From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 10 Dec 2002

"First you dream, then you die." --Woolrich.

I MARRIED A DEAD MAN tells the story of a poor and lonely pregnant girl who, through a case of mistaken identity, is taken in by a wealthy family and treated with kindness and respect. Her fear of being discovered as an imposter is an obsession that dominates her life. Although his earlier work is influenced by Fitzgerald, I MARRIED A DEAD MAN is overwhelming morbid and morose, and is similar in mood to Edgar Allan Poe's Gothic story, "Fall of the House of Usher."

I was surprised to see Woolrich's biographer Francis Nevin state that,
"purely on its merits as prose, it's dreadful." Although I wasn't enamored with the plot, the characters, or the heavy-handed melodrama, I still found his prose to be hauntingly lyrical.

An essay in FILM NOIR READER titled "Cornell Woolrich, The Phantom Lady and the Masochistic Aesthetic" develops the idea that Woolrich represents a feminine-masochistic interpretation of noir, in contrast to the Hammett, Chandler, and Cain masculine-sadistic view. The principle difference is that the masculine-sadistic view portrays the protagonist struggling to control a dangerous situation, whereas the feminine-sadistic view portrays the protagonist as either unwilling or incapable of attempting to correct matters.
  Cornell Woolrich was born in 1903. His parents divorced in 1915 and he lived with his mother in New York until he entered Columbia University. He completed three years of journalism before dropping out to write fiction full-time, publishing COVER CHARGE in 1926 and CHILDREN OF THE RITZ in 1927, society-type romances that show the influence of F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1928 he moved to Hollywood and began a successful career in script writing. He married but it was soon annulled when his wife discovered his diary, complete with details of his many homosexual encounters. He was crushed by the experience and moved back to New York City, closed himself off from the world, and lived the next 25 years in a suffocating love-hate relationship with his domineering mother. Even though he was a prominent and financially successful author, they lived all this time in the sleazy Hotel Marseilles in a Harlem slum.

In this depressing and stifling environment, Woolrich began writing for the pulp magazines in 1934, turning out stories for Black Mask, Detective Fiction Weekly, and Dime Detective. With THE BRIDE WORE BLACK,published in 1940, he began a string of 11 novels written in the Forties, gaining him a reputation as one of the most prominent writers of suspense, including PHANTOM LADY in 1942, NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES in 1945, and I MARRIED A DEAD MAN in 1948. An incredible number of movies were also based on his works during this time. Black Angel, The Chase, and Deadline at Dawn all came out in 1946. His WALTZ INTO DARNESS was just recently made into a movie called Original Sin, starring Banderas and Jolie. In 1948 he was awarded an Edgar for lifetime achievement by the Mystery Writers of America. In 1951 he penned the cult classic MARIHUANA under the pseudonym William Irish.

After the Forties Woolrich's output slowed. In 1957 his mother died, and in 1961 he took a trip to Canada, marking the first time in 30 years that he had left New York City. His mother's passing did little for his social life and, living the life of an alcoholic recluse, both his physical and mental health declined. A neglected wound on his leg forced an amputation in early 1968 and he died later that year. Francis Nevins wrote a comprehensive biography of Woolrich in 1988, titled FIRST YOU DREAM, THEN YOU DIE: THE BIOGRAPHY OF CORNELL WOOLRICH.


# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# majordomo@icomm.ca.  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 10 Dec 2002 EST