Wolff, Maritta 1918–2002

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WOLFF, Maritta 1918–2002


Born December 25, 1918, in Grass Lake, MI; died of lung cancer, July 1, 2002, in Los Angeles, CA; daughter of Joseph and Ivy Wolff; married Hubert Skidmore (died, 1946); married Leonard Stegman (in costume jewelry business), July 19, 1947; children: (second marriage) Hugh. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1940. Politics: Independent.




Avery and Jule Hopwood Award for fiction, University of Michigan, for Whistle Stop; special award, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Novel Contest, for About Lyddy Thomas.


Whistle Stop (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1941, reprinted, Scribner (New York, NY), 2005.

Night Shift (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1942.

About Lyddy Thomas (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1947.

Back of Town (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1952.

The Big Nickelodeon (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1956.

Buttonwood (novel), Random House (New York, NY), 1962.

Sudden Rain (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 2005.


Novels adapted for film include Whistle Stop and Night Shift (as The Man I Love).


Maritta Wolff was a best-selling novelist who was highly regarded for her realistic portrayals of the American underclass. A University of Michigan graduate who earned her bachelor's degree in 1940, Wolff wrote her first novel as a college senior. Earning the university's Hopwood Award for fiction, it was published as Whistle Stop and praised by Sinclair Lewis as the most important novel of the year. It was later adapted as a 1946 movie starring George Raft and Ava Gardner. Wolff's second novel, Night Shift, was also highly praised and became the 1946 film The Man I Love, starring Ida Lupino. Although not a prolific author, Wolff was consistently praised for her ability to capture true-to-life, working-class dialogue in stories that sometimes touched on controversial subjects such as incest.

Wolff's last novel, Sudden Rain was literally put on ice when she refused to edit the manuscript as requested by her publisher. After she died her husband removed it from their refrigerator, where it had lain for thirty years, and it was published. Written in the 1970s, it is a time capsule of a period when women were expected to stay home, raise the children, and create a perfect retreat for their weary husbands. Four couples provide the plot of Sudden Rain, each with their own set of interconnected intrigues. The youngest and fourth couple consist of the flower-child daughter of one of the other three and the son of another. Their divorce and the infidelity of one husband represent the domestic problems within the group, all of which are related, and some reconciled, over a four-day weekend as the dry Santa Ana winds blow through their upscale West Coast town.

Library Journal reviewer Barbara Love wrote that Sudden Rain "thaws out like a well-preserved artifact." A Kirkus Reviews contributor described the novel as "a virtuoso drama of suburban angst to put alongside Peyton Place, Couples, and The Ice Storm, fueled by dialogue worthy of Flannery O'Connor."



Booklist, January 1, 2005, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Sudden Rain, p. 824.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2005, review of Sudden Rain, p. 147.

Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Barbara Love, review of Sudden Rain, p. 102.



Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2002, section 2, p. 8.

Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2002, p. B11.

New York Times, July 14, 2002, p. A27.

Times (London, England), August 7, 2002.

Washington Post, July 17, 2002, p. B6.*