Cornell Woolrich

Cornell Woolrich (December 4, 1903 - September 25, 1968) was a novelist and short story writer, born Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich. His parents separated when Cornell was young, and he lived in Latin America with his father, before moving back to New York City to live with his mother.

His first novel was Cover Charge, a Jazz Age work published in 1926. He also wrote under the pseudonyms George Hopley and William Irish. He wrote the story "It Had to be Murder" in 1942 under the Irish name. It was retitled Rear Window in 1944 and made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. His The Bride Wore Black (La Mariée était en noir) was was made into a film by Francois Truffaut.

Woolrich lived the last thirty-five years of his mother's life with her in a seedy hotel room in Harlem, New York, although he did move in and out of the room into another room at the same hotel frequently. He never allowed his mother to read any of his work.

He had been married for three weeks to Violet Virginia Blackton, a producer's daughter, but apparently homosexual tendencies convinced him he could not remain married (he left his wife a locked suitcase containing a diary detailing his homosexual adventures).

Following his mother's death, 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. He even refused to attend the premiere of the Truffaut work of his novel, even though it was held in New York City. At the time of his death, he weighed 89 pounds.

He left one million dollars to Columbia University for a scholarship for potential writers, in his mother's name.

Francis Nevins Jr., in his Woolrich biography First You Dream, Then You Die, rated Woolrich the fourth best crime writer of the era, behind only Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner and Raymond Chandler.

Following his passing in 1968, he was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.


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