In our continuing programming of revivals and discoveries in the area of American Cinema generally defined as film noir, we have concentrated on directors specializing in noir (Lang, Tourneur, Mann, Siodmak, etc.) as well as on photographers (John Alton). Except for a small series of film noir adapted from the works of Raymond Chandler, we have failed to explore in any systematic way the contribution of the writers whose novels and stories, and screenplays, formed the first basis for the dark visions which flooded the screens of American theatres in the post-war years - in complete contradiction to the bland and happy celebrations of middle-class materialism promulgated by radio, TV, newspapers, and other media. In a recent essay published in England, Tom Milne asserts that none of the many excellent adaptations of Cornell Woolrich's works does full justice to Woolrich, who also published under the names William Irish and George Hopley. Milne's essay begins:
“Story to be whispered. Night has a thousand eyes. Walls that hear you. Dark melody of madness. Everyone has to die alone. If I should die before I wake. You'll never see me again. The living lie down with the dead....
“The very titles of Cornell Woolrich's novels and stories say all that needs to be said about the dark terrors, the unrelenting nightmares and the sinister presences that haunt his work (apart from the early novels) from beginning to end. More than any other writer since Edgar Allan Poe, Woolrich used archetypal fears and phobias, seemingly spun out of some recurring personal trauma, to orchestrate a world entirely his own in which the characters stalked by death and self-destruction through dark alleyways and endless nights of their own making - predators and victims alike - are always hopefully protected by a sort of despairing tenderness on the part of their creator. Since Woolrich was a pulp writer, you won't find his name in any of the literary histories, biographies or who's whos. But for my money, he wrote better than Chandler, Hammett and Cain, all of whom could (and sometimes did) provide lessons for ‘serious' novelists.”
In September, we will present eight film adaptations of Woolrich stories. Regrettably, it is impossible to obtain and show a print of one of the best, Hitchcock's Rear Window.