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Wallace, Edgar (1875-1932)

Director, Writer

Main image of Wallace, Edgar (1875-1932)

Richard Horatio Edgar Wallace was born on 1 April 1875 in Greenwich. After working for many years as a journalist, Wallace came to prominence with his first mystery novel The Four Just Men (1905), which was published with the ending removed as part of an advertising campaign which offered a £500 prize to readers who submitted the right conclusion. As many readers guessed correctly, this nearly bankrupted Wallace, but he made up for it subsequently with his prodigious output, producing over 170 books and two-dozen plays.

In 1915 Wallace wrote his first script, Nurse and Martyr (d. Percy Moran), a privately financed film on the life of Edith Cavell. In 1927 he joined the board of British Lion to whom he sold the rights to all his works. Starting with The Ringer (d. Arthur Maude, 1928), the company released eight silent films from his stories at the rate of one a month. Wallace directed Red Aces (1929), which features his popular character J.G. Reeder, as a silent film, and followed it with The Squeaker (1930) after the conversion to sound. A prototypical Wallace thriller with the identities of both policeman and villain only being revealed at the end, it features Gordon Harker, who had starred in Wallace's stage hits The Ringer, The Case of the Frightened Lady and The Calendar. Wallace died in Hollywood on 10 February 1932 while working on the screenplay of King Kong (US, d. Merian C. Cooper, 1933)

Chapman, James, 'Celluloid Shockers' in Jeffrey Richards, (ed.), The Unknown 1930s (London, I.B. Tauris, 1997)
Lane, Margaret, Edgar Wallace (London, Heinemann, 1938) Nolan, Jack Edmund, 'Edgar Wallace', Films in Review, Feb. 1967, pp. 71-85

Sergio Angelini, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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