Cornell Woolrich

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Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich (4 December 1903 – 25 September 1968) was an American novelist and short story writer who sometimes wrote under the pseudonyms William Irish and George Hopley.

His biographer, Francis Nevins Jr., rated Woolrich the fourth best crime writer of his day, behind only Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and Raymond Chandler. A check of film titles reveals that more film noir screenplays were adapted from works by Woolrich than any other crime novelist, and many of his stories were adapted during the 1940s for Suspense and other dramatic radio programs.


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.[1]

He attended Columbia University but left in 1926 without graduating when his first novel, Cover Charge, was published. Cover Charge was one of six Jazz Age novels inspired by the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He soon turned to pulp and detective fiction, often published under his 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).

Woolrich was gay and sexually active in his youth.[2] In 1930, while working as a screenwriter in Los Angeles, Woolrich married Violet Virginia Blackton (1910–65), daughter of silent film producer J. Stuart Blackton. They separated after three months, and the marriage was annulled in 1933.

He returned to New York where he and his mother moved into the Hotel Marseilles (Broadway and West 103rd Street). He lived there until her death on October 6, 1957, which prompted his move to the Hotel Franconia (20 West 72nd Street).[3] In later years, he socialized on occasion in Manhattan bars with Mystery Writers of America colleagues and younger fans such as writer Ron Goulart,[4] but alcoholism and an amputated leg (caused by an infection from a too-tight shoe which went untreated) left him a recluse. He 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. He is interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in 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.



Woolrich's novels written between 1940 and 1948 are considered his principal legacy. During this time, he definitively became an author of novel-length crime fiction which stand apart from his first six works, written under the influence of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Most of Woolrich's books are out of print, and new editions have not come out because of estate issues. However, new collections of his short stories were issued in the early 1990s.

Woolrich died leaving fragments of an unfinished novel, The Loser; fragments have been published separately and also collected in Tonight, Somewhere in New York (2005).

The following table can be sorted to show Woolrich's novels in chronological order,
or arranged alphabetically by title, or by author credit.
Year Title Author Credit Notes
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
1942 Black Alibi Cornell Woolrich
1942 Phantom Lady William Irish
1943 The Black Angel Cornell Woolrich Based on his 1935 story "Murder in Wax"
1944 The Black Path of Fear Cornell Woolrich
1944 After Dinner Story William Irish
1944 Deadline at Dawn William Irish
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
1950 Fright George Hopley
1951 You'll Never See Me Again Cornell Woolrich
1951 Strangler's Serenade William Irish
1958 Hotel Room Cornell Woolrich
1959 Death is My Dancing Partner Cornell Woolrich
1960 The Doom Stone Cornell Woolrich Previously serialized in Argosy in 1939
1987 Into the Night Cornell Woolrich Posthumous release, manuscript completed by Lawrence Block

Short story collections[edit]

As Cornell Woolrich[edit]

As William Irish[edit]

Selected films based on Woolrich stories[edit]


  1. ^ Corliss, Richard (8 December 2003). "That Old Feeling: Woolrich's World". Time. 
  2. ^ Krinsky, Charles (2003). "Woolrich, Cornell". Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  3. ^ Nevins, Francis M. "Introduction," Tonight, Somewhere in New York. Carroll & Graf, 2001.
  4. ^ Goulart, Ron: "The Ghost of Cornell Woolrich" The Twilight Zone Magazine, December 1984, pages 16-17
  5. ^ "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.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lane, Joel. "Mansions of Fear: The Dark Houses of Cornell Woolrich". Wormwood No 3 (Autumn 2004), 22-32.

External links[edit]