My Film Notes: Rear Window (1954) directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Rear_Window_film_posterUSA / 112 minutes / Technicolor, 35mm / Paramount Pictures Corp. / Patron, Inc. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Pr: Alfred Hitchcock. Scr: John Michael Hayes based on the short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich in Dime Detective (Feb 1942). Cine: Robert Burks. Mus: Franz Waxman. Cast: James Stewart ( L. B. Jeffries ); Grace Kelly ( Lisa Fremont ); Wendell Corey ( Detective Thomas J. Doyle ); Thelma Ritter ( Stella ); Raymond Burr ( Lars Thorwald ); Judith Evelyn ( Miss Lonely Hearts ); Ross Bagdasarian ( The Composer ); Georgine Darcy ( Miss Torso, the dancer ); Jesslyn Fax ( Sculptress ); Rand Harper ( Honeymooner ); Irene Winston ( Mrs. Thorwald ). Summary: A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder, despite the scepticism of his fashion-model girlfriend . (Several sources). Release Date: US 1 September 1954. Premiere New York 4 August 1954; Los Angeles 11 August 1954; Spain 3 October 1955. Spanish title: La ventana indiscreta IMDb Rating: 8.5/10. Awards: New York Film Critics’ Award, Best Actress to Grace Kelly. The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics, and scholars to be one of Hitchcock’s best and one of the greatest films ever made. In 1997 it was added to the United States National Film Registry in the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

After reading Woolrich’s short story “It Had to Be Murder,” which I hadn’t read before, I had the happy thought of watching Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window for the umpteenth time. It can be said that the film is loosely based on Woolrich’s story and that the modifications added by the screenwriter and the director himself, serve to enhance its  cinematographic perspective; even though they alter the original sense of the story. In fact, among other things, those changes bring much more depth to the characters. The net result is a masterpiece of the seventh art.

Después de leer el cuento de Woolrich “Tenía que ser un asesinato”, que no había leído antes, tuve la feliz idea de ver La ventana indiscreta de Alfred Hitchcock por enésima vez. Puede decirse que la película se basa libremente en la historia de Woolrich y que las modificaciones añadidas por el guionista y el propio director, sirven para realzar su perspectiva cinematográfica; aunque alteran el sentido original de la historia. De hecho, entre otras cosas, esos cambios aportan mucha más profundidad a los personajes. El resultado neto es una obra maestra del séptimo arte.

Rear Window at American Film Institute

Rear Window at Wikipedia

Rear Window at IMDb

Rear Window THR’s1954 Review

My Book Notes: “It Had to Be Murder” aka “Rear Window” (1942) a short story by Cornell Woolrich (Revised)

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“It Had to Be Murder” was originally published in Dime Detective Magazine, February 1942. It is, perhaps, Cornell Woolrich best known short story. Its popularity came because it served as a basis to the script of Hitchcock’s 1954 masterpiece film Rear Window, starring  James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Prior to the film’s production, the story was republished twice under the title “Rear Window. There are significant differences between the film and the short tale. It can be added that, for this reason, one has to be extremely careful when buying an edition of this short story not to end up buying the film’s screenplay or some abridged edition of the original tale.

Cornell WoolrichSynopsis: Woolrich’s short story is narrated in the first person by Hal Jeffries. Jeffries finds himself bedridden or confined in a chair by his apartment window, since he has a cast on one of his legs To fight boredom, he spends most of his time watching the comings and goings of his neighbours in the rear windows of the opposite building. Until one day he starts to suspect that a murder has been committed in one of the apartments. And so begins a race against  the clock to find the evidence to prove his suspicions and incriminate the culprit, what will endanger his own life.

My Take: I won’t get into the debate of which of the two is better, the film or the short story, despite how much I enjoyed the film. But in any case I also consider that the short story is a well worth read. The short story certainly touches several of the themes for which I like Woolrich so much.

“Rear Window” can be found included in several short story collections and, in this manner, it’s been reviewed, among others by Curtis Evans at Mystery File, and Bev Hankins at My Reader’s Block.

About the Author: Cornell Woolrich is widely regarded as the twentieth century’s finest writer of pure suspense fiction. The author of numerous classic novels and short stories (many of which were turned into classic films) such as Rear Window, The Bride Wore Black, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Waltz Into Darkness, and I Married a Dead Man, Woolrich began his career in the 1920s writing mainstream novels that won him comparisons to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The bulk of his best-known work, however, was written in the field of crime fiction, often appearing serialized in pulp magazines or as paperback novels. Because he was prolific, he found it necessary to publish under multiple pseudonyms, including William Irish and George Hopley […] Woolrich lived a life as dark and emotionally tortured as any of his unfortunate characters and died, alone, in a seedy Manhattan hotel room following the amputation of a gangrenous leg. Upon his death, he left a bequest of close to one million dollars to Columbia University, to fund a scholarship for young writers. (Source: Hard Case Crime, via Goodreads)

”Who Was Cornell Woolrich?” by Richard Dooling

Cornell Woolrich Bibliography

“La Ventana Indiscreta” un relato breve de Cornell Woolrich

“Tenía que ser un asesinato” se publicó originalmente en Dime Detective Magazine en febrero de 1942. Es, quizás, el relato más conocido de Cornell Woolrich. Su popularidad se debe a que sirvió de base para el guión de la obra maestra de Hitchcock La ventana indiscreta de 1954, protagonizada por James Stewart y Grace Kelly. Antes de la producción de la película, la historia se volvió a publicar dos veces con el título “La ventana indiscreta”. Hay diferencias significativas entre la película y el cuento. Se puede agregar que, por esta razón, hay que tener mucho cuidado al comprar una edición de este relato para no terminar comprando el guión de la película o alguna edición abreviada del cuento original.

Sinopsis: La historia de Woolrich está narrada en primera persona por Hal Jeffries. Jeffries se encuentra postrado en cama o confinado en una silla junto a la ventana de su apartamento, ya que tiene una pierna enyesada. Para combatir el aburrimiento, pasa la mayor parte del tiempo observando las idas y venidas de sus vecinos en las ventanas traseras del edificio de enfrente. Hasta que un día empieza a sospechar que en uno de los apartamentos se ha cometido un asesinato. Y así comienza una carrera contrarreloj para encontrar las pruebas que demuestren sus sospechas e incriminen al culpable, lo que pondrá en peligro su propia vida.

Mi opinión: No entraré en el debate de cuál de los dos es mejor, la película o el relato, a pesar de lo mucho que disfruté la película. Pero en cualquier caso también considero que el relato merece la pena leerlo. El cuento ciertamente toca varios de los temas por los que me gusta tanto Woolrich.

Sobre el autor: Cornell Woolrich está generalmente considerado como el mejor escritor delsiglo XX de pura ficción de suspense. Autor de numerosas novelas clásicas y relatos (muchos de los cuales se convirtieron en películas clásicas) como La ventana indiscreta, La novia vestía de negro, La noche tiene mil ojos, La sirena del Mississippi y Mentira latente, Woolrich comenzó su carrera en la década de 1920 escribiendo novelas convencionales que le ganaron comparaciones con F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sin embargo, la mayor parte de su obra más conocida se escribió en el campo de la novela policíaca, y a menudo aparece serializada en revistas pulp o como novelas de bolsillo. Debido a que fue prolífico, consideró necesario publicar bajo múltiples seudónimos, incluidos William Irish y George Hopley […] Woolrich vivió una vida tan oscura y emocionalmente torturada como cualquiera de sus desgraciados personajes y murió, solo, en una sórdida habitación de un hotel de Manhattan después de la amputación de una pierna gangrenosa. A su muerte, dejó un legado de cerca de un millón de dólares a la Universidad de Columbia, para financiar becas para jóvenes escritores. (Fuente: Hard Case Crime, a través de Goodreads)

My Book Notes: "The Penny-a-Worder" (1958), a short story by Cornell Woolrich

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Included in Nightwebs: A Collection of Stories by Cornell Woolrich edited by Francis M. Nevins, Jr. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. Hard Cover. First Edition. Number of pages: 510. ISBN-13: 9780060131739. Edited and Introduction by Francis M Nevins, Jr., that contains sixteen short stories written as Cornell Woolrich, William Irish and George Hopley plus Cornell Woolrich: a checklist, by H. Knott, F. M. Nevins, Jr., W. Thailing (p. 478-510). “The Penny-a-Worder” was originally entitled “A Penny for Your Thoughts”. It was  intended by the author for his novel Hotel Room (1958), however, it was originally published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine [v32 #3, Whole No. 178, September 1958], and then in The Saint Mystery Magazine, March 1967 issue as “Pulp Writer”. Finally it was collected in Nightwebs, three years after Woolrich’s death in 1968.  It was not reprinted until 2005, in Tonight, Somewhere in New York.

21942414Description: Pulp fiction writers produced millions of words under intense time pressure in order to fill the pages of dozens of mystery magazines which filled newsstands from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. Some would argue that Woolrich’s “The Penny-a-Worder” is one of the best pieces of fiction on the subject. First published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1958, this short story is not only a fun read about a pulp writer’s life but is a wonderful example of Cornell Woolrich’s later work and, for all we know, may have been a first-hand experience suffered by Woolrich himself.
It’s the later part of the 1930’s and a struggling author by the name of Dan Moody checks into a hotel with an assignment to turn out a novella – literally overnight – with a story whose subject will coincide with artwork that has already been produced for the imminent publication of a “dime-detective” type magazine. With the publisher’s voice constantly in Moody’s mind and various distractions around him, the writer attempts to create a story worthy of publication. (Source: Goodreads)

The picture enclosed does not belong to the edition I read.

My Take: In essence, “The Penny-a-Worder” is a Woolrich’s unusual story. It’s not a crime or detective fiction and it does have a great sense of humour with some autobiographical contents. None the less, it touches some of the themes usually found in Woolrich fiction, like for example a race against the clock. The story revolves around a pulp writer whose publisher requires him to write a tale in a very short time frame. For this reason, they rent him a quiet room in a hotel, so he can work at ease. The magazine already has the cover image and the story must include a scene that matches it.

ellery_queens_mystery_195809sWoolrich mentioned that he particularly remembers his story “Guns, Gentlemen” (Argosy, 18 December 1937); collected as “The Lamp of Memory” in Beyond the Night (1959), because I wrote it to match up with the cover of the magazine, which they sent me. This doesn’t mean, of course, that he wrote the story in a single night! (Boucher on Woolrich: When Titans Touched by Francis M. Nevins)

For me the best story in the collection, “The Penny-a-Worder,” is not even a genuine crime story, but it is a brilliant little tale about a pulp crime writer.  Francis Nevins, who is convinced that Woolrich had no sense of humor, appreciates the fine quality of this story, but somehow himself apparently doesn’t see the humor in it.  (You would have to have a sense of humor, I think, to see it.)  I’ve written about this story before here, but I think I will write about it again in a successor blog post.  It’s such a brilliant little story that shows a lot of witty self-awareness on the part of an author whom a lot of people seem to think had capacity only for myopic misery. (Curtis Evans at The Passing Tramp).

ellery_queens_mystery_195809About the Author: Cornell Woolrich is widely regarded as the twentieth century’s finest writer of pure suspense fiction. The author of numerous classic novels and short stories (many of which were turned into classic films) such as Rear Window, The Bride Wore Black, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Waltz Into Darkness, and I Married a Dead Man, Woolrich began his career in the 1920s writing mainstream novels that won him comparisons to F. Scott Fitzgerald. The bulk of his best-known work, however, was written in the field of crime fiction, often appearing serialized in pulp magazines or as paperback novels. Because he was prolific, he found it necessary to publish under multiple pseudonyms, including “William Irish” and “George Hopley” …. Woolrich lived a life as dark and emotionally tortured as any of his unfortunate characters and died, alone, in a seedy Manhattan hotel room following the amputation of a gangrenous leg. Upon his death, he left a bequest of one million dollars to Columbia University, to fund a scholarship for young writers. (Source: Hard Case Crime, via Goodreads)

A Cornell Woolrich bibliography can be found here.

Recommended Reading: Francis M. Nevins’ Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die is an enormous, in depth biography and critical study on Woolrich and his work. It is a very detailed look at Woolrich’s world. Nevins also edited the best of all Woolrich collections, Nightwebs, which contains important essays and bibliographies as well. It also contains Woolrich’s autobiographical story, “The Penny-a-Worder” (1958), which is a gentle self portrait of a pulp writer. (Source: Mike Grost at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection)

Additional Reading:

Articles on Cornell Woolrich at Mystery File.

Mike Grost on Cornell Woolrich.

Kate Jackson’s articles on Cornell Woolrich are at Cross-Examining Crime.

Martin Edwards’ articles on Cornell Woolrich are at ‘Do You Write Under Your Own Name?’

Curtis Evans’ articles on Cornell Woolrich are at The Passing Tramp.

Jim Noy’s articles on Cornell Woolrich are at The Invisible Event.

Cornell Woolrich page at Gadetection

“Who Was Cornell Woolrich?” by Richard Dooling

Pulp Kafka: The Nightmares of Cornell Woolrich BY Jake Hinkson

The Cornell Woolrich Revival by Steve Powell

Cornell Woolrich, the Dark Prince of Noir

The Stories Behind the Story, by Mike Nevins at Mystery File

“The Penny-a-Worder” un relato breve de Cornell Woolrich

Descripción: Los escritores de ficción “pulp” produjeron millones de palabras bajo una intensa presión de tiempo para llenar las páginas de docenas de revistas de misterio que llenaron los quioscos desde la década de 1920 hasta la década de 1950. Algunos dirían que “The Penny-a-Worder” de Woolrich es una de las mejores obras de ficción sobre el tema. Publicado por primera vez en Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine en 1958, este relato no solo es una lectura divertida sobre la vida de un escritor “pulp”, sino que es un maravilloso ejemplo del trabajo posterior de Cornell Woolrich y, por lo que sabemos, puede haber sido una experiencia de primera mano sufrida. por el propio Woolrich.
Es la última parte de la década de 1930 y un autor en apuros llamado Dan Moody se registra en un hotel con la tarea de escribir una novela corta, literalmente de la noche a la mañana, con una historia cuyo tema coincidirá con la portada que ya se han elaborado para su inminente publicación en una revista tipo “detective de diez centavos”. Con la voz del editor constantemente en la cabeza de Moody y varias distracciones a su alrededor, el escritor intenta crear una historia digna de publicación. (Fuente: Goodreads)

Mi opinión: En esencia, “The Penny-a-Worder” es una historia inusual de Woolrich. No es un crimen ni una novela policíaca y tiene un gran sentido del humor con algunos contenidos autobiográficos. Sin embargo, toca algunos de los temas que suelen encontrarse en las historias de Woolrich, como por ejemplo una carrera contrarreloj. La historia gira en torno a un escritor “pulp” cuya editorial le exige que escriba un relato en un lapso de tiempo muy corto. Por esta razón, le alquilan una habitación tranquila en un hotel, para que pueda trabajar a gusto.La revista ya tiene la imagen de la portada y la historia debe incluir una escena que coincida con ella.

Woolrich mencionó que recuerda especialmente su cuento “Guns, Gentlemen” (Argosy, 18 de diciembre de 1937); recopilado como “The Lamp of Memory” en Beyond the Night (1959), porque la escribí a juego con la portada de la revista que me enviaron. ¡Esto no significa, por supuesto, que escribiera la historia en una sola noche! (Boucher sobre Woolrich: When Titans Touched de Francis M. Nevins)

Para mí, la mejor historia de la colección, “The Penny-a-Worder”, ni siquiera es una historia policiaca genuina, pero es un pequeño cuento brillante sobre un escritor de novelas “pulp”. Francis Nevins, quien está convencido de que Woolrich no tenía sentido del humor, aprecia la excelente calidad de esta historia, pero de alguna manera él mismo aparentemente no ve el humor en ella. (Creo que tendrías que tener sentido del humor para verlo). He escrito sobre esta historia antes aquí, pero creo que volveré a escribir sobre ella en una publicación posterior del blog. Es un breve relato tan brillante que muestra mucho conocimiento ingenisoso de si mismo por parte de un autor que mucha gente parece pensar que solo tenía capacidad para desdichas miopes. (Curtis Evans en The Passing Tramp).

Sobre el autor: Cornell Woolrich está ampliamente considerado como el mejor escritor de pura ficción de suspense del siglo XX. Autor de numerosas novelas clásicas y relatos (muchos de los cuales se convirtieron en películas clásicas) como La ventana indiscreta, La novia vestía de negro, Mil ojos tiene la noche, La sirena del Mississippi, Con cariño desde el cielo, Woolrich comenzó su carrera en la década de 1920 escribiendo novelas convencionales que le ganaron comparaciones con F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sin embargo, la mayor parte de su obra más conocida se escribió en el campo de la novela policíaca, y a menudo aparece serializada en revistas “pulp” o como novelas de bolsillo. Debido a que fue prolífico, consideró necesario publicar bajo múltiples seudónimos, incluidos “William Irish” y “George Hopley”… Woolrich vivió una vida tan oscura y emocionalmente torturada como cualquiera de sus desafortunados personajes y murió, solo, en una sórdida habitación de un hotel en Manhattan tras la amputación de una pierna gangrenosa. A su muerte, dejó un legado de un millón de dólares a la Universidad de Columbia para financiar una beca para jóvenes escritores. (Fuente: Hard Case Crime, a través de Goodreads)

Una bibliografía de Cornell Woolrich se puede encontrar aquí.

More about Cornell Woolrich (1903 – 1968)

Please, allow me to repeat here some excerpts taken from the Introduction by Francis M Nevins, Jr., to Nightwebs. I hope I’m not violating any intellectual property rights, if so, I would immediately delete this entry. By the way I only write this for its possible interest to readers of this blog, and in no way do I get an economic benefit from it.

Enokfjz1hm1ckDyXN7eaCCSLhH8uS0JRGw0VRX6K-1 (1)Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich was born in New York on December 4, 1903 to parents who divorced soon after his birth. He spent much of his childhood in Mexico and South America with his father, a civil engineer. He seems to have been shunted back and forth between parents, living with his socially prominent mother in New York during the school year and traveling with his father during vacation periods. In the early 1920s he entered Columbia University but he dropped out of college before graduating to devote himself entirely to literature when his first novel, Cover Charge, was published in 1926. His next novel, Children of the Ritz (1927), won the first prize of $10,000 in a contest conducted jointly by College Humor and First National Pictures, which filmed the book in 1929. Woolrich was invited to collaborate on the adaptation. While in Hollywood, Woolrich fell in love with and married a producer’s daughter, who left him within weeks and later had the marriage annulled. Woolrich returned to New York and his mother. He published four other novels. His early novels show a deep influence from Scott Fitzgerald (one of Woolrich’s favourite authors). In addition, between 1926 and 1932, Woolrich published a number of short stories, two articles, and a serial in magazines, but during 1933 not a single word appeared under his byline: the Depression had caught up to him. He did write another novel that year, but he couldn’t sell it, and eventually he threw it away. In any event, Woolrich grew to dislike all of his work up to the middle Thirties. “It would have been a lot better if everything I’d done until then had been written in invisible ink and the reagent had been thrown away,” he commented in his autobiography.

His second chance came to him about halfway through 1934, when he turned to a new market and a new kind of story. His first mystery story, “Death Sits in the Dentist’s Chair,” appeared in Detective Fiction Weekly on August 4, 1934. Woolrich’s two other mystery stories of 1934 are equally characteristic: “Walls that Hear You” and “Preview of Death”. The ten crime stories Woolrich published in 1935 were of uneven quality, but incredible variety; together they express almost all of the motives and beliefs and devices that form the nucleus of Woolrich’s fiction. Among these “The Corpse and the Kid” is the best known of Woolrich’s 1935 stories under its later title, “Boy with Body”.

By the end of 1935, Woolrich was a professional, and between 1936 and 1939 he published at least 105 stories (of every length, from short-short to the novella, but the majority of them long short stories), as well as two book-length magazine serials. By the end of 1939 his name had become a commonplace on all the top-quality mystery magazines—Argosy, Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly, Dime Detective—and had also appeared on the covers of low-grade cheapies like Black Book Detective and Thrilling Mystery, not to mention his tales in such a high-quality general fiction magazines as Whit Burnett’s Story. These hundred-odd stories are astonishing in their unity—hardly a single one lacks Woolrich’s unique mood, tone, and preoccupations – no less than in their variety. By the turn of the decade, Woolrich had made uniquely his own certain settings—the seedy hotel, the cheap dance hall, the precinct station back room, the inside of a rundown movie theatre—and certain motifs: the clock race, the corrosion of love and trust, the little guy trapped by powers beyond his control.

In 1940, Woolrich published his first mystery novel, The Bride Wore Black, which quickly became and today remains a classic in the literature of suspense. Bride was followed by five other novels over the next eight years, each including the word “black” in its title: The Black Curtain (1941), Black Alibi (1942), The Black Angel (1943), The Black Path of Fear (1944) and Rendezvous in Black (1948). Woolrich’s short stories and novellas were somewhat reduced in number in the early forties, but these included such classics as “All at Once, No Alice”, “Finger of Doom”, “One Last Night”, “Three Kills for One” and “Marihuana”. Part of the energy that he had devoted during the 1930s to stories for cheap publications he then channelled into a new genre: that of radio scripts. Many of Woolrich’s stories were “naturals” for adaptation and broadcasting on such series as Suspense, and at times Woolrich wrote the radio versions himself. As if all this were not enough, Woolrich continued to write other novels – too many for publication under a single byline.

Woolrich showed the manuscript of these novels to Whit Burnett, who had published some of his shorter fiction in Story, and Burnett showed it to the editors at J.B. Lippincott, who agreed to publish it. Since Simon & Schuster, then publishing the Black books, had exclusive right to use the name Cornell Woolrich, a pseudonym was needed; and together Woolrich and Burnett came up with the name of William Irish. The novel that Lippincott published under the Irish byline was, of course, the classic Phantom Lady (1942). The next Irish novels were: Deadline at Dawn (1944), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1945), published under Woolrich’s last pseudonym, George Hopley, Waltz into Darkness (1947), and I Married a Dead Man (1948).

The public and critical success of the novels led to publication of several collections of Woolrich’s shorter work in a series of hard-cover volumes from Lippincott and in a number of paperback originals which today are  collector’s items. In addition to the many radio plays adapted from his work by himself and others, fifteen movies were made from Woolrich material between 1942 and 1950 alone, including Phantom Lady (Robert Siodmak, 1944), Deadline at Dawn (Harold Clurman , 1946, with screenplay by Clifford Odets) and The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (John Farrow, 1948); but almost all of them badly mauled their sources, and one can find little in them of the authentic Woolrich.

After 1948 Woolrich published little: a novel apiece under each of his three bylines in 1950–51, and one novella late in 1952. That he was remembered at all during the early Fifties is due largely to Ellery Queen, who reprinted in his magazine a host of Woolrich’s early pulp stories, and to Alfred Hitchcock, whose Rear Window (1954) gave some idea of Woolrich’s cinematic potential even though little distinctively Woolrichian is left in the finished film.

Woolrich’s silence in the 1950s is probably related to his mother’s prolonged illness: having spent most of his life in an intense, almost pathological, love-hate relationship with her, he was unable to produce anything during the last years of his mother’s life. On several occasions he passed off slightly updated narratives for new ones, misleading both book and magazine publishers and the public. Woolrich’s mother died in 1957, and not long after her death came her son’s first new book in seven years.

Hotel Room (1958) is a collection of largely noncriminous stories set in a New York City hotel at different periods in its history from its early years of sumptuous fashionableness to the last days before its demolition. The Hotel St. Anselm was apparently an amalgam of all the desiccated Victorian residential hotels in which Woolrich and his mother had lived, and the set in the hotel mark the beginning of Woolrich’s last period, which consists of a mere handful of stories, most of them near-shapeless, hyperemotional “tales of love and despair”.  Woolrich’s best story of the Fifties, though originally conceived as a chapter in Hotel Room, was excised at the last minute and appeared independently in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine as “The Penny-a-Worder”.

The year 1959 saw the publication of Woolrich’s last new novel and his worst, Death Is My Dancing Partner, in which he returns to themes already used. Effectively, Woolrich in his latest novel came around full circle to the sentimental novels he wrote during and just after his college days. And so, the last years wore on, Woolrich had become a diabetic and an alcoholic, he was obsessed with the fear that he was homosexual, he had lost touch  with most of the few acquaintances he had ever had. A tiny rivulet of new stories appeared every so often in EQMM or Saint Mystery Magazine, each eagerly awaited and discussed by those who loved his work, none equal in power to those great novels and stories of the Thirties and Forties.

In 1965 two more collections of his short fiction were published. The Ten Faces of Cornell Woolrich, edited by Ellery Queen, was of high quality, but seven of its ten stories included come straight out of earlier collections. The Dark Side of Love brought together eight stories from the author’s last period, including three, unsaleable to magazines, that appeared for the first time in the collection itself. There were no more books published in his lifetime and less than half-a-dozen further stories, and his condition continued to deteriorate. He developed gangrene in his leg and did nothing about it; when the doctors reached it, it was too far gone to do anything but amputate. He remained in lonely isolation, confined in a wheelchair, unable to learn how to walk on an artificial leg, probably unable to write anything. He died of a stroke a few month later, on September 25, 1968, leaving no survivors.  His state of close to a million dollars he left in a trust fund to Columbia University, for scholarships to go to students of creative writing. The fund is named after his mother.

My Book Notes: “All at Once, No Alice” (1940) a short story by Cornell Woolrich

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Included in The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries, Introductions and compilation by Otto Penzler (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original, 2014). Book Format: Kindle Edition. File Size: 11150 KB. Print Length: 1976 pp. ASIN: B00J1ISJJQ. eISBN: 978-0-8041-7279-0. “All at Once, No Alice” was first published in pulp magazine Argosy Weekly, 2 March, 1940 (Volume 297. No. 3. pp. 72-99), reprinted in EQMM in November 1951, and it was first collected in Eyes That Watch You (New York, Rinehart, 1952).

25556962Description: Jimmy Cannon, a store clerk and the narrator of the story, elopes with Alice Brown, whom he barely knows and they marry with a roadside justice of the peace. Afterwards, they can’t find an available hotel room and a clerk at the Royal Hotel allows Alice to stay in a tiny single room with a cot while Jimmy is consigned to a room at the YMCA. The next morning, Jimmy returns to retrieve Alice who appears to have vanished – and not just from the room. Her name is gone from the register, the justice of the peace claims he hasn’t married them, and the cops think Jimmy is a lunatic. And so begins a race against the clock to save Alice! (Source. Goodreads)

The picture enclosed does not belong to the edition I read.

My Take: The story takes place in the fictional town of Michianopolis to where a newlywed couple has just arrived. They soon find out there’s no room available in any of the hotels to which they are directed, on account of a large convention that is being celebrated on those days in town. In a last and desperate attempt, the Royal Hotel offers them a tiny room with a cot that has barely enough space for one person only. Alice, the woman, accepts the room, while Jimmy, her husband and the narrator of the story, finds a place to stay at the YMCA that doesn’t accept couples. The morning after, Jimmy shows up at the hotel to pick up his wife. Much to his surprise her room is empty. Moreover, no one at the hotel claims to have seen her and her name doesn’t even appear in the hotel register. Alice has disappeared without a trace, as if she never existed. Even worse, no one believes him and everyone thinks he’s making it all up. He can’t even offer any proof of her existence or that he’s telling the truth. And in this way his worst nightmare has only just started.

I have no qualms about admitting that I’m becoming a fan of Cornell Woolrich even though I’ve only read, with this, three of his short stories. I’ve just got hold of some of his short story collections and several of his novels and I’m looking forward to reading them in a not too distant future. I content myself if they are only half as good as these three short stories I’ve just read. Stay tuned.

“All at Once, No Alice” can be found in several short story collections, and it has been reviewed, among others, by Jim Noy at The invisible Event.

About the Author: A sad and lonely man who desperately dedicated books to his typewriter and to his hotel room, Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich (4 December 1903 – 25 September 1968) was born in New York City, grew up in Latin America and New York, and was educated at Columbia University, to which he left his literary estate. Almost certainly a closeted homosexual (his marriage was terminated almost immediately) and an alcoholic, Woolrich was so antisocial and reclusive that he refused to leave his hotel room when his leg became infected, ultimately resulting in its amputation. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the majority of his work has an overwhelming darkness, and few of his characters, whether good or evil, have much hope for happiness–or even justice. Whether writing as Cornell Woolrich, William Irish, or George Hopley, no twentieth-century author equalled his ability to create suspense, and Hollywood producers recognized it early on; few writers have had as many films based on their work as Woolrich, beginning with Convicted (1938) starring Rita Hayworth, and based on “Face Work”. Street of Chance (1942) was based on The Black Curtain, and starred Burgess Meredith and Claire Trevor; The Leopard Man (1943), based on Black Alibi, featured Dennis O’Keefe and Jean Brooks; and Phantom Lady (1944), based on the novel of the same title, starred Ella Raines and Alan Curtis. “Chance” led to Mark of the Whistler (1944), with Richard Dix and Janis Carter; Deadline at Dawn became a movie with the same name in 1946, starring Susan Hayward; and “It Had to Be Murder” was made into Rear Window (1954), with Grace Kelly and James Stewart. There were at least fifteen other film adaptation, not including scores for television programs. Arguably the worst film ever made from any work by Woolrich is The Return of the Whistler, a 1948 Columbia Pictures movie so loosely based on “All at Once, No Alice” that it is barely recognizable and so leaden-paced that it is barely watchable. (Source: Otto Penzler)

ArgosyWeekly-1940mar02A complete Cornell Woolrich bibliography can be found here.

Recommended Reading: Francis M. Nevins’ Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die is an enormous, in depth biography and critical study on Woolrich and his work. It is a very detailed look at Woolrich’s world. Nevins also edited the best of all Woolrich collections, Nightwebs, which contains important essays and bibliographies as well. It also contains Woolrich’s autobiographical story, “The Penny-a-Worder” (1958), which is a gentle self portrait of a pulp writer. A large amount of material on Woolrich, much of it by Nevins, is at Mystery*File. (Source: Mike Grost at A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection)

Cornell Woolrich page at Gadetection

“Who Was Cornell Woolrich?” by Richard Dooling

Pulp Kafka: The Nightmares of Cornell Woolrich BY Jake Hinkson

The Cornell Woolrich Revival by Steve Powell

Cornell Woolrich, the Dark Prince of Noir

“All at Once, No Alice” (De repente, sin Alice), un relato breve de Cornell Woolrich

Descripción: Jimmy Cannon, dependiente de una tienda y narrador de la historia, se fuga con Alice Brown, a quien apenas conoce, y se casan ante un juez de paz. Posteriormente, no pueden encontrar una habitación de hotel disponible y un empleado del hotel Royal permite que Alice se quede en una habitación individual pequeña con un catre mientras que consignan a Jimmy a una habitación en la YMCA. A la mañana siguiente, Jimmy regresa para recuperar a Alice, que parece haber desaparecido, y no solo de la habitación. Su nombre ha desaparecido del registro, el juez de paz afirma que no los ha casado y la policía cree que Jimmy es un lunático. ¡Y, así, comienza una carrera contrarreloj para salvar a Alice! (Fuente. Goodreads)

Mi opinión: La historia se desarrolla en la ciudad ficticia de Michianopolis a donde acaba de llegar una pareja de recién casados. Pronto descubren que no hay habitaciones disponibles en ninguno de los hoteles a los que se dirigen, debido a una gran convención que se celebra esos días en la ciudad. En un último y desesperado intento, el Hotel Royal les ofrece una diminuta habitación con un catre que apenas tiene espacio para una sola persona. Alice, la mujer, acepta la habitación, mientras que Jimmy, su marido y narrador de la historia, encuentra un lugar para hospedarse en el YMCA que no acepta parejas. A la mañana siguiente, Jimmy se presenta en el hotel para recoger a su mujer. Para su sorpresa, su habitación está vacía. Además, nadie en el hotel afirma haberla visto y su nombre ni siquiera aparece en el registro del hotel. Alice ha desaparecido sin dejar rastro, como si nunca hubiera existido. Peor aún, nadie le cree y todos piensan que se lo está inventando todo. Ni siquiera puede ofrecer ninguna prueba de su existencia o de que está diciendo la verdad. Y de esta forma su peor pesadilla no ha hecho más que empezar.

No tengo reparos en admitir que me estoy haciendo fan de Cornell Woolrich a pesar de que solo he leído, con este, tres de sus relatos. Acabo de hacerme con algunas de sus colecciones de relatos y varias de sus novelas y estoy deseando leerlas en un futuro no muy lejano. Me conformo con que sean la mitad de buenos que estos tres relatos que acabo de leer. Manténganse al tanto.

Sobre el autor: Un hombre triste y solitario que desesperadamente dedicaba libros a su máquina de escribir y a la habitación de su hotel, Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich (4 de diciembre de 1903 – 25 de septiembre de 1968) nació en la ciudad de Nueva York, creció en Hispanoamérica y Nueva York, y fue educado en la Universidad de Columbia, a la que legó su patrimonio literario. Casi con toda certeza un homosexual no declarado (su matrimonio terminó casi de inmediato) y un alcohólico, Woolrich era tan antisocial y solitario que se negó a salir de la habitación de su hotel cuando su pierna se infectó, que finalmente tuvo como resultado su amputación. Quizás no sea sorprendente, entonces, que la mayoría de su obra tenga una oscuridad abrumadora, y que pocos de sus personajes, ya sean buenos o malos, tengan mucha esperanza de alcanzar la felicidad, o incluso la justicia. Ya sea escribiendo como Cornell Woolrich, William Irish o George Hopley, ningún autor del siglo XX igualó su capacidad para crear suspense, y los productores de Hollywood lo reconocieron desde el principio; pocos escritores han tenido tantas películas basadas en sus obras como Woolrich, comenzando por Convicted (1938) protagonizada por Rita Hayworth, y basada en “Face Work”. Street of Chance (1942) estaba basada en The Black Curtain y fue protagonizada por Burgess Meredith y Claire Trevor; The Leopard Man (1943), basada en Black Alibi, contó con la participación de Dennis O’Keefe y Jean Brooks; y Phantom Lady (1944), basada en la novela del mismo título, protagonizada por Ella Raines y Alan Curtis. “Chance” dió lugar a Mark of the Whistler (1944), con Richard Dix y Janis Carter; Deadline at Dawn se convirtió en una película con el mismo nombre en 1946, protagonizada por Susan Hayward; y “It Had to Be Murder” se convirtió en Rear Window (1954), con Grace Kelly y James Stewart. Hubo al menos otras quince adaptaciones cinematográficas, sin incluir composiciones para programas de televisión. Podría decirse que la peor película jamás realizada a partir de cualquier trabajo de Woolrich es The Return of the Whistler, una película de Columbia Pictures de 1948 basada tan vagamente en “All at Once, No Alice” que apenas es reconocible y tiene un ritmo tan plomizo que apenas se puede ver. (Fuente: Otto Penzler)

Una bibliografía completa de Woolrich se puede encontrar aquí.

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