Hugh Wheeler: The Genius Behind Sweeney Todd

1601 words - 6 pages

Hugh Wheeler was one of the most unique playwrights of all time. He was innovative in his storytelling skills and could challenge the most prolific writer. In his life, he wrote numerous plays and over 30 mystery novels under three different pseudonyms. However, his award winning works included the play Sweeney Todd, Candide, and A Little Night Music. Take a look at Wheeler’s life and also, look at each of these works. See inside the man and the brilliant playwright.
Hugh Wheeler was born on March 19, 1912 to parents, Harold, who was a civil servant in the Office of the Public Trustee and Florence Wheeler, whose parents were in truck manufacturing. He was born in Northwood, Middlesex, England, (Obituary) and lived there until he was 22 years old. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of London in 1932 (Gale). After receiving his degree, he decided to move to the United States and pursue his love of writing. He served in the American armed forces in World War II. He also became a naturalized American citizen in 1942. He remained in the United States until his death in 1987 (Obituary). There are few details of Wheeler’s personal life except that he never married and lived privately (Document). He was well respected in the literary world, in which he accumulated a variety of awards.
As private as Wheeler was a person, you can only speculate as to why he wrote over 40 books under three different pseudonyms. His seemingly quiet private life may have been vicariously lived through the lives of the many characters he created in his mystery novels. The series of Puzzle novels were his most popular and were written under the pseudonym Patrick Quentin and collaborated with Richard Webb (Obituary). These books are guided by the alcoholic theatrical producer, Peter Duluth and his melancholy wife Iris Pattison (Marvin). In each of these books, Duluth is somehow involved in solving a crime, usually murder. Although he isn’t a private investigator, he ends up in the middle of the situation in an attempt to solve the crime. Although Wheeler was only 24 when he wrote Puzzle for Fools, he introduced Peter Duluth and had a following that would support him through 5 more Puzzle mystery novels. Interestingly enough, Wheeler’s mystery novels produced four major motion pictures under the pseudonym, Patrick Quentin (Hampton). These included Black Widow, Man in the Net, The Man with Two Wives, and The Green-eyed Monster. Wheeler also wrote many other mystery novels using the names, Q. Patrick and Jonathan Stagge. Oddly enough, he only wrote one novel under his own name, The Critical Muse (Hampton).
As talented and successful as Wheeler had been in his book writing, his first love was playwriting. His first play, Big Fish, Little Fish starred Jason Robards and was directed by Sir Jon Gielgud. It opened on Broadway in 1961 where it received good reviews and later appeared in 1974 Off Broadway (Hampton). From that point...

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