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Hildegarde Withers is a fictional character who appeared in several novels and films. She was created by Stuart Palmer.
Miss Withers "whom the census enumerator had recently listed as 'spinster, born Boston, age thirty-nine, occupation school teacher'" becomes an amateur sleuth in the first book of the series. Her adventures are usually comic but are nevertheless straightforward mysteries. She is a sort of variation on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. "A lean, angular spinster lady, her unusual hats and the black cotton umbrella she carries are her trademark. ... Hildegarde collects tropical fish, abhors alcohol and tobacco, and appears to have an irritable disposition. However, she is a romantic at heart and will extend herself to help young lovers." She collaborates, and frequently butts heads, with Inspector Oscar Piper, a high-ranking homicide detective in the New York Police Department.
Edna May Oliver starred in the first three screen adaptations, produced by RKO Radio Pictures, and is considered the definitive Miss Withers. When Oliver left RKO in 1935 to sign with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, RKO attempted to continue the series with Helen Broderick and then ZaSu Pitts, but Oliver's presence was sorely missed and the films were poorly received. Author Palmer approved of Oliver's characterization so much that he gave the actress a mention in his Hollywood-based Withers novel The Puzzle of the Happy Hooligan.