|Born / Died||1905–1969|
The Charlotte Armstrong collection includes manuscripts, correspondence, printed material, personal memorabilia, notebooks, photographs, and legal material.
Novels and short story collections by Armstrong in the collection (all published by Coward McCann) include Mischief (1950); The Black-Eyed Stranger (1951); Catch-as-Catch-Can (1953); The Trouble in Thor, written under pseudonym Jo Valentine (1953); The Better to Eat You (1954); The Dream Walker (1955); The Seventeen Windows of Sans Souci (1959); Duo (includes “The Girl with a Secret” and “Incident at a Corner,” 1959); Something Blue (Ace, 1962); A Little Less than Kind (1963); The Witch’s House (1963); The Turret Room (1965); Dream of Fair Women (1966); I See You (short stories, 1966); A Little Girl for Daddy (ca. 1966); The Gift Shop (1967); Lemon in the Basket (1967); The Motive (1967); The Balloon Man (1968); Seven Seats to the Moon (1969); The Protégé (1970); The Charlotte Armstrong Reader (1970); The Charlotte Armstrong Treasury ( The Witch’s House, Mischief, The Dream Walker, 1972); and The Charlotte Armstrong Festival ( The Gift Shop, Lemon in the Basket, The Balloon Man, 1975). Unpublished novels include To Be a Hero, Pluck Out the Heart, and I Know a Fellow Six Feet High .
Plays by Armstrong in the collection include The Happiest Days (first produced on Broadway, 1939); Ring Around Elizabeth (first produced on Broadway, November 1941; published by Samuel French, 1942). Other plays (probably not produced ) include You Got to Go On, Romantic Island, Comes the Revolution, Never Let On, Little Nell, The Prisoner in the Tower, The War to Win the War, The Snatch, It Ain’t Necessarily So, Opus 14, Siren’s Song, Glass House, The Real Princess, Dragon’s Bay, and The Boy from France .
Teleplays in the collection include pieces by Armstrong based on her own and other’s works, as well as pieces by other writers based on Armstrong’s work. Of particular note are three episodes of the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents : “Across the Threshold,” episode 175, from a story by L. B. Gordon, directed by Arthur Hiller, aired Feb. 28, 1960; “The Five Forty Eight,” episode 196, from a story by John Cheever, directed by John Brahm, aired Oct. 25, 1960; and “Sybilla,” episode 201, from a story by Margaret Manners, directed by Ida Lupino, aired Dec. 6, 1960. Other series represented include: Studio 57, “The Plot Against Miss Pomeroy,” adapted by Armstrong from her own story, episode 5, aired Oct. 19, 1954; Climax! “Mask for the Devil,” episode 135, adapted by John McGreevey from Armstrong’s story, aired Oct. 10, 1957; and Ford Startime, “Incident at a Corner,” episode 27, adapted by Armstrong from her own story, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, aired Apr. 5, 1960.
Short stories in the collection include numerous items published in various magazines, dating from 1924 to the mid-1960s. Magazines represented (in printed editions) include American, Argosy (London), Clubwoman, Cosmopolitan, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, McCall’s, Read, Redbook, Saturday Evening Post, Star Weekly (Canada), This Week, To-Day’s Woman, Wisconsin Literary Magazine, Woman, Woman’s Day, Woman’s Own, Women’s Home Journal, and Women’s Journal . Of particular interest is Armstrong’s novel The Pumpkin Shell, condensed in Ladies Home Journal, 1948; it is the only extant copy of this work. The collection also includes several other published and unpublished short stories, as well as published and unpublished novelettes, poetry, a cantata titled The Adoration, an opera libretto titled Of This Adventure, and other miscellaneous works by Armstrong.
The correspondence in the collection primarily consists of Armstrong’s letters to and from her publishers, especially Carl Brandt, as well as other related letters to Carol Brandt and Bernice Baumgarten; the bulk of these letters date from 1941 to 1959. Also present in the collection are several personal letters and fan mail items. Notable correspondents include Abraham Burack, Liz Nealon, and Ellery Queen (Frederic Dannay), as well as a fan letter to Armstrong from Gelett Burgess (1946). As a whole, the letters date from 1941 to 1969; they also include several letters from Armstrong’s husband, Jack Lewi, written in the early 1970s and sent to Armstrong’s correspondents after her death in 1969.
Printed material in the collection primarily consists of the magazines described above. Also present are numerous reviews of Armstrong’s works, as well as publicity items (1945-1969), obituaries for Armstrong, and other miscellaneous items.
Personal memorabilia in the collection includes Armstrong’s first example of typing on a machine, given to her (with a note) by her parents in 1925; her high school commencement program (1921); her membership certificate in Phi Mu (1923); the Barnard College Senior Week Program (1925); other college-related material; and a citation from the Glendale Historical Society (1951).
Notebooks in the collection include sixty-five notebooks used for notes, reminders, and manuscript sketches, mostly holograph with some typed entries, ca. 1950-1969. Additional notebooks include: 5 notebooks and other loose sheets regarding The Seventeen Windows of Sans Souci ; a notebook labeled “Notes for Incident on a Corner”; a notebook labeled “Freedom”; three unlabeled notebooks; and fourteen notebooks (with some loose sheets) labeled “journals,” 1944-1945, 1949-1954, 1956-1957, 1961.
Photographs in the collection include several prints of Armstrong as a child, with notes on the back written by her sister, Eleanor Armstrong Burridge. Also included in the collection are a photograph of Armstrong with her husband, Jack Lewi, and a photograph of Armstrong with Dr. Howard B. Gotlieb in his office.
Legal material in the collection consists of sixteen reverted agreements with Coward McCann and Ace Books regarding Armstrong’s books, dating from the late 1940s to the 1980s.
Mystery-suspense author Charlotte Armstrong (1905 - 1969) has been called the American grande dame of the genre, and her plots often revolved around an innocent caught up in a situation beyond his or her control.
Born on May 2, 1905 in Vulcan, Michigan, Charlotte Armstrong was raised in the iron-mining region of northern Michigan where her father worked as an engineer and inventor. After graduating from Vulcan High School, she attended Ferry Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois, and then spent two years at the University of Wisconsin, before finally completing her degree in 1925 at Barnard College in New York City.
Armstrong settled in Manhattan after university and took a job writing classified advertisements for The New York Times . She then accepted a position as a fashion reporter for the buyer’s guide Breath of the Avenue before moving on to work as a clerk in a certified public accountant’s office. When she married advertising executive Jack Lewi in 1928, Armstrong ceased working and concentrated on her marriage and her writing career.
While she was working, Armstrong had submitted several poems to The New Yorker, but after her wedding, she concentrated on writing plays. Her first, The Happiest Days (1939), was directed by Marc Connelly, but it was not well-received. The same fate befell her second attempt, Ring Around Elizabeth (1941), although critics in Philadelphia were more positively disposed to the production than those in New York.
Around the same time, Armstrong sold her first mystery story, Lay On, MacDuff! (Coward, McCann, 1942), and the reviews were mostly favorable – enough to warrant additional works. In fairly quick succession, Armstrong wrote and published The Case of the Weird Sisters (Coward, McCann, 1943) and The Innocent Flower (Coward, McCann, 1945). Her next effort, The Unsuspected (Coward, McCann, 1946), wasn’t a true mystery – she revealed the identity of the murderer up front – but critics praised her writing skills and the novel, which first appeared in serial form in The Saturday Evening Post, became one of her most popular.
While the serialized version of the novel was running, a Hollywood studio purchased the screen rights and hired Armstrong to write the script. She and her family relocated to Southern California, where she divided her time between writing novels and screenplays, several of which aired as part of the omnibus series Alfred Hitchcock Presents . Among her better known works of fiction are the gothic romance The Chocolate Cobweb (Coward, McCann, 1948); the taut Mischief (Coward, McCann, 1950); The Trouble in Thor (Coward, McCann, 1953), written under the pseudonym Jo Valentine; the psychological thriller A Dram of Poison (Coward, McCann, 1956), for which she received the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award; the short story collection The Albatross (Coward, McCann, 1957), which includes her Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine award-winning story “The Enemy”; A Little Less Than Kind (Coward, McCann, 1963), a modern-day California spin on Hamlet ; and The Turret Room (Coward, McCann, 1965), which dealt with a mental patient who becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot hatched by his ex-wife and her family.
Charlotte Armstrong died on July 18, 1969 at her home in Southern California. Her final novel, The Protégé (Coward, McCann, 1970) was published posthumously
|Library of Congress Subject Headings||Alfred Hitchcock presents.
American literature – 20th century.
American literature – Women authors.
Television authorship – United States.
Motion picture authorship – United States.
Motion picture plays – Women authors.
Detective and mystery stories, American.
Women authors, American.
Television writers – United States.
Women novelists, American.