||Includes both previously published & unpublished stories.|
|1958||Hotel Room||Cornell Woolrich|
|1959||Beyond the Night||Cornell Woolrich||Published in paperback only|
|1964||The Dark Side of Love||Cornell Woolrich|
|1965||The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich||Cornell Woolrich|
|2010||Four Novellas of Fear||Cornell Woolrich|
Selected films based on Woolrich storiesEdit
- Convicted (1938) (story Face Work), directed by Leon Barsha
- Street of Chance (1942) (novel The Black Curtain), directed by Jack Hively
- The Leopard Man (1943) (novel Black Alibi), directed by Jacques Tourneur
- Phantom Lady (1944) (novel), directed by Robert Siodmak
- The Mark of the Whistler (1944) (story Dormant Account), directed by William Castle
- Deadline at Dawn (1946) (novel), the only film directed by stage director Harold Clurman
- Black Angel (1946) (novel), directed by Roy William Neill
- The Chase (1946) (novel The Black Path of Fear). directed by Arthur Ripley
- Fall Guy (1947) (story Cocaine), directed by Reginald Le Borg
- The Guilty (1947) (story He Looked Like Murder), directed by John Reinhardt
- Fear in the Night (1947) (story Nightmare), directed by Maxwell Shane
- The Return of the Whistler (1948) (story All at Once, No Alice), directed by D. Ross Lederman
- I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes (1948) (story), directed by William Nigh
- Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) (novel), directed by John Farrow
- The Window (1949) (story The Boy Cried Murder), directed by Ted Tetzlaff
- No Man of Her Own (1950) (novel I Married a Dead Man), directed by Mitchell Leisen
- The Earring (1951) (story The Death Stone), directed by León Klimovsky
- The Trace of Some Lips (1952) (story Collared), directed by Juan Bustillo Oro
- If I Should Die Before I Wake (1952), directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen
- Don't Ever Open That Door (1952) (stories Somebody on the Phone and Humming Bird Comes Home) directed by Carlos Hugo Christensen
- Rear Window (1954) (story It Had to Be Murder), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
- Obsession (1954) (story Silent as the Grave), directed by Jean Delannoy
- The Glass Eye (1956), directed by Antonio Santillán
- Nightmare (1956) (story), directed by Maxwell Shane
- Escapade (1957) (story Cinderella and the Mob), directed by Ralph Habib
- The Boy Cried Murder (1966) (story The Boy Cried Murder), directed by George P. Breakston
- The Bride Wore Black (1968) (novel), directed by François Truffaut
- Mississippi Mermaid (1969) (novel Waltz into Darkness), directed by François Truffaut
- Kati Patang (1970) (novel I Married a Dead Man), directed by Shakti Samanta
- Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972) (novel Rendezvous in Black), directed by Umberto Lenzi
- You'll Never See Me Again (1973), filmed for television, directed by Jeannot Szwarc
- Martha (1974) (story For the Rest of Her Life), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
- Gun Moll (1975) (story Collared), directed by Giorgio Capitani
- Union City (1980) (story The Corpse Next Door), directed by Marcus Reichert
- I Married a Shadow (1983) (novel I Married a Dead Man)
- Cloak & Dagger (1984) (story The Boy Who Cried Murder), directed by Richard Franklin
- I'm Dangerous Tonight (1990) (story I'm Dangerous Tonight), directed by Tobe Hooper
- Mrs. Winterbourne (1996) (novel I Married a Dead Man), directed by Richard Benjamin
- Rear Window (1998) (story It Had to Be Murder), directed by Jeff Bleckner
- Original Sin (2001) (novel Waltz into Darkness), directed by Michael Cristofer
- Four O'Clock (2006) (story Three O'Clock)
- Corliss, Richard (8 December 2003). "That Old Feeling: Woolrich's World". Time. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2010.
- "Take Five with Charles Ardai '91". Columbia College Today. 2020-05-07. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
- Columbia College (Columbia University). Office of Alumni Affairs and Development; Columbia College (Columbia University) (1981). Columbia College today. Columbia University Libraries. New York: Columbia College, Office of Alumni Affairs and Development.
- Eddie Duggan (1999) 'Writing in the darkness: the world of Cornell Woolrich' CrimeTime 2.6 pp. 113–126.
- Krinsky, Charles (2003). "Woolrich, Cornell". glbtq.com. Archived from the original on 2007-08-14. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
- Nevins, Francis M. "Introduction," Tonight, Somewhere in New York. Carroll & Graf, 2001.
- Goulart, Ron: "The Ghost of Cornell Woolrich" The Twilight Zone Magazine, December 1984, pp. 16–17
- https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/4735/cornell-woolrich[user-generated source]
- "Cornell Woolrich papers, 1958-1964". www.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2022-05-01.
- "Shabnam Still Gets Fan Mail". Indian Express. Dec 4, 2010. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
- Nevins, Francis M. Jr. (1988), First You Dream, Then You Die, Mysterious Press.
- Duggan, E. (1999) 'Writing in the darkness: the world of Cornell Woolrich' CrimeTime 2.6 pp. 113–126.
- Breen, Jon L. "Dark Deeds: The Mystery of Cornell Woolrich." The Weekly Standard (March 8, 2004), 31–33.
- Lane, Joel. "Mansions of Fear: The Dark Houses of Cornell Woolrich". Wormwood No 3 (Autumn 2004), 22–32.
- Phelps, Donald. "Cinema Gris: Woolrich/Neil's Black Angel." Film Comment Vol. 36 No. 1 (Jan–Feb 2000), 64–69.
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Black Window: Cornell Woolrich." Film Comment Vol. 20 No. 5 (Sept–Oct 1984), 36–38.
- Thompson, Currie K. "Two Takes on Gender in Argentine Film Noir." Studies in Hispanic Cinemas Vol. 4 No. 2 (2007), 121–130. (analyzes Si muero antes de despertar/If I Should Die Before I Wake , based on a Cornell Woolrich story)
- Works by Cornell Woolrich at Faded Page (Canada)
- Cornell Woolrich at IMDb
- Radio adaptations of Cornell Woolrich's stories on the CBS radio show Suspense
- Works by or about Cornell Woolrich in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Cornell Woolrich Papers at the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New York
- "Cornell Woolrich and the Tough-Man Tradition of American Crime Fiction" by Christine Photinos (Clues: A Journal of Detection 28.2, 2010)
- "The melodrama star as a noir film heroine: The Trace of Some Lips (1952)" by Roberto Carlos Ortiz (article in Spanish about a Mexican adaptation of "Collared", by Cornell Woolrich)
- Finding aid to Cornell Woolrich papers at Columbia University. Rare Book & Manuscript Library.