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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Lucille Fletcher (1912-2000)

Violet Lucille Fletcher was born March 28, 1912, in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents were Matthew Emerson Fletcher, a marine draftsman, and the former Violet Anderson, a homemaker. She graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in 1929 and then went to Vassar College, which was a women's university at that time. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1933, then took a $15 a week job as clerk-typist for CBS radio in New York City. At CBS, she met a musician by the name of Bernard Herrmann. They dated for four years. Her family didn't like "Benny" because of his abrasive personality. They also didn't care too much for the idea that he was Jewish and the Fletchers were longtime Episcopalians and didn't want their daughter to change her religion because of a boyfriend. Lucille's father suffered a stroke in 1938 which paralyzed him for his remaining eleven years. The couple saw this as a way to get married, which they did.

Benny and Lucille married on October 2, 1939. The marriage wasn't one of the happiest, since the couple worked together at virtually the same hours. Lucille was a writer at heart. She spent a few days writing a story about a man who drove across the United States and was shadowed by the same hitchhiker everywhere. Benny showed the story to actor Orson Welles, who showed it to the production staff for the series Suspense! The episode, "The Hitchhiker", aired on September 2, 1942. Orson Welles was Ron Adams who drove from Manhattan to Los Angeles on business. It was repeated several times on Suspense! and other series. The story changed her status at CBS from clerk-typist to scriptwriter. She wrote many other scripts, including another for Suspense!, "Sorry, Wrong Number", which also became a hit motion picture, for which she also wrote the script. "The Hitchhiker" was also revised as an episode of TV's The Twilight Zone, featuring Leonard Strong (1908-80) in the role of the Hitchhiker and Inger Stevens (1934-70) in the Orson Welles part as Nan Adams.

Lucille's parents were right about Benny. His abrasive personality did make living difficult, especially since they both worked at the same place. When production of the Suspense! show moved to Los Angeles, Benny went, partly because he had already gone with Orson Welles to do scoring for a few of his movies. But Lucille decided to stay in New York... actually she lived in New Jersey. Since they lived apart, Benny went to Reno to get a proxy divorce in 1948. Actually, this didn't do much to upset the life of Lucille, who had two daughters with Benny: Dorothy (born June 27, 1941) and Wendy (born October 18, 1945). They were doing fine without a father and a husband. Lucille and Benny had been working on an opera together, for which Benny wrote the music and Lucille wrote the book. By the time they got started with Wuthering Heights, Benny's quickie divorce he got in Reno, Nevada, became effective.

In a few short months after that, Lucille married Washington, DC, native John Douglass Wallop, III (born 1920), in January 1949, whose only claim to fame was writing the story, book, play, and screenplay for a musical called Damn Yankees! in 1955. Douglass Wallop and Lucille were a happy couple and she spent the rest of her life writing nine mystery novels at her homes in suburban Philadelphia, where she moved from the Washington, DC, area after Douglass's death in 1985. Her daughter, Dorothy, became a famous author. Lucille died in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, on August 31, 2000, of a stroke at her home. She was 88 years old.

One of her novels, Presumed Dead, was condensed by Reader's Digest in 1963. The inside biographic blurb about her life reads as follows:
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lucille Fletcher graduated from Vassar College and went to work as a typist for CBS.

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