Cornell Woolrich, or Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich to give him full name, also wrote as William Irish and George Hopley. But it did not matter what name appeared on the cover, this accomplished crime novelist and short story writer churned out bestseller after bestseller and his books were snapped up by Hollywood producers eager for murders and mysteries.
Many notable film noir movies were adapted from Woolrich’s writing, including Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which was inspired by a Woolrich novella called It Had to Be Murder, and Francois Truffaut’s version of The Bride Wore Black. I Married a Dead Man has been filmed three times.
Glancing through Woolrich’s bibliography is a delight. The word ‘black’ appears in his book titles a number of times. You will also see ‘dead’, ‘lady’ and ‘night’ in his titles. His early work was inspired by F Scott Fitzgerald but his decision to turn to pulp and detective fiction meant he would eventually be mentioned in the same sentence as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
Woolrich’s own life story is rather sad despite his success in print and on the screen. He had a failed marriage, problems with drink and a leg amputated. He lived for years in Hotel Marseilles in New York with his mother. By the end, he was a recluse. Incredibly, most of his books are now out-of-print.