Hildegarde Withers

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Hildegarde Withers
First appearance The Penguin Pool Murder
Last appearance Hildegarde Withers Makes the Scene
Created by Stuart Palmer
Portrayed by Edna May Oliver
Helen Broderick
ZaSu Pitts
Agnes Moorehead
Eve Arden
Gender Female
Occupation Schoolteacher
Amateur sleuth
Nationality American

Hildegarde Withers is a fictional character who appeared in several novels and films. She was created by Stuart Palmer.

Miss Withers "whom the census enumerator had recently listed as 'spinster, born Boston, age thirty-nine, occupation school teacher'" becomes an amateur sleuth in the first book of the series.[1] Her adventures are usually comic but are nevertheless straightforward mysteries. She is a partial variation on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. "A lean, angular spinster lady, her unusual hats and the black cotton umbrella she carries are her trademark. ... Hildegarde collects tropical fish, abhors alcohol and tobacco, and appears to have an irritable disposition. However, she is a romantic at heart and will extend herself to help young lovers."[2] She collaborates, and frequently butts heads, with Inspector Oscar Piper, a high-ranking homicide detective in the New York Police Department.[3]

Edna May Oliver starred in the first three screen adaptations, produced by RKO Radio Pictures, and is considered[by whom?] the definitive Miss Withers. When Oliver left RKO in 1935 to sign with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, RKO attempted to continue the series with Helen Broderick and then ZaSu Pitts, but Oliver's presence was sorely missed and the films were poorly received. Author Palmer approved of Oliver's characterization so much that he gave the actress a mention in his Hollywood-based Withers novel The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan.

In 1972, CBS made a Withers television movie with Eve Arden as Withers and James Gregory as Piper. The movie was well-received, but failed to produce any sequels.

Hildegarde Withers novels by Stuart Palmer[edit]

  • The Penguin Pool Murder (1931)
  • Murder on Wheels (1932)
  • Murder on the Blackboard (1932)
  • The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree (1933)
  • The Puzzle of the Silver Persian (1934)
  • The Puzzle of the Red Stallion (1935) [also known as "The Puzzle of the Briar Pipe"]
  • The Puzzle of the Blue Banderilla (1937)
  • The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan (1941)
  • The Riddles of Hildegarde Withers (1947), an anthology of short stories
  • Miss Withers Regrets (1947)
  • Four Lost Ladies (1949)
  • The Green Ace (1950) [also known as "At One Fell Swoop"]
  • The Monkey Murder and other Tales (1950), an anthology of short stories
  • Nipped in the Bud (1951) [also known as "Trap for a Redhead"]
  • Cold Poison (1954) [also known as "Exit Laughing"]
  • The People Vs. Withers and Malone (1963), written with Craig Rice, crossover with Rice's John J. Malone character
  • Hildegarde Withers Makes the Scene (1969), completed by Fletcher Flora after Palmer's death
  • Hildegarde Withers: Uncollected Riddles (2002) an anthology of short stories



  1. ^ Palmer, Stuart (2007). The Penguin Pool Murder. Lyons, Colorado: Rue Morgue Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-601-87013-1. 
  2. ^ Penzler, Otto, et al. Detectionary. Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 1977. ISBN 0-87951-041-2
  3. ^ Schantz, Tom & Enid. "Stuart Palmer". Rue Morgue Press. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 

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