Hopley-Woolrich, Cornell George 1903-1968

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Hopley-Woolrich, Cornell George 1903-1968
(George Hopely, William Irish, Cornell Woolrich)


PERSONAL:

Born December 4, 1903, in New York, NY; died of complications from a stroke, September 25, 1968; son of Genaro and Claire Hopley-Woolrich; married Gloria Blackton, December 6, 1930 (divorced, 1933). Education: Attended Columbia University, 1921-25.

CAREER:

Writer, 1926-68.

AWARDS, HONORS:

$10,000 1st prize from College Humor and First National Pictures, 1927, for Children of the Ritz; Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1949; Best Motion Picture of the Year Award, Mystery Writers of America, 1950, for The Window, based on the novelette, "The Boy Cried Murder"; Screen Writers Guild Award, 1954, for Rear Window, based on short story; French Mystery Prize, 1954, for short story, "One Foot in the Grave"; first prize in Ellery Queen Short Story Contest, 1962.

WRITINGS:


UNDER NAME GEORGE HOPLEY


Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Farrar & Rinehart (New York, NY), 1945.

Fright, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1950.

UNDER PSEUDONYM WILLIAM IRISH


Phantom Lady, Lippincott (Philadelphia), 1942, new edition, Norton (New York, NY), 1967.

I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes: Short Stories, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1943, published as And So to Death, Spivak (New York, NY), 1944, published as Nightmare, Reader's Choice Library (New York, NY), 1950.

After-dinner Story, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1944, published as Six Times Death, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1948.

Deadline at Dawn, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1944.

If I Should Die Before I Wake, Avon (New York, NY), 1945.

Borrowed Crime, and Other Stories, Avon (New York, NY), 1946.

The Dancing Detective, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1946.

Dead Man Blues: Short Stories, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1947.

Waltz into Darkness, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1947, reprinted, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1995.

I Married a Dead Man, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1948, reprinted, ImPress (Pleasantville, NY), 2003.

The Blue Ribbon: Short Stories, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1949.

Six Nights of Mystery: Tales of Suspense and Intrigue, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1950.

Somebody on the Phone: Short Stories, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1950, published as Deadly Night Call, Graphic (Hasbrouck Heights, NJ), 1951, published as The Night I Died, Hutchinson (London, England), 1951.

You'll Never See Me Again, Dell (New York, NY), 1951.

Strangler's Serenade, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1951.

Eyes That Watch You, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1952.

Bluebeard's Seventh Wife, Popular Library (New York, NY), 1952.

The Best of William Irish: Including Phantom Lady, After-dinner Story, and Deadline at Dawn, Lippincott (Philadelphia, PA), 1960.

UNDER PSEUDONYM CORNELL WOOLRICH


Cover Charge, Boni & Liveright (New York, NY), 1926.

Children of the Ritz, Boni & Liveright (New York, NY), 1927.

Times Square, Liveright (New York, NY), 1929.

A Young Man's Heart, Mason Publishing (New York, NY), 1930.

The Time of Her Life, Liveright (New York, NY), 1931.

Manhattan Love Song, Godwin (New York, NY), 1932.

The Bride Wore Black, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1940, new edition, with introduction by Anthony Boucher, Collier (New York, NY), 1964, published as Beware the Lady, Pyramid (New York, NY), 1953.

The Black Curtain, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1941.

Black Alibi, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1942.

The Black Angel, Doubleday, Doran (New York, NY), 1943.

The Black Path of Fear, Doubleday, Doran (New York, NY), 1944.

Rendezvous in Black, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1948, reprinted with introduction by Richard Dooling, Modern Library (New York, NY), 2004.

Savage Bride, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1950.

Nightmare (stories), Dodd (New York, NY), 1956.

Hotel Room (stories), Random House (New York, NY), 1958.

Violence (stories), Dodd (New York, NY), 1958.

Beyond the Night (stories), Avon (New York, NY), 1959.

Death Is My Dancing Partner, Pyramid Books (New York, NY), 1959.

The Doom Stone, Avon (New York, NY), 1960.

The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich: An Inner Sanctum Collection of Novelettes and Short Stories, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1965.

The Dark Side of Love: Tales of Love and Death, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 1965.

Nightwebs: A Collection of Stories by Cornell Woolrich, edited by Francis M. Nevins, Jr., Harper (New York, NY), 1971.

Angels of Darkness, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1979.

The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich, edited by Charles G. Waugh and Martin H. Greenberg, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale), 1981.

Rear Window: And Four Short Novels, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Darkness at Dawn: Early Suspense Classics, edited by Francis M. Nevins and Greenberg, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1985.

(With Lawrence Block) Into the Night, Mysterious Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Blues of a Lifetime: The Autobiography of Cornell Woolrich, edited by Mark T. Bassett, Bowling Green State University Popular Press (Bowling Green, OH), 1991.

Rear Window and Other Stories, Penguin (New York, NY), 1994.

Rear Window, Nelson (London, England), 1995.

The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1998.

Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories, edited and with an introduction by Francis M. Nevins, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2004.

Tonight, Somewhere in New York: The Last Stories and an Unfinished Novel, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2005.

Work represented in many anthologies. Contributor of short stories to Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly,Dime Detective, Smart Set, College Humor, McClure's and other magazines. Books have been published in foreign languages, including Urkainian.

ADAPTATIONS:

The film, Rear Window, Paramount, 1954, adapted from a Hopley-Woolrich short story, was the top box-office attraction of 1954. Francois Truffaut directed two adaptations, The Bride Wore Black, Lopert, 1968, from the novel of the same title, and Mississippi Mermaid, United Artists, 1969, based on the novel, Waltz into Darkness. Other screen adaptations are Manhattan Love Song, 1934; Street of Chance, 1942; from the novel The Black Curtain; The Leopard Man, 1943, from the novel Black Alibi; Phantom Lady, 1944; The Black Angel, 1946; Deadline at Dawn, 1946; Fear in the Night, 1947, and Nightmare, 1956, both from the story "Nightmare"; The Chase, 1947, from the novel The Black Path of Fear; The Window, RKO, 1949. The Boy Cried Murder, 1966, and Cloak and Dagger, 1984, all three from the novelette, "The Boy Cried Murder"; No Man of Her Own, Paramount, 1950, and I Married a Shadow, 1982, both from the novel, I Married a Dead Man; Martha, 1973, from the short story "From the Rest of Her Life" and Union City, 1980, from the short story "The Corpse Next Door"; J'ai épousé une ombre 1983, from I Married a Dead Man; Cloak & Dagger, 1984; Corsa in discesa, 1989, from the story "Debt of Honor"; Mrs. Winterbourne, 1996, from I Married a Dead Man; Original Sin, 2001, from the novel Waltz into Darkness. Many books and stories were also adapted for television, including You'll Never See Me Again was adapted for television in 1959; Darkroom, 1981; Intrigues, 1985, from a story; I'm Dangerous Tonight, 1989, from a short story; Die Unschuld der Krähen, 1988, from a book; Rear Window, 1998; and She's No Angel, 2001, from I Married a Dead Man. Many of Woolrich's stories were also adapted for the radio series Suspense.

SIDELIGHTS:

Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich was the author, under the pseudonym Cornell Woolrich, of many suspense stories and novels in the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. A contributor to the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers explained that Woolrich wrote "haunting stories of suspense, despair, and lost love, set in a universe controlled by diabolical powers who delight in savaging us." Woolrich's stories inspired the French film noir school of dark, moody crime films in the 1940s and 1950s.

Woolrich's first novels were written in the 1920s and were very much concerned with the wild Jazz Age popularized by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although Woolrich later believed that these first novels were not very good work, they did launch him into success as a writer. By 1928 Woolrich was writing for films in Hollywood, something he was to do until 1931. During this time he also married Gloria Blackton, the daughter of a silent film producer, but the marriage was annulled after a few months. Woolrich's promiscuous homosexual lifestyle prevented the marriage from being a happy one.

With the Depression of the 1930s, Woolrich turned from writing about the Jazz Age and began writing detective stories for such pulp magazines as Black Mask and Dime Detective. It was during this time that he developed the kind of story for which he would become famous: a suspenseful, riveting, and reckless narrative about desperate characters in a seedy, hopeless world. The St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers contributor explained: "Woolrich is best known as the master of pure suspense, evoking with awesome power the desperation of those who walk the city's darkened streets and the terror that lurks at noonday in commonplace settings.… Woolrich's world is a feverish place where the prevailing emotions are loneliness and fear and the prevailing action a race against time and death.… The typical Woolrich settings are the seedy hotel, the cheap dance hall, the rundown movie house, and the precinct station backroom. The dominant reality in his world is the Depression. Woolrich has no peers when it comes to describing a frightened little guy in a tiny apartment with no money, no job, a hungry wife and children, and anxiety eating him like a cancer. If a Woolrich protagonist is in love, the beloved is likely to vanish in such a way that the protagonist not only can't find her but can't convince anyone that she ever existed. Or, in another classic Woolrich situation, the protagonist comes to after a blackout (caused by amnesia, drugs, hypnosis, or whatever) and little by little becomes convinced that he committed a murder or other crime while out of himself."

Woolrich's ability to create a suspenseful atmosphere has drawn considerable praise from critics who rank him among the suspense genre's best writers. Foster Hirsch, in his The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir, 1981, thought that "Woolrich is a better storyteller than [Dashiell] Hammett or [Raymond] Chandler and a master in building and sustaining tension." Woolrich's stories typically begin in an ordinary setting which Woolrich describes in minute detail. But this innocuous beginning soon gives way to more frightening circumstances. "A dry, reportorial manner, in Woolrich's stories, is invariably a prelude to nightmare, as the seemingly everyday setting and the bland characters come quickly under attack," Hirsch wrote.

In many stories, Woolrich's characters are innocent bystanders suddenly accused of murder or caught up in criminal activities they never wanted. Often they are bewildered by the confusing situation into which they are unexpectedly thrust. "Filled with pitfalls and sudden violence, the landscape in Woolrich is the kind of place where a single wrong turn, a mere chance encounter, triggers a chain reaction in which one calamity follows another," explained Hirsch.

Many critics point to the so-called Black Series of Woolrich suspense novels as his best and most influential work. These novels include The Bride Wore Black, The Black Curtain, Black Alibi, The Black Angel, and The Black Path of Fear. In these novels, Woolrich tells two basic stories: the story of a character wrongly accused of a crime and desperately seeking the real criminal before it is too late and that of a character who has unwittingly learned of a crime and is now being pursued by a criminal who wishes to quiet him for good. Francis Lacassin in an article for Clues: A Journal of Detection believed that Woolrich was intrigued by the "dramatic and psychological richness offered by the ambiguity of this criminal/victim situation."

Some critics commented that the plots of Woolrich's novels are filled with serious lapses in logic. Lacassin called them "gross improbabilities." Francis M. Nevins, in his book Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die, admitted that "as a technical plot craftsman he is sloppy beyond endurance." In many stories, Woolrich's characters sense the location they need to find by some intuitive means, or unlikely coincidences lead to the criminal's identity, or an explanation for behavior is presented that is wildly illogical. Nevins credited these logical slips with a fundamental importance in creating Woolrich's peculiar fictional world of suspense and fear. "In [Woolrich's] most powerful work," Nevins wrote in Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die, "these are not gaffes but functional elements that allow him to integrate contradiction and existential absurdity into his dark fabric." Nevins added: "Long before the Theater of the Absurd, Woolrich knew that an incomprehensible universe is best reflected in an incomprehensible story."

While Woolrich's Black Series of novels inspired the French film noir, a film style that includes such elements as wrongfully accused characters, stalking criminals, and the dark, dangerous streets of a big city, his many short stories, collected in paperback books in the 1940s and 1950s, were widely adapted for films and radio production. Among the best known of these was the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation of Woolrich's story "The Window" as Rear Window, starring James Stewart. The story tells of a man confined to a wheelchair who, with nothing better to do, begins to look out his back window at the apartment building across the street. He soon becomes convinced that he has seen a neighbor murder his invalid wife. When he voices his suspicions, however, nobody believes him. Worse, the neighbor learns of his suspicions and plans to silence him.

Despite Woolrich's financial and critical success, by the late 1950s his personal life was in a shambles. He had lived with his mother since 1931 in a small apartment in New York City where the two of them, caught in a tragic love-hate relationship, barely endured one another's presence. With his mother's death in 1957, Woolrich suffered from a mental collapse. From then until his own death in 1968, he wrote only a few new stories.

Woolrich has achieved a reputation as what the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers contributor called "the Poe of the 20th century and the poet of its shadows." The contributor went on to note: "Trapped in a wretched psychological environment, understanding his own and everyone's trappedness, he took his decades of solitude and shaped them into the finest body of pure suspense literature ever written."

Some of the author's novels have been reprinted and his stories have appeared in several new collections. In a review of the 2004 reprint of Rendezvous in Black, Detroit Free Press contributor Lev Raphael called the book "beautifully written, psychologically acute and not to be missed." Among the collections of Woolrich's writings is The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus, which includes the complete text of some of Woolrich's most admired noir classics, including I Married a Dead Man and Waltz into Darkness.

The collection Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories contains fourteen previously uncollected stories the author wrote for the pulp fiction magazines of his day, as well as a review of the author's life and work by Francis M. Nevins. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "Perhaps the biggest surprise in this ragged but provocative collection is the deep sentimentality at the roots of noir." Michael Rogers, writing in Library Journal, noted that the author's "stories go down like a shot of straight whiskey that shocks the senses." Another collection, Tonight, Somewhere in New York: The Last Stories and an Unfinished Novel, includes nine short stories, two autobiographical essays, and the novel referred to in the title. Writing on the Agony Web site, Mario Gusland noted: "By no means minor pieces, the tales included in this new collection are up to the author's fame, entertaining and full of that suspense he's famous for."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


BOOKS


Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 77, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.

Hirsch, Foster, The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir, 1981, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Nevins, Francis M., Jr., Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Renzi, Thomas C., Cornell Woolrich from Pulp Noir to Film Noir, McFarland & Company (Jefferson, NC), 2006.

St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.

Woolrich, Cornell, Blues of a Lifetime: The Autobiography of Cornell Woolrich, edited by Mark T. Bassett, Bowling Green State University Popular Press (Bowling Green, OH), 1991.

PERIODICALS


Booklist, August, 2005, Keir Graff, review of Tonight, Somewhere in New York: The Last Stories and an Unfinished Novel, p. 2004.

Detroit Free Press, April 14, 2004, Lev Raphael, review of Rendezvous in Black.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2003, review of Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories, p. 1386.

Library Journal, February 15, 1998, Michael Rogers, review of The Cornell Woolrich Omnibus, p. 175; February 1, 2004, Michael Rogers, review of Night and Fear, p. 129.

Publishers Weekly, May 22, 1995, Paul Nathan, "Twice-Sold Sales," p. 17.

ONLINE


Agony,http://trashotron.com/agony/ (May 8, 2006), Mario Guslandi, review of Tonight, Somewhere in New York.

Cornell Woolrich Web site,http://members.toast.net/woolrich/black.htm (May 8, 2006).

GLBTQ,http://www.glbtq.com/ (May 8, 2006), biographical information on author.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (May 8, 2006), information on film adaptations of author's works.

NNDB,http://www.nndb.com/ (May 8, 2006), biographical information on author.