Sorry, Not Sorry: The Career of Mystery Writer Lucille Fletcher

By John C. Alsedek:

Lucille Fletcher

As a kid, I was of course very familiar with The Twilight Zone episode "The Hitch-Hiker," which was easily one of the spookiest shows of the whole series. As I got a little bit older and discovered film noir, one of my fave films was Sorry, Wrong Number, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. And then I got a little older still and came to the realization that both "The Hitch-Hiker" and Sorry, Wrong Number had originally been radio plays—and had both come from the pen of the same writer, the great Lucille Fletcher.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Violet Lucille Fletcher excelled in school. While attending Bay Ridge High School, she was the president of the Arista honor society and the editor of the school magazine. As a senior, she won the regional competition of the National Oratorical Contest on the Constitution of the United States; her prizes included a gold medal, $1,000 in cash, an all-expenses-paid trip to South America, and a spot in the national championship. While Fletcher didn’t win, her entry entitled "The Constitution: A Guarantee of the Personal Liberty of the Individual" finished third. Upon graduating high school, she continued her education at Vassar College, completing her bachelor of the arts degree with honors in 1933.

The following year, Fletcher went to work at CBS Radio, where she served as a copyright clerk and publicity writer, as well as working in the music library. It was here that she met up-and-coming composer Bernard Herrmann, who was the conductor of the CBS orchestra. They began dating and, though her parents didn’t wholeheartedly approve, were eventually married in October 1939; they would eventually have two children before divorcing in 1948.

However, by that point, Lucille Fletcher had long since left her office job behind and was one of radio’s top writers. Her first exposure came in March 1940 with one of her published stories, "My Client Curly," for the Columbia Workshop radio drama series. Three more Fletcher scripts soon followed: "The Man with the One Track Mind" (June 1940), "Carmilla" (July 1940), and "Alf, the All-American Fly" (September 1940). And then came the show that truly put Lucille Fletcher on the map: on November 17th, 1941, Orson Welles’ radio company performed her script "The Hitch-Hiker."