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.
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. 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). 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. 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).
|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|
|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|
|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
As Cornell Woolrich
- It Had to be Murder (1942)
- Nightmare (1956)
- Violence (1958)
- Hotel Room (1958)
- Beyond the Night (1959)
- The Dark Side of Love (1964)
- The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich (1965)
- Nightwebs: A Collection of Stories (1971)
- Angels of Darkness (1978)
- The Fantastic Stories Of Cornell Woolrich (1981)
- Darkness at Dawn (1985)
- Vampire's Honeymoon (1985)
- Blind Date with Death (1985)
- Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories (2004)
- Tonight, Somewhere in New York: The Last Stories and an Unfinished Novel (2005)
- Love and Night: Unknown Stories'' (2007)
- Four Novellas of Fear (2010)
- Dark Melody Of Madness: The Supernatural Novellas of Cornell Woolrich (2012)
- Speak To Me Of Death: The Collected Short Fiction of Cornell Woolrich, Volume One (2012)
- Stories To Be Whispered: The Collected Short Fiction of Cornell Woolrich, Volume Two (2016)
As William Irish
- I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes (1943)
- After Dinner Story (1944)
- If I Should Die Before I Wake (1946)
- Borrowed Crime (1946)
- The Dancing Detective (1946)
- Dead Man Blues (1948)
- The Blue Ribbon (1949)
- Six Nights of Mystery (1950)
- Eyes That Watch You-as (1952)
- Bluebeard's Seventh Wife (1952)
Selected films based on Woolrich stories
- Convicted (1938) (story Face Work)
- Street of Chance (1942) (novel The Black Curtain)
- 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)
- Black Angel (1946) (novel)
- The Chase (1946) (novel The Black Path of Fear)
- Fall Guy (1947) (story Cocaine)
- The Guilty (1947) (story He Looked Like Murder)
- Fear in the Night (1947) (story Nightmare)
- The Return of the Whistler (1948) (story All at Once, No Alice)
- I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes (1948) (story)
- 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
- Si muero antes de despertar (1952) (story If I Should Die Before I Wake), 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
- Nightmare (1956) (story)
- El ojo de cristal (1956) (story “Through A Dead Man’s Eye” as William Irish), directed by Antonio Santillán, screenwriters Joaquina Algars and Ignacio F. Iquino (Spain)
- Escapade (1957) (story "Cinderella and the Mob"), directed by Ralph Habib
- Oh Bomb (ああ爆弾 Aa bakudan) (1964) (story "Dipped in Blood"), directed by Kihachi Okamoto
- 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) 
- Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972) (novel Rendezvous in Black), directed by Umberto Lenzi
- Martha (1974) (story For the Rest of Her Life), directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
- Union City (1980) (story The Corpse Next Door)
- I Married a Shadow (1983) (novel I Married a Dead Man)
- Cloak & Dagger (1984) (story The Boy Who Cried Murder)
- Mrs. Winterbourne (1996) (novel I Married a Dead Man)
- Rear Window (1998) (story It Had to Be Murder) starring Christopher Reeve
- Original Sin (2001) (novel Waltz Into Darkness)
- Four O'Clock (2006) (story Three O'Clock)
- Corliss, Richard (8 December 2003). "That Old Feeling: Woolrich's World". Time.
- Krinsky, Charles (2003). "Woolrich, Cornell". glbtq.com. 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, pages 16-17
- "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.
- Lane, Joel. "Mansions of Fear: The Dark Houses of Cornell Woolrich". Wormwood No 3 (Autumn 2004), 22-32.
- Cornell Woolrich at the Internet Movie Database
- 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 and the Tough-Man Tradition of American Crime Fiction" by Christine Photinos (Clues: A Journal of Detection 28.2, 2010)