Cornell Woolrich  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich (December 4, 1903September 25, 1968) was an American novelist and short story writer of hardboiled crime fiction best-known for the 1942 story It Had to be Murder, which became the basis of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window.


Woolrich's parents separated when he was young. He lived for a time in Mexico with his father, a civil engineer, before returning to New York City to live with his mother Claire.

He attended Columbia University, but left in 1926 without graduating, when his first novel, Cover Charge, was published. Cover Charge was a Jazz Age work inspired by the work of F Scott Fitzgerald. He soon turned to pulp and detective fiction, often published under the pseudonyms George Hopley and William Irish. For example, he published his 1942 story It Had to be Murder, which originally appeared in the February, 1942 Dime Detective Magazine, which became the basis of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie Rear Window, under the pseudonym William Irish. 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 as the basis for the movie Rear Window (1954) was eventually litigated before the United States Supreme Court in Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207 (1990).

In 1930, while living in Los Angeles and working as a writer in the film industry, Woolrich married Violet Virginia Blackton (1910-1965), daughter of silent film producer J. Stuart Blackton. They separated after 3 months and the marriage was annulled in 1933. In his youth, Woolrich was a promiscuous homosexual. He left his ex-wife a locked suitcase containing a diary detailing his sexual adventures.

Woolrich spent the next 35 years living in the same seedy Harlem, New York residential hotel as his mother, often moving in and out of her apartment. He never allowed her to read any of his work.

Following his mother's death in 1957, Woolrich moved in and out of various hotels in New York. Alcoholism and an amputated leg (caused by an infection from a too-tight shoe which went untreated) left him a recluse, although he did socialize on occasion with young admirers such as writer Ron Goulart. 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 journalism students.


Woolrich's novels written between 1940 to 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 called The Loser. Most fragments have been published separately, but were recently collected in Tonight, Somewhere in New York. Template:Div col

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Selected films based on Woolrich stories

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cornell Woolrich" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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