Episode 1.30: Never Again.

Leave a comment

Starring: Phyllis Thaxter, Warren Stevens
Written by: Gwen Bagni, Irwin Gielgud & Stirling Silliphant (teleplay), Adela Rogers St. John (story)
Directed by: Robert Stevens
First aired April 22, 1956

Episode Grade: A

Friends, this is an exceptional episode. It is unforgettable, exquisitely acted. But I can’t be funny about. There’s nothing funny about it.

This is an episode about alcoholism.

Phyllis Thaxter gives an excellent performance as Karen, a woman who wakes up trying to remember what happened the night before. She has a hangover. Her lips are dry, her eyes are sunken, and she notices her hand is bandaged. She doesn’t recognize the bed she is in. She worries that her boyfriend Jeff (Warren Stevens) is going to be angry with her.

She remembers bits here and there, beginning with her getting ready for a party, not having had a drink in a little over a month, and feeling antsy. She looks very pretty. Jeff comes to pick her up and she insists that he have a drink in front of her, to prove to herself that it doesn’t bother her. They have a small argument in her apartment, but Karen apologizes and says she just doesn’t know who she is anymore. She feels lost without her drinking–as if it somehow defined her. ….This makes me think of the beautiful line in Shawn Colvin’s song “The Facts about Jimmy.” Colvin sings “I used to get drunk to get my spark/and it used to work just fine/and it made me wretched but it gave me heart/I miss Jimmy like I miss my wine.”

Jeff is taking Karen to a party with people from his advertising firm. She says she doesn’t know “smart talk” and Jeff assures her it’s just chit-chat. Going out will do her good. (Going out to a cocktail party? I dunno, Jeff….) As Jeff’s boss, Renee, steals him for a moment to go over some business, Karen promises not to touch a drop of alcohol. She wanders throughout the room, lonely, and bravely rejecting all offers of cocktails. One man finds this not very sporting, and hands her a martini, saying “Don’t be disagreeable.” Karen holds the drink and then notices Renee closing the bedroom door.

While she sits at the party with no one to talk to, another man hands her a drink. “No thanks,” she says, “I have one.” And Marlow (Jack Mullaney) takes her single martini and hands her a double. Just then, Jeff and Renee return from the bedroom, and Jeff sees Karen holding a glass. Karen walks up to Renee and throws the drink in her face. Karen is then horrified at what she did and runs out.

Karen remembers that she took a taxi back to her apartment, and Jeff followed her home. He’s angry. “Can you ever forgive me?” she asks him. And Jeff replies, “Next time, I’ll give you something to be jealous ABOUT.”

Poor Karen is terribly insecure, she thinks nobody likes her, and as she explains this to Jeff, she rips the necklace off her neck. She doesn’t understand why Jeff is with her, when they are at parties with clever girls around. Jeff says, “Well, if you’re like this now, how are you going to be when we’re married?” And Karen is surprised and kisses him. “I happen to love you,” Jeff says. Jeff is a good man, we know this.

Karen says she wants to go back to the party to redeem herself. Renee, now in a glorious gown, says it’s all forgotten, and gets Karen a ginger ale. But as the bartender pours her a glass of ginger ale, she goes to the balcony, where Marlow meets her again, and hands her a drink. “Where did you go?” he asks her. She tells him she went out. He says he went out too for a while….”like a light.” Marlow and Karen talk a little on the balcony. They’re both lost, they’re both wallflowers. And we find out that Marlow is Renee’s little brother, and he is so different from her, he drinks. They notice Renee talking to Jeff, and Marlow–not knowing who Karen is–says that the man his sister is talking to is going to marry a woman who’s a drunk. Karen takes the drink from Marlow’s hand and downs it in a single gulp. Karen and Marlow start drinking together. They decide to bar hop on the Upper East Side.

We then see Karen and Marlow at a bar somewhere on 3rd street, the jukebox playing. Karen–who was looking so pretty and sweet–is a mess. Her hair is disheveled and she can hardly stand up straight. Marlow isn’t nearly as drunk as Karen is; he just wants to play records on the jukebox. Karen is blind drunk. It is a pathetic sight. She grabs a bottle from the bar, and the bartender tells her she’s had enough, and she begins to hit him and scream. She downs a third of scotch, which she has poured into a large, large brandy glass, and she sees Jeff enter the bar with Renee. Jeff says he’s going to take her home, but she falls, and the brandy glass breaks, cutting her hand and wrist. That is why her hand is bandaged when she wakes up. 

As Karen lays in bed, sweating and nervously remembering the night before, a nurse comes into Karen’s room, and gives her a shot. “Which hospital is this?” Karen asks.

“This isn’t exactly a hospital,” the nurse replies. “It’s the city jail.”

“Why am I here?” Karen asks.

“You killed a man last night,” the nurse answers. “Jeff Simmons. His throat was cut. With a brandy glass.”

Karen lets out a heartbreaking and desperate scream.

Notes:

Hitchcock notes at the end that there is nothing funny or fun about this episode. They showed it “in hopes that it might help someone.”

This episode makes me incredibly sad. It is awful. Every time I see it, I want the ending to be different, but it never is.

This is the first time we see Phyllis Thaxter. Thaxter is my most favorite actress in the AHP canon. She is ALWAYS good. She is just a fantastic actress. It’s sad, I think, that nobody knows her today. But my gosh, she is just wonderful to watch. Her performance in this episode is fearless, and without vanity. Thaxter’s own history is fascinating. She suffered from polio, but came back swinging. Her performances are warm, engaging, simple, and understated. We will see much of her in other seasons.

Jeff is played by Warren Stevens. He was also in Premonition. He passed away in 2012 at the venerable age of 92.

We will see Jack Mullaney (Marlow) in one more episode this season.

Louise Albritton plays Renee, Jeff’s boss. This is her only AHP appearance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 1.29: The Orderly World of Mr. Appleby.

Leave a comment

Starring: Robert H. Harris, Meg Mundy
Written by: Victor Wolfson & Robert C. Dennis (teleplay), Stanley Ellin (story)
Directed by: James Neilson
First aired April 15, 1956

Episode Grade: A

Hitch’s Intro:

Very simple. Just Hitch. He addresses the ladies.

“Has your husband recently acquired a far-away look in his eyes? In the event that something unforseen happens to you, do all of your worldly goods go to him? Is he, at this moment, nervously excusing himself from the room? If you have answered ‘Yes’ to all the above questions, you receive a score of 100, a gold star for neatness. And my advice to leave for mother’s immediately.”

Episode Re-Cap & Commentary:

Lawrence Appleby (Robert H. Harris) owns an antique shop. He’s showing a few pieces to a tall, spinstery woman (Meg Mundy) who is supposed to be plain, but she’s also, I think, uniquely attractive. She has high cheekbones, a full mouth, and a gracious manner. She’s wearing a tweed suit. She’s not really interested in anything Mr. Appleby is showing her, and asks about a jewel box on the counter. Appleby snaps at her that it’s NOT FOR SALE! The woman says, “Everything that’s the least bit good seems to be spoken for.”  She then picks up what, I guess, is a ceramic camel, and Appleby rudely says that the pieces are fragile and he’d appreciate it if she didn’t handle them.

Appleby is small, bald, stout, expressive, and fond of bowties. He’s also rude and persnickety. He leaves the woman at the counter and greets another man (Michael Ansara!) who’s entered the store. “May I show you something?” Appleby asks him. The tall man picks up a piece and says, “You might tell me where this came from” and Appleby freaks out again. It turns out the man isn’t a customer. He is Mr. Dizar, of Dizar and Son, from whence Appleby acquires a lot of his pieces. Appleby is heavily in debt to Dizar. He owes Dizar $12,000 (which is $104,247 of today’s money). He doesn’t have it. His pieces haven’t sold, and mainly because he can’t bear to part with them. So Appleby is a bald, persnickety man who is in love with antiques and makes no money at all. What a winner.

As Dizar and Appleby talk, the tall woman breaks a piece–the ceramic camel. Appleby is distraught and yells at her. The woman is apologetic and gracious about it, and writes him a check for it. The piece is $1000 (about $8,700 today). We see, on her check, that her name is Martha Sturgis. Appleby calls her “MRS. Sturgis,” and Martha corrects him: “Miss.” After she leaves the store, Dizar tells Appleby that now the debt is $11,000, and it’s due in two weeks.

At Appleby’s home, his wife Lena (Louise Larabee) is on the couch, reading a magazine, eating candy and listening to big band music. There’s a blanket on the couch that’s not folded, and evidently this is supposed to mean that Lena is a terrible slob. Even though the rest of the apartment is spotless. Lena complains that she can’t even have a cat to keep her company. “You know very well that a cat would scratch up the furniture!” he scolds. Wow, Appleby would HATE my house. We have FOUR cats! And right next to me, on the couch, is an unfolded blanket. He makes Adrian Monk seem like The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Appleby asks his wife for money from her “endowment” and she won’t sign it over. She screams “You’re not getting it, so forget it!” and storms out. Appleby takes a book off the shelf. It’s entitled: Accident or Murder. He then arranges the rug near the fireplace, making sure it’s real slippy-like, and moves a chair over (did they, like, tell him how to do this, in the book?) and then he sits down, and calls to Lena. He asks her to bring him a glass of water. He bends over to pretend he’s tying his shoe. As she reaches the rug, he pulls it quickly out from under her. She falls, hits her head, and dies. It’s not a very elegant murder. It’s kind of a silly murder. What if she just tripped? I mean, what made him think this would work? Oh but it does work. Appleby picks up the phone and says, “Operator. I want to report an accident.”

And so Appleby gets his money. He has paid Dizar, and tells him he’s looking at more pieces. Dizar insists that they will send him things, but only if Appleby pays on delivery. Appleby objects, saying there is no more money from his wife’s estate, and Dizar suggests he let the nice lady Martha Sturgis buy some things….she must be very rich.

Appleby brings Martha the jewel box she had been looking at previously. She’s flattered and nervous, because it’s such an expensive gift, and she insists on paying him for it. But Appleby says he intends to get to know her very well. Martha might be included in that Lovable Alfred Hitchcock Heroines™ thing I’m going to write after this season is over. Martha is shy and proper, but also warm. After a very short period of time, Appleby suggests they get married. Martha becomes very nervous, but then tells him he must talk to her lawyer, Mr. Gainsborough, who is like a second father to her, and has been looking after her since her own father died.

Mr. Gainsborough tells Appleby that Martha has a lot of money and Appleby acts like, “What? I had no idea” and then “Oh I don’t even care about her money” and Gainsborough tells Appleby to spend the next month showing Martha great devotion. After a month, she may agree to marry him. At one point Gainsborough says “Mr. Appleby, have you ever been married?” and Appleby says, “Yes,” and Gainsborough says, suspiciously, “Divorced?” and Appleby answers with a shocked “NO!” …Yeah, he didn’t divorce his wife, he just murdered her is all.

Martha and Gainsborough insists that Appleby live in Martha’s house. Appleby agrees.

Their marriage seems downright ….well, not just chaste, but cold. That’s Appleby’s fault. He comes home from work late, and complains to Martha that Dizar is threatening to close in on him, and buy all his stock. Martha says it wouldn’t really be a terrible loss, the curios don’t sell, and then he and she can just have a nice leisurely life together. But Appleby is, like, in love with his antiques and is angry that she doesn’t understand. While they’re talking, the phone rings. It’s Mr. Gainsborough. He calls her every night, as he had done since her father’s death. She answers the phone, standing on the rug near the fireplace, and Appleby gets an idea.

One night, Appleby comes home and there is the cutest kitty sitting on the chair. He says, “Martha, what is THIS?!” and Martha picks up the cat and says warmly, “This is Dicky. I bought him to keep me company.” She snuggles with cute fluffy kitty and Appleby is disgusted. She and Dicky go into the kitchen for his dinner, and Appleby sets up the rug by the fireplace again, and moves the chair. He then sits in the chair, and calls for Martha to bring him some water. He bends over, pretending to tie his shoe. She comes in with the water, and he PULLS THE RUG!

And then we hear Martha ask, “Was that how you did it before?”

She says, “Was it ‘accident or murder’?….Yes I found the book. Even then I didn’t believe it…..” She then has a wonderful monologue here, about things Mr. Gainsborough found out about the first Mrs. Appleby. Initially she was going to kick him out, but then she tells him that he must sell his pieces to Dizar, and live the rest of his days with her, to protect other unsuspecting and innocent women. She feels it is her duty to protect the world from Appleby.  “There is a letter in Mr. Gainsborough’s safe that is certain to hang you if I were to die, under whatever circumstances. And Mr. Gainsborough will continue to call here every night at this hour to see that I am well, and happy.”

The phone rings, and she tells Appleby to answer it. It’s Gainsborough, asking for Martha. Appleby tests him and says Martha’s busy and can’t come to the phone. Gainsborough is then furious with him, and says he has ten seconds to put Martha on the phone. Martha walks over to take the receiver.

The Twist:

But Martha TRIPS ON THE RUG and FALLS and HITS HER HEAD and DIES!!!!!

And Gainsborough is on the phone going, “Appleby, your time is up!” And the music plays my favorite “Oh no you di’nt” sting. DUN DUUUUN!!!

Please make a note of it:

Robert H. Harris is Lawrence Appleby. We saw him in the episode Shopping for Death. He was a very capable character actor. He is in six more AHP episodes.

The lovely Meg Mundy is Martha Sturgis. She was a model, and a good actress too. She has a very compelling face–she is what they once would have called a “handsome woman.” She does a wonderful job in this. Her voice is soothing and rich. She is in one more AHP episode, in Season 2.

Gage Clark is Gainsborough. He had a consistent career throughout his life, but he died at the age of 64. He is in 3 more AHP episodes, in later seasons.

Dizar was played by Michael Ansara, who was also in Shopping for Death. He was married to Barbara Eden. He is in one more AHP episode, and it’s in this first season!

Louise Larabee is the harsh Lena. She plays another harsh, doomed wife, in one of my favorite AHP episodes, in the second season.

Episode 1.28: Portrait of Jocelyn.

Leave a comment

Starring: Philip Abbott, Nancy Gates, John Baragrey
Written by: Harold Swanton (teleplay), Edgar Marvin (story)
Directed by: Robert Stevens
First aired April 8, 1956

Episode Grade: A

This one is a lot of fun. It’s so melodramatic, and it’s got a nice twist. It’s also got some of our old friends: Nancy Gates! Olan Soule! HARRY TYLER!

Hitch’s Intro:

The black serif title card is back. WHAT is UP with THAT.

There is a tight close-up on Hitch’s thumb. He’s holding it out and squinting. And then the camera pans back and we see he has a palette and a canvas on an easel. He says: “What an extraordinary thumb. It completely obscures the subject I’m painting.” ….Did you know that Hitch was a visual artist? Quite a good one. You know the iconic silhouette of Hitchcock?

silhouette

 

He drew that of himself!

Anyway, Hitch says he has some canvases ready for us. He olds them up. One says: “Post No Bills.” Another says: “Kilroy Was Here.” And then, for something more “exotic,” he holds up a canvas that says: “Pas De Stationnement.” He adds another: “Please Stand By.”

Episode Re-Cap & Commentary:

Mark and Debbie Halliday (Philip Abbott and Nancy Gates) are knocking on the door of an art gallery. The gallery worker (Olan Soule) opens the door, as he’s leaving for the night, and says they’re closed. But Mark’s already paid for a painting and he wants to make sure Debbie likes it. “Oh please,” she says. “It’s our anniversary!” (Quick note: Nancy Gates’s first line in her last AHP episode was also “Please.”) It’s their first anniversary, Mark explains. The gallery guy lets them in and goes to retrieve the painting. The item number is 128. And Debbie keeps saying “A 128 to hang over my mantel.”

She wants to know what it’s a painting of and she makes a few guesses. Then she says she doesn’t care and they have a passionate smooch. She says they’ll open a bottle of champagne (or, as I like to say, “SHAM-PAN-YA”) and hang 128 over the m—–

BUT DEBBIE IS HORRIFIED. The gallery man is holding the painting up to her. And she’s distraught. Mark tells the gallery fella he’s made a mistake; that’s not the painting he saw that morning. “It’s 128,” the gallery dude says. Debbie is now furious and tries to leave and Mark grabs her (more grabbing, like in Nancy’s other episode!) and says he’s never seen that painting before in his life! OH MY GOSH JUST SHOW US THE PAINTING ALREADY.

Debbie leaves, slamming the door behind her. Mark asks the gallery bloke who put him up to this. But gallery man says nobody put him up to anything, and Mark will have to take this to Mr. Harrison, the gallery owner. Mark is still examining the painting and says he’ll take it with him. And the music does that DUN-DUN sting as he shuts the door behind him.

At the home of Jeff (Raymond Bailey!), he and Mark examine the painting. “Is it Jocelyn?” Mark asks. “I don’t know, Mark,” Jeff says. Mark says, “You ought to know your own sister.” But Jeff says Mark was married to her, he should know her better than anyone else.

It turns out, Mark’s first wife Jocelyn disappeared five years earlier. Jeff has kept all the newspaper clippings and talked to the detectives but they were getting nowhere. Jocelyn disappeared without a trace. They remark on Jocelyn’s beauty (though we haven’t seen this portrait yet), and then Jeff notices initials and a date. The painting was done three years ago. That’s odd, right? Jeff says it must have been before she went to Europe. And Mark presses him and Jeff admits that a couple of years ago, he got a letter from Jocelyn, mentioning she was going to Switzerland. He burned the letter, because he didn’t want Mark to know. Mark divorced her for desertion. Jeff says she was in St. Moritz, and there was another man.

“She doesn’t love you, Mark,” Jeff says. “She never did.”

THEN we see the portrait. Well, she’s very pretty, and she looks pissed off. Like an angry Kate Middleton. Not nearly as alluring and unforgettable and gorgeous as Gene Tierney, though, not nearly. Remember the movie Laura?

 

I wish I looked like this

I wish I looked like this

Jocelyn’s portrait stares at them disapprovingly from the mantel in the Halliday’s home. Debbie is looking back at Jocelyn, also disapprovingly. Debbie is pretty–evidently, she’s not supposed to be as glamorous as Jocelyn, but….I don’t know. I think Debbie is prettier, actually. Mark comes in buttoning the cuffs of his shirt asking about dinner, and notices the portrait. “What’s that doing there?” he asks. Debbie says it belongs there, it’s very fitting, instead of hiding it behind the sofa. She is really, really angry. “She’s been in the house our entire marriage…she’s even in your mind when you kiss me!” she says, and Mark is angry and bangs his hand on the chair he’s sitting in and yells “STOP IT!” Then he apologizes and Debbie runs to him and she apologizes and what the hell is going on here? Maybe they should all just have a drink, jeez.

Mark tells Debbie that Jeff got a letter from Jocelyn two years ago. Debbie asks if Jeff saw her. “No,” Mark says, “Nobody’s seen her.”

“That’s a shame,” Debbie replies. “She was born to be seen.” Then she recounts the first time she saw Jocelyn, at the beach at Shell Harbor, glowing, radiant….and Mark asks if they can change the subject and then Debbie says “Let’s eat.” These people need some sort of stabilizing medications or something. They keep YELLING! and whispering and YELLING! and whispering.

The phone rings. And it’s Jeff. He has a name: Clymer. Jeff says Mr. Harrison (gallery owner) doesn’t know how the painting got mixed up, but Arthur Clymer is an amateur artist in Shell Harbor who shows a lot of promise.

Debbie is pouring wine at the table and Mark sits down to carve the roast. My word, that roast is totally dried out, it’s like Mark is carving a tree log with a butter knife. She asks who was on the phone and he tells her. “What are you going to do about it,” she asks. And Mark says, “Nothing.” Then Debbie starts up again saying Mark shouldn’t have married her and he’s still in love with Jocelyn and they start yelling again. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s dead to me!” Mark yells. And then he tells Debbie to come with him to Shell Harbor, to settle this once and for all.

Up at Shell Harbor (I’m assuming it’s north, whatever), the realtor (our good friend Harry Tyler) says the hotel closed and the motel is all booked up, but he has one property left, $10 a day, $60 a week. I’ll take it. I mean, Mark says, “I’ll take it,” but hey, I’ll take it too. Shell Harbor looks pretty and that’s a really good deal. The realtor retrieves the key and says, “Willman Cottage, in the cove.” Mark looks spooked. “Are you sure that’s all you’ve got?” he asks shakily. The realtor assures him that it’s lovely and Mark says, “I know all about the Willman Cottage. I lived there. Five years ago.”

When Debbie and Mark enter the cottage, all the furniture is covered in sheets. The electricity isn’t yet turned on. As Debbie walks around the living room, she notices there are fresh flowers on the table. Fresh flowers….Lily of the Valley….Jocelyn’s favorite flower. She goes to hang up her coat, and notices Jocelyn’s trenchcoat and scarf in the closet. Mark and Debbie are both unhinged. Debbie says Jocelyn is there, in Shell Harbor, she’s been staying there, that’s where she’s been! Mark is taking off the sheets from the furniture and they uncover a bust of Jocelyn’s head.

Some time later, a man is at the door of the Willman Cottage. It’s Arthur Clymer (John Baragrey). Arthur is sort of handsome, and he’s very tall. A bit dorky, but nice. He came to get the bust of Jocelyn he carved. He’s very proud of it, and holds the sculpture with affection. He says he carved it a few months ago. It’s a sculpture of his wife.

Ruh-roh.

“Is her name Jocelyn?” Debbie asks.
“Why yes, do you know her?” Clymer responds. Debbie then hands him the slicker and scarf and tells Mark to go with Clymer to help him carry all the things. Mark refuses and cowers. After Clymer leaves, Debbie says to Mark, moping by the fireplace and hiding his face, “That’s the first cowardly thing I’ve ever seen you do.”

Mark then goes to Clymer’s cottage and knocks on the door. Clymer is sitting at a table, alone, drinking. “Welcome!” he says, good-naturedly and sort of drunkish. He knows what Mark’s there for. “You want to see Jocelyn, don’t you?” and then he calls up the stairs. “Jocelyn! Jocelyn, we have company!” There is a shot of the stairs. But nobody descends. Clymer goes over the stairs and calls again, and then laughs at Mark. “You thought she’d come down these stairs, didn’t you?” and then slumps down on the stairs and drinks some more. He offers Mark his glass.

“Where is she?” Mark demands. “What happened to her?”
“Happened?” Clymer says. “Nothing could ever happen to Jocelyn.” He admits, then….that Jocelyn hasn’t been around for quite a while. He says he doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to know. And then his face dims and he says, “The little cheat.” He throws the wine bottle and it crashes.

After Mark continues to demand where she is, the drunken Clymer says, “She’s dead.”

“How did she die?” Mark asks.
“How does one die?” Clymer responds. He tells Mark it’s a complicated story and it’s getting late, some other time. But Mark throws Clymer back and Clymer continues with his drunken musings. Jocelyn was thrilling, and beautiful, and she never belonged to anyone but herself. Mark puts his hands around Clymer’s collar and yells, “WHERE IS SHE?” And Clymer gets up and says, “I’ll show you. Her grave is right outside.”

They go out the front door. “Over there, near the edge of the cliff,” Clymer says, as the waves crash against the rocks. Mark doesn’t believe it. “She isn’t over there,” Mark says incredulously. “She can’t be.”

And then Clymer breaks down. “I have to tell someone……I had to get away from her…..I couldn’t take it anymore…..I left her in New York and came up here….Took the cottage for a couple of weeks, alone…..” and on Clymer’s self-imposed exile, he says Jocelyn came up unexpectedly. Mark is listening to this, shaking his head at the pathetic man. He says, “No she didn’t. You’re lying.” And Clymer is crying “There was another man, always another man!” He says he can’t remember exactly what happened, but Jocelyn was laughing at him, and the next thing he knew she was dead at his feet.

The Twist:

“You weren’t there,” Mark says. “No one was there but Jocelyn and me!….How do you know I killed her?” Then he tries to hit Clymer and they fight. And as Mark puts his hands around Clymer’s throat, another man pulls a gun and holds it to his head. It’s Jeff.

“Mark,” Jeff says. “Get up.”

Mark says, “How did he know?”

And Jeff says they didn’t know….but after five years, and no witnesses, they had to resort to psychology. “It was a brutal thing to do to you,” Clymer says to Mark, revealing himself as Detective Inspector Iverson, Homicide. Jeff and Det. Iverson planned everything, set the whole thing up, the painting, the cottage, the flowers, the clothes. Several months earlier, they found her body after a landslide. They just had to get some sort of evidence.

They put the handcuffs on Mark and he asks pathetically, with tears in his eyes: “Did Debbie know?” Jeff and Det. Iverson tell him no. “She’s right. I never should have married her. There could never be anyone like Jocelyn.”

Please make a note of it:

Wasn’t this a GOOD ONE? I LOVE THIS ONE. It’s just really really fun to watch. It’s like an abbreviated version of Rebecca. Which Hitchcock directed, by the way. Rebecca won Best Picture at the Oscars, but Hitchcock never won an Oscar, not ever. Isn’t that ridiculous? Hitchcock never won an Oscar.

Philip Abbott plays Mark Halliday. He does a really good job in this. Everyone does. But he’s surprisingly sympathetic. At the end, when he asks if Debbie knows, he has tears in his eyes, and it’s a humanizing moment. Abbott was a respected character actor, not really known for anything in particular. But he did star in a couple of Twilight Zone episodes, and The Young and the Restless, and Murder, She Wrote. He passed away in 1998.

Debbie is played by Nancy Gates, who we saw in Salvage. This role makes more sense for her. She was a pretty lady, and clearly a nice girl. Way too nice for Mark Halliday.

Remember Raymond Bailey? I love him. He plays Jeff. He is most famous for his role as Mr. Drysdale in The Beverly Hillbillies, but he was a really good character actor, and was featured in movies and television. We saw him in Breakdown and The Case of Mr. Pelham. He is in 10 AHP episodes total, so we’ll be seeing him again. Yay!

John Baragrey plays Clymer/Det. Iverson. Film roles eluded him, but he had a steady career as a character actor on television. He died at the age of 57, from a cerebral hemorrhage. That’s so sad. But we do see him again, in an episode in Season 3.

Olan Soule played the gallery employee. He was a versatile and reliable actor, and had an incredibly long career, both in movies and television. He’s not a leading man, but really, if you’re going to have a career as an actor, you want this kind. The man worked and worked. We saw him in Our Cook’s a Treasure. He is in four more episodes, in later seasons.

And good old Harry Tyler. It’s always good to see him, isn’t it? He’s in forty billion more episodes.

Episode 1.27: Help Wanted.

Leave a comment

Starring: John Qualen, Lorne Green
Written by: Robert C. Dennis (teleplay), Mary Orr & Reginald Denham (adaptation), Stanley Ellin (story)
Directed by: James Neilson
First aired April 1, 1956

Episode Grade: B

There are a bunch of good ones in a row. This one is creepy and fun.

Hitch’s Intro:

Hitch is sitting in a rocking chair, reading the newspaper. “How did you find me?” he asks. He says he’s taking the week off to rest from television. He’s reading the want ads. He finds one that says: “Wanted: Host for television program….Must be witty, charming, handsome…..Why this is perfect!…..Apply……Alfred Hitchcock Presents?!”

Episode Re-Cap & Commentary:

Mr. Crabtree (John Qualen!) is finishing a letter in the living room of the apartment he shares with his wife Laura (Madge Kennedy). She asks him to read it to her. He reads, in a Wally Ballou sort of voice: “April 9, P.O. Box 11 Annex City, Dear Sir. Regarding your advertisement in the help-wanted section of the news of this date. If the position has not been filled, I should like to present my qualifications for your consideration. My age is 52 as of last October, I have been married for 27 years, have no family, my health is excellent”—and his wife says “That’s a blessing”–and Mr. Crabtree says, “Now, now, Laura, we’re gonna have you up and around in no time.” He tries to comfort her, and she turns her face away to cry. He mumbles and sort of gives up and continues with his letter: “For 31 years, I was employed by the firm of Stowe & Baker, the accounting and audit company, in the capacity of clerk. I believe my record for attendance and punctuality stands alone. The termination of my service was due entirely to my age, a short-sighted policy which I feel certain has already been regretted by the individuals at fault”……What the hell kind of letter is this?

He gets himself riled up thinking about his dismissal from Stowe & Baker. But we find out that when they let him go, he was so upset, he assaulted his employers. It was the only time in 52 years that he had ever done such a thing.

Days later, the phone in the hall rings, and Crabtree prances out to get it. It’s regarding his letter. And we see the shot of a man in a phone booth, a very tight shot, of just the back of his head. Oooo, spooky. Who’s this guy? The mystery man called Stowe & Baker and heard about Crabtree’s assaulting the manager. Crabtree says, “I don’t know what came over me. The horrible injustice of it, I guess.” He explains that he desperately needed that job because his wife is very ill, and it will never happen again.

“Very well,” the mystery man says. “My secretary will call on you within an hour. Good day, Mr. Crabtree.”

Mr. Crabtree has changed into a nice suit and is pacing in the living room. Laura thinks it’s strange that someone would even come to the apartment to interview him, that’s not a very common practice. There is a knock on the door, and Crabtree opens it to reveal a very 1950s secretary, complete with cat-eye glasses, white gloves, and a smart suit. Her name is Miss Brown (Ruth Swanson) and I want to be her when I grow up. Okay, not really. Well, sort of.

She explains that the position will require him to prepare confidential reports which will be mailed to his employer. He will be working alone, in his own office, with no supervision and no assistants. He will be sent subscriptions to financial journals, and given a list of corporations. Whenever one of the corporations is mentioned in one of the journals, he must make a note of it, and prepare a consolidated report which must be mailed at the end of every day. He will be paid $100 a week. (That’s $863.17 of today’s money.) He will be paid every Saturday, in cash, by mail.

Crabtree says he doesn’t understand the reason, but Miss Brown says he isn’t expected to be. His work is important and highly confidential. That is all he needs to know.

After Miss Brown leaves, Crabtree embraces Laura and says, “Now we can afford your treatments, and after we’ve saved a little, your operation!” We never know what it is Laura is suffering from.

The next morning, Crabtree arrives at his fancy building. His name is on the door of his office: Crabtree Affiliated Reports. It’s small. It looks out onto the New York City skyline. The windows open. He is quite high up. Crabtree sits at his desk and happily gets to work.

Weeks later, he’s telling Laura it’s like working in a vacuum and he doesn’t even really know the purpose of his job. He believes his employer has forgotten him, and at some point, the company he works for is going to wonder who HE is and why they’re paying him $100 a week.

When Crabtree opens the door of his office that morning, he is startled. We hear the mystery man’s voice say: “Come in, Mr. Crabtree.” The camera pans out and we see, again, just the back of the mystery man’s head. “I seem to have startled you,” he says in his booming, ominous voice. Crabtree agrees, and asks who he is. “I think that should be quite obvious. I’m your employer.”

Mr. X (Lorne Greene) gets up and opens the window and looks down on the city. Crabtree has no complaints about the job. Mr. X hasn’t even read the reports…..because he burns them when he receives them. Crabtree says, “You must be joking!” Mr. X says that he is actually completely devoid of humor, and he never jokes. Wow, I’ll be he gets invited to a lot of parties. Crabtree asks why. Mr. X says that there was a purpose. He says he needs a loyal employee to complete an assignment for him. If the assignment is completed successfully, then Crabtree will receive one year’s salary all at once, and no more reports to prepare. “That’s more than $5,000!” Crabtree says. (We’re talking $43,158.27 today, in one lump sum.) “It would mean a great deal to you and your wife,” Mr. X says. Crabtree says he is happy to complete the assignment. “I thought you would,” Mr. X says. “I want you to kill a man for me.”

minion-what

Crabtree says he’s incapable of such an act. But Mr. X says, “Are you? I was told that if they had not restrained you, you would have murdered the manager at Stowe & Baker.” Crabtree explains that it was a heat-of-the-moment thing. Mr. X says he envies Crabtree’s emotions.

This is so confusing to poor Crabtree. He asks for an explanation, and Mr. X thinks that’s fair. He married a woman who he believed to be a widow (and she believed her husband to be dead, as well), but they were wrong. The woman’s first husband has been blackmailing them. They can’t go to the police because it would be a terrible scandal. If Crabtree goes to the police, he couldn’t even tell them who Mr. X is. He’s got all the bases covered….and everything comes back to Mr. X not even existing. If Crabtree goes to the police with his “pathetic little story” he would be sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Mr. X chose that particular office, for its size (very tiny) and its beautiful view. It’s a long, long, long way down. The plan is this: A man will come to Crabtree’s office, asking for a donation, and Crabtree is to give him an envelope (which Mr. X hands to him), and then shove him out the window. Then he should close the window and go back to his reports. The police will believe it’s suicide, because the letter Mr. X just handed Crabtree is a suicide note. They will not suspect Crabtree of anything. If Crabtree does not succeed in this assignment, then he will no longer receive his salary. “For your wife’s sake,” Mr. X says, “I think you’ll have to do it.”

That night, Crabtree has trouble sleeping. He ultimately decides, for his wife’s sake, to go through with it.

The next day, Crabtree nervously opens and shuts the windows in his office. There is a knock at the door. “Come in,” Crabtree says, trembling. It’s actually a great bit of acting from John Qualen. A man comes in, asking for a contribution. Crabtree hands him the envelope. And the man starts talking to him and Crabtree becomes angry. “It’s parasites like you who should be exterminated!” he says. “Do you know what you’ve done? I’m losing my job! I was out of work for a whole year! Because of a stupid little man who….and now your’e ruining me, and my wife, she’ll be an invalid as long as she lives!” and he gets up to confront the man, but the man….accidentally falls out of the window.

Mr. X sees this, and then mails Crabtree’s wages. He goes into a phone booth and calls Crabtree. Crabtree, looking distraught and pathetic, answers….he tries to explain that it was an accident. Mr. X says, “Your rationalizations mean nothing. Your salary is in the mail. Congratulations. Goodbye.”

A police officer enters and asks Crabtree if he saw anyone, and Crabtree says he’s been alone all day, working, and the windows were closed. They quickly decide it really was suicide, and Crabtree had nothing to do with it and leave the office. That was very speedy. It was like the policeman just couldn’t be arsed to give a shit and just wanted to hurry up and get to the nearest doughnut.

The Twist:

As Crabtree sits back down at his desk, the door opens. It is a man asking for a contribution. The man asks where his money is.

“The wrong man got it,” Crabtree says. “Only it wasn’t money. It was your suicide note.”

The man asks Crabtree to explain. Crabtree, taking his hat and leaving the office, says: “You’ll have to take that up with the man you’re blackmailing. If he asks for me, tell him I no longer work here. As far as he’s concerned, I never existed.”

(And the music plays the “OH NO YOU DI’INT” theme I love.)

Please make a note of it:

We saw John Qualen in A Bullet for Baldwin and Shopping for Death. He does an excellent job in this one, he’s very sympathetic.

Before he was the spokesman for Alpo, Lorne Greene played Mr. X. He is known not only for the Alpo commercials, but for his role as Ben Cartwright in Bonanza, and Commander Adama in the 1978 Battlestar Galactica. He died in 1987, at the age of 72. This is his only AHP appearance.

Madge Kennedy is Laura Crabtree. She had a rather respectable but modest career. She is in several more AHP episodes, in many different seasons.

Miss Brown is played by Ruth Swanson. She didn’t have a long career, and isn’t in any more AHP episodes, which is a shame. She had charisma and that sort of…watchability that really fits right in with Hitchcock’s style.