Who was William deMille and what is his short story, "Ruthless"?
William Churchille deMille was an American playwright who later became, and became famous as, a film director and screenwriter, working mainly during the era of silent pictures. He was renowned for his adaptations of Broadway plays into films. He was born in North Carolina to an Episcopal American father and a Sephardic Jewish-born English mother who later converted to Christianity. His brother, Cecil B. DeMille, was also a famous filmmaker.
"Ruthless" is a very short story—around two pages—about a man who is determined not to allow any further theft of his liquor. He crushes some rat poison tablets and puts them in a bottle of whisky. His wife complains that this is murder, and the man says that if someone were to break into his house, he would be allowed by law to shoot that person, and that this is no different. At the end of the story, the man, Judson, falls and hits his head on a table. The handyman, Alec, who knew nothing of the poisoned whisky, offers some of the whisky to Judson to revive him. The story closes here; the implication is that Judson is the victim of his own cruelty.
William C. deMille (1878-1955) was a versatile American writer and film director. He was the older brother of the famed film producer and director, Cecil B. DeMille (who changed the spelling of his last name when he went to Hollywood). William deMille would become one of the most respected directors of the silent film era. He hosted the first Academy Awards show and was a founder of the University of Southern California film school. His short story, "Ruthless" tells the story of a man who leaves a bottle of poisoned whiskey for the unknown person(s) who has been entering his house while he is away.