Alfred Hitchcock Hour- Body in the Barn: “To bring to the light of day the two lies that together make a truth. “


As part of the THE GISH SISTERS BLOGATHON hosted by Movies Silently & The Motion Pictures

Annex - Gish, Lillian_07
Photo of Lillian Gish courtesy of Doctor Macro

Although Lillian Gish set the standard for excellence when she first started out in silent film having been discovered by D W Griffith in 1912, I’ll always love her as the resolute Rachel Cooper in Charles Laughton’s masterpiece Night of the Hunter 1955

Not to mention her memorable performances as Mother Mary of Mercy in Portrait of Jennie 1948 and Laura Belle McCanles in Duel in the Sun 1946, & Victoria Inch in The Cobweb 1955. I’d love to see the 1969 television version where she plays Martha Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace where she co-stars with Helen Hayes.

In Body in the Barn, Lillian Gish brings her manifest greatness to bare as Bessie Carnby a strong willed old lady who refuses to be coddled toward death, is a centerpiece of the community and loves the Apple Jack she hides under her pillow. When she butts heads with new neighbor Samantha Wilkins the sparks fly and Gish gives one hell of a performance!


The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Body in the Barn (3 Jul. 1964)

Season 2, Episode 32

Hitchcock Theme


Directed by Joseph Newman with a teleplay by Harold Swanton from a story by Margaret Manners.

Wonderful set direction by Julia Heron and John McCarthy Jr and cinematography by William Margulies.

Lillian Gish plays Bessie Carnby an intractable grand old lady who refuses to hold her tongue when the pretentious Samantha Wilkins (Patricia Cutts) and her ‘saggy kneed’ husband Henry (Peter Lind Hayes) move to the county and put up a fence.

Maggie McNamara is Bessie’s niece Camilla Peter, Kent Smith (Cat People) as Dr Adamson, Josie Lloyd (Lydia Crosswaithe The Andy Griffith Show and daughter to Norman Lloyd) is The Wilkins’ housekeeper Nora, James Maloney is Ed the storekeeper Doodles Weaver as Gregg, Bruce Andersen as Huckaby Richard Niles as the Deputy and Kelly Thordsen as Sheriff Pate O. Turnbull.

What makes this simple genteel mystery story set in a bucolic quaint American town work so well is Lillian Gish’s fortitude that brings a stunning exactness to her performance as a stubborn and proudful woman whose fierce independence won’t let the truth be denied its due.

In the opening prologue, Hitch as one of his various props is dressed up like a scarecrow. It was suggested that since he’s been frightening people for years ‘why not birds’.


It’s one of his funniest little introductions as he tells us about the evening’s story all Tuxedoed, stuffed with straw…and typically cheeky.

He had a number of visitors “One little girl and a tin woodsman who are quite bothersome. They seem to be under the absurd impression that I’m going to be up the road dancing with them…”

The story as Hitch suggests is one which inhabits a ‘Bucolic Mood.’ A pleasant little tale of homicide, lust, deceit revenge, and greed. A story that works its way backward in order to bring us up to the present day, using the lead character Bessie Carnby’s narration to tell us how things came to be the way they are. The episode has a bit of the voyeurism of Rear Window 1954 in it.

Lillian Gish brings to life Bessie Carnby, a staunchly proud woman, fearless and pragmatic. She’s an irascible old gal who’s been fending off death for years, can stand on her own two feet, and doesn’t like the idea that Samantha Wilkins, a harpy who owns a prosperous farm in the county has put up a fence along the community path.

Samantha’s veins are filled with ice as she bosses her husband Henry around and doesn’t care about being a good neighbor. After Effram Judge, Bessie’s handyman falls off the cliff into the white water rapids below though the body is never found, the vitriol and venom flow between these two women who have no need to parse words. Bessie blames The Wilkins fence for Effram’s accident. Samantha Wilkins shows no sympathy or concern for the poor man’s death or what the community thinks about her fence. It’s on her property and that’s that.

Bessie lives with her niece Camilla and is seen by Doc Sam Adamson. The unassuming Henry Wilkins befriends Bessie and Camilla and gets himself invited to dinner. But when he doesn’t show up, Bessie becomes suspicious that the virulent Samantha might have killed her husband and buried him in the barn.

Bessie has been listening to Camilla who shares Henry’s private confidences that his wife once attempted to murder him and he fears she will try again. After months with no letters or postcards or calls, Samantha refuses to tell anyone where her husband might be, Bessie and Camilla are convinced that something foul is afoot after Bessie spies on Samantha with binoculars watching the woman go back and forth to the barn with flashlight and shovel.

Gossip and nosiness go with any small community, but once Bessie sneaks into the barn to snoop around she discovers a grave and now Sheriff Turnbull and the town discover a quick-lime cadaver clutching one of Samantha’s buttons and wearing Henry’s wedding band. The body is thus identified as that of Henry Wilkins.

All eyes are on Samantha now as she is the number one suspect in her husband’s murder.

I don’t want to give away the ending to the story so I’ll leave you in the barn with the quick-lime stiff.

Doodles Weaver as Gregg.
the clerk catalogs the milk glass vase which secretly holds Bessie’s note inside.


Body in the Barn opens with moving men unloading the Carnby’s farmhouse antiques into a large truck. Bernard Herrman’s musical imprint pokes through the bucolic mood with clarinets and strings paying homage to nature and the simple life.

A dealer Mr. Huckaby (Bruce Andersen) is walking around appraising and cataloging all the contents of the house. The sundry knickknackery and antiques like milk glass, etc. Huckaby’s clerk (Charles Kuenstle) drops a milk glass vase as he fumbles with his clipboard.

When Huckaby inquires what it was, he assures the clerk that it was only a replica and to forget it. But the camera pans downward to show shreds of packing paper amidst the shattered shards of milk glass on the floor, and one rolled-up handwritten note sitting in the middle of the confetti debris.

Composer Herrmann’s wondrous musical swirls assist the lens in closing in on the note that was hidden within the small vase. Thus begins the voiceover… as Bessie narrates the evening’s story.

The voice-over begins-“By the time this is found, it’ll be all over. Justice would have had its day. The scales will be in balance again…

“By the time this is found, it’ll be all over. Justice would have had its day. The scales will be in balance again. {the scene begins to cross fade}
It will be all over with me too. I’m ill and tired and I’ve been dying so long I’m bored with it… I’d lived in the county a long time. This is my home. These are my people. Now they’ve turned against me. But still I owe them something. I owe it to them to set history straight. To bring to the light of day the two lies that together make a truth.”






We are dropped into a landscape of vast open fields. Lillian Gish as Bessie Carnby and our narrator is running frenzied in a nightgown and robe as if carried by the wind.

Aunt Bessie runs feverishly to the seaside cliff. She is met by her niece Camilla. “Aunt Bessie you turn right around and go on back home.” Bessie says, “Not on your life,” Bessie asks her niece, ‘Who was it? Who fell off that cliff last night? “ There is nothing you can do about it right now go on back to the house” ” Was it Effram?” She looks at her aunt direly. Bessie begs her “Tell me, tell me” “They think so… they haven’t found him yet.”

Bessie takes in a deep breath.

Camilla runs after her fiery Aunt. The sheriff asks the Wilkins, “What time did you hear him yell?”


“A little past 8 I’d say” Henry answers,  “Before 8” he looks at her. “Samantha I was in the barn by 8” She insists in her rigid tone, “He yelled before that” Henry replies, “I could have sworn” “About 10 to, I was in the kitchen and I heard it from the opened window”



Bessie, out of breath comes running up the hill and asks the sheriff, if they’ve found the body. He points to the raging waters below and tells her that if he fell into that, he probably won’t be found by this side of Tightwater.

Sheriff Turnbull says, “He had no business walking this path, dark coming on with his eyes as bad as they were Bessie.” She defends such a notion, “He wasn’t used to this path!”

Samantha Wilkins snaps, “He could have taken the road.” “A mile and a half out of his way” Bessie croaks out a passionate condemnation at the cold-hearted woman.


The sheriff asks “Is this a piece of his MacInall?”

“He was wearing it when he left” Bessie begins to cry.

Sheriff Turnbull figures, “Well he probably got it caught in the fence here and tried to get it loose and  got careless with his footing.”



“He wasn’t used to that fence… none of us are” Bessie spins around and glares at Samantha Wilkins who says. “I’m sorry about that”
Bessie exclaims, “It’s a great comfort to us all Mrs Wilkins… A great comfort to us all… He has a nephew in Rhode Island and he’ll feel a sight better when I tell him that the woman who put up the fence that killed Effram Judge is sorry.”
Samantha Wilkins’ caustic tongue doesn’t hesitate, “If it was my hired man I would have driven him home.”
Bessie meets Samantha’s barbs head-on, “Or if you were me you would have stayed in bed like the doctor ordered.”
CapturFiles_54 my fence belongs on my property line thats where i put it and thats where itll stay
“My fence belongs on my property line that’s where i put it and that’s where it’ll stay.”

“My fence belongs on my property line. That’s where I put it and that’s where it’ll stay… If it fenced off a short cuts that’s too bad it’s legal and proper… make of it what you will but don’t try to put the death of Ef Judge on my conscience.” –Samantha Wilkins

The banter between Lillian Gish and Patricia Cutts is a wonderful piece of dramatic interplay.

” I don’t have to put it there Mrs. Wilkins, that path’s been a public thoroughfare for over a century YOU had no right.”

Lillian Gish’s performance here is spectacular as she modulates her voice from an inner strength that springs forth from lifelong wisdom to a tone of righteous indignation.

The two women frame a powerful exposition of the old vs the modern vs the sacred traditionalism of small-town ethics and suggest to us a commentary on class struggle. The modern world has intruded on the old quaint ways of a simpler time. With the wealthy and almost demonic Samantha, entitled and encroaching on the quaint ways of an old-fashioned woman and the world she used to inherit. Causing one man’s death and alienating an entire community. Before the Wilkins came and put up the fence, life was simple. Bessie spells it out in her tirade perfectly.

Samantha starts to attack Bessie, “Since when…” but her husband Henry breaks in as if to plead with his wife to show some compassion, “Samantha…”

Sheriff Turnbull finally breaks up the quarrel, “Now there’s no point hashing this thing over now.”

Samantha Wilkin’s voices raises up an octave, “I’m not gonna stand here and hear that old biddy blame me…”
Bessie objects “Biddy!” Samantha adds “Yes and a snooper and a gossip and a community nuisance.” Bessie tries to argue, “You listen to me” Samantha overpowers her, “No wonder I put up that fence it’s the only protection I got with a neighbor like you.”
“I’ve been a good neighbor all my life. I’m a respected member of this community. I was a friend of the McKelvys long before you bought High Hollow. You and that saggy kneed excuse for a husband.” Samantha shouts, “Shut your mouth.”
“We got along before you. There was this give and take between us. None of this building of fences. We got along. But you (she points her finger at Samantha Wilkins) You’ll get your comeuppance you. You’ll see you’ll get your comeupp…”

Suddenly Bessie appears to have an attack. She collapses and Sheriff Turnbull catches her.


Henry Wilkins picks her up and tells her he’s taking her home. She’s gasping for air and out of breath but she tells him to put her down. Camilla calls out “Aunt Bessie…” In a rasping voice, she tells him “I’ll get there on my own two legs.”

The sheriff tells Bessie that if the doc knew what she was up to he’d have her hide.

Henry begins to carry her. She continues to argue with the exhausted breath she’s got left.



Samantha comments to Sheriff Turnbull “I guess I”m to blame for that too.” He answers her, “I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”


Crossfade- Camilla is in the kitchen. Henry Wilkins has brought some kindling wood. “Sure she won’t throw me out?” Camilla tells him Aunt Bessie didn’t mean it, it’s merely her way.

Henry walks toward the stairs carrying the box of firewood. He stares upward and pauses.


Bessie is laying in bed with a thermometer in her mouth. Henry enters the room and casually begins talking to Bessie as if they were old friends.




Henry“It’s no wonder you didn’t catch your death with that cold morning chill.”
Bessie“Been catching my death for three years… be a relief when it comes.”
Henry- “now now don’t talk like that.”
Bessie-“The whole county knows I’m gonna die…”
Henry-“After all isn’t everybody?”The only thing is you prattle so much about it, sounds as though you’re asking for sympathy.”
Bessie-“I don’t need that thank you… and I didn’t need you to tote me home” Her voice starts filling with a proud ire but she lightens up on Henry, “I got two good legs.
Henry-“I just did that to show you that my knees aren’t as saggy as you think.”
Bessie-“I wasn’t talking about flesh and blood knees… I mean the backbone kind” That statement had more spit in it.
Henry lights a fire and sits on the edge of her bed. “No need to thank me.”
Bessie sarcastically says, “Set down rest yourself.”

“You know this is the first time I’ve been inside of this house,” Henry tells Bessie.

Bessie snaps quickly, “It’s no fault of mine.”

Henry smiles “You can’t be as bad as you sound.”

Bessie tells Henry solemnly, “I was very fond of Effram Judge.”

Henry’s face turns serious as Bessie continues, “He worked for me for over twenty years.”

“I’m awfully sorry about that. I want you to know that the fence on the property was none of my doing… Samantha put her mind to it and I just couldn’t change it… If Samantha wants a fence on the property line we put a fence on the property line.” Spoken like a man whose spirit has been broken.

Bessie injects some wit into her dig, “That’s what I meant by saggy knees.”

Henry agrees, “I suppose you have a point.”

Camilla comes into the room and tells them Doc Adamson’s pulled up. Henry assures her that he thinks Bessie is really feeling better and that he’ll be going.

Camilla tells Henry she’s made some tea. Bessie tells her “If a man wants to go there’s no point in holding him.”

Doc enters the room. (Kent Smith)

Camilla tells Bessie that there’s no need to be rude and Doc says “Comes easily doesn’t it Bessie?”


Doc “No point in saying something nice when it’s twice as easy to chew a man out isn’t it Bessie.”
Bessie “Who are you to talk about chewin’ folks out Sam Adamson?”
Doc-“Now you shut up, can’t hear a thing with all that poison boiling around inside.” He listens to her heart.
Bessie- “Am I still alive?” “Barely… just barely,” he says.
Doc-“I don’t know if it’s my responsibility as a medical man to keep a woman like you alive when you’re so all fire bent on killing yourself.”
Bessie-“None of that soul searching” Bessie flings a barb at him. Doc- “You’ve been nipping at that Apple Jack again haven’t you Bessie?”
Henry and Camilla walk down the stairs and take in the conversation between the doc and Bessie.
“Don’t you try to hoodwink me Bessie Carnby.” Doc’s words follow the two down the stairs as they look up and hear the door slam.



Camilla pours the tea, Henry asks what was all that about Apple Jack?

“She’s very fond of it and he won’t let her have a drop.”

Henry raises his teacup in a toast to Bessie. Camilla tells Henry that it’s kind of him and that Bessie is very old and very tired.

A flirtation begins as Henry stares at her in a way that portrays him as less weak-kneed now and more precise in his demeanor “You make a very good cup of tea.” This is a double entendre as his flirtation indicates that she is actually a woman capable of pleasing him.

It’s a subtle moment when we realize a relationship is brewing like tea, between the two. The scene fades out.


A flame is dancing in the fireplace.

As the camera shifts to the right we see that we’re in the Wilkins living room. Henry is lying on the couch smoking a cigarette. We hear Samantha’s voice.

“The doings out at Bessie Carnby’s farm the other day moved us to re-read what we always thought was one of Robert Frost’s best poems…’Something there is… that doesn’t love a wall.”



Samantha continues to read the local newspaper, then scoffs  “And we ask poor old Effram Judge if he were still around would agree.”

The housekeeper Nora comes into the room, having finished the ironing.

Samantha continues reading “Henry and Samantha Wilkins who lives up in High Hollow Farm like the neighbor in the poem, want every stone in place… Good fences make good neighbors they said but only if the poet would ask who are they walling in or walling out?… The fence we claim will never make good neighbors of the Wilkins Ef Judge who fell off the cliff into whitewater rapids because of the fence will probably never be found. And all we can do is hope that if ever a monument is realized to him, he has the good taste to include Frost’s opening line- ‘Something there is, that doesn’t love a wall.”

Samantha stops her reading sets the paper on her lap and comments “Ha… seems we’ve not only taken on all of East Huntsville and the rest of the county we have to take on Robert Frost as well.”

“Henry I want you to go into town tomorrow and see this editor. This is a vicious personal attack and he’s got to be made to understand that…”





Samantha notices Henry’s daydreaming. She gets up and like a harpy tells him that she’s talking to him demanding he pays attention, but he stares out into space as she hovers.

“You know something, Henry Wilkins. Sometimes I wish it had been you had fallen off that cliff. If I’d been there I mighta given you a push.”

Henry remains in contemplation for a while until the scene fades into Henry fixing Bessie’s kitchen door. Bessie is sitting up in a rocking chair, a plate of apples on the table. There’s a quaint soundtrack of a pleasant day accompanying the scene.




“Mr. Wilkins thank you,” Bessie tells him that she’s not good at apologies. Henry tells her that he’s going to stop by from time to time to check in on her until she gets a new hired hand. She asks him to have supper with them.

He says he has to check with Samantha. She asks who wears the pants in the family and he jokes about her putting his saggy knees to the test.

Bessie tells him that it’s a formal invitation and Henry tells her that he’ll talk it over with Samantha and that if he’s still alive by supper time he’ll be there.

Later on…

Henry washes his face with cool water back at the Wilkins Farm.
Samantha comes out and tells him he’s late for supper.



Samantha comes out yelling that suppers getting cold. He tells her that he forgot the Carnbys had invited them over. She asks why?

“Just being hospitable I suppose,” Samantha tells him, “Well we aren’t going” “Why?” “Because I said so.”

“Well, I’m going and you’d better go back into the house” Samantha again defies Henry, “You are not going… is that clear.”

The scene fades- we see Camilla setting a formal table.


Bessie is spying on the Wilkins Farm waiting for Henry to arrive for supper.
reminiscent of Rear Window, the binoculars act as a spectator.

We hear Bessie call her from upstairs. “Camilla come here.”

Bessie is sitting at her window with a set of binoculars spying on the Wilkins Farm.

“There she goes again. She’s been out to the barn three times carrying a lantern. What do you suppose she’s up to?”

“Aunt Bessie you did an inexcusable thing daring him to come along.” Bessie answers Camilla, “Don’t fret about it… I don’t.”

“No matter what the provocation no matter what happened out there at the fence, you had no right to insult her.” Camilla reproaches her aunt.

“I don’t care if I did.” Bessie is stubborn as usual.

“You are old enough to know better and your big enough to bury your feelings for one evening.” Bessie ignores Camilla’s lecture still clinging to the binoculars set on the Wilkins barn.



Bessie gets her coat and scarf ready to go over and get Henry.



Camilla says, “Come on we’re going up there to invite Samantha Wilkins in person” Bessie insists, “Oh I will not” Aunt Bessie please… now don’t make me go up there alone.”

“Ohhh, the man has no gumption.”

Bessie hurries to the coat closet banging her cane, “He’ll stand up to her.”

Camilla tells Bessie how he’s in a trap and that Samantha owns everything. The farm, the furnishings, the car and she never lets him forget it.

Bessie says, “Well he could leave her.”

“He did once…She tried to kill him.”


“With a pistol. She missed it and then turned it on herself. He still has nightmares about it. He is deathly afraid of her.”

“That she’ll kill him?”

“That’s why I don’t want to antagonize her, I’d feel responsible if anything happened.”

Bernard Herrmann’s wonderful score is half-filled with delightful irony and mystery as the strings cry out in the dark country air.

Camilla and Bessie pull up in their car at the Wilkins Farm.




Samantha comes out of the barn with a flashlight and a shovel. Camilla calls out to her from the car “Mrs. Wilkins.”
Samantha- “What do you want?”
“Aunt Bessie thought she made it clear to your husband that she wanted you both to come to dinner and then when we began comparing notes we thought you might get to thinking it was only Henry. I hope you’ll forgive us.”
Lillian Gish wears a pale silken scarf over her delicate face, she looks like a porcelain doll. “I’d like to speak to Mr. Wilkins, where is he?” Samantha- “He’s gone.” Bessie- “Where” Samantha-“He didn’t say… he left very suddenly.”
Bessie-“When will he be back?” Samantha-“I haven’t the slightest idea… goodnight.”
Camilla asks “What do you suppose she was doing in the barn?”

Herrmann’s score becomes that bewildered cyclone of strings strokes the battle cry of mystery and danger.

Some thematic incidental Hitchcock music and his jaunty little caricature give us a momentary break from the suspense.
Next scene Doc Adamson is counting out pills. “Is the pain getting worse?” Bessie- “Considerable” Doc-“I’ll up these, one a day… but don’t take ’em if you can do without, understand?”
Bessie asks Doc “Sam sit down a minute.”Doc- “I know it’s getting worse, I wish there was something I could do. But all we can do from here on out is to fight the pain” Bessie-“That’s not what I wanted to talk about.”
“Sam Tell me… am I a nosy suspicious old biddy like that Mrs. Wilkins said? “
“Why do you let that woman rile you so… that’s one reason the pains gettin’ worse you sit here chewing that over all the time.”
“Sam answer me”
“Took up bird watchin’?” He picks up the binoculars.
Doc asks,  “How long has he been gone?”
Bessie tells him, “Ten days.”
“Well he won’t be the first man to take off after a fight with his wife”
“I think she did away with him… does that make me a busy body”
“It sure does… sixteen-cylinder jet-propelled. Now why in the world would you want to meddle with that when you got maybe 6 months left on this planet”
“Well, I can’t die here in peace with a murderess next door to Camilla. She’ll haunt me throughout all eternity”
“Who says she’s a murderess?”
“I do, he told Camilla she threatened to kill him”
“Well, that’s Pate Turnbull’s business, not mine… And your business is to tend to your own knitting and not your neighbors”




Doc Sam checks under the pillow case as he walks out and finds the Apple Jack he lets the pillow back over it. and gives her a glance. Her fingers are knotted as she looks back at him pondering…





Bessie looks out her bedroom window at the Wilkins Farm.

The scene switches to the kitchen and a table set with afternoon tea. Bessie asks Nora the Wilkin’s Maid if she takes cream. Camilla sits across the priggish Nora.



“Doesn’t that seem strange to you?… that he’d go off in the dead of night without packing a stitch?”



“Killed him… good heavens no. Well she may jump on him now and then but she wouldn’t do a thing like that…. that’s illegal.”

They are asking her to come to work for them part-time, yet this is a ploy to pump her for information about her employer Henry.

“Well, I don’t know how Mrs. Wilkins will feel about that.”

Camilla says “There can’t be very much for you to do now since Mr. Wilkins left. Bessie chimes in “He’ll be gone a long time they say” Nora asks “Who says?”

Josie Lloyd is so wonderful at playing prim and tense. As the neurotic Lydia Crosswaithe on The Andy Griffith Show, she demonstrates how she is not easily pleased yet quickly vexed by chit-chat, guitars, car rides, the sun, and just about anything fun.

Bessie says, “I just happened to hear it uptown” Nora reiterates Bessie’s question with a question “A long time?” Bessie clarifies, “Well after all you should know Nora you do the upstairs don’t you?”

“Yes Ma’am”

“Well, you’d know if he packed for a long trip or a short one.”

Nora answers, “Well that’s just the point… he didn’t pack at all… no suits no clothes not even so much as a toothbrush.”

Bessie and Camilla murmur, “Well well, indeed…” Nora finishes “It’s the lord’s truth not even so much as his toothbrush.”

Bessie presses on, “Doesn’t that seem strange to you?… that he’d go off in the dead of night without packing a stitch?”

Nora answers, “Well it’s a strange house.”

Bessie says, “I mean suspicious” Nora is naive, “Of what?” Bessie, “That she killed him!”

“Killed him… good heavens no. Well she may jump on him now and then but she wouldn’t do a thing like that…. that’s illegal” Nora takes the tea to her mouth- Josie Lloyd really does a really good job of playing uptight, straight, and drab as a cinder block.

Nora’s presence injects a bit of humor into the otherwise gruesome aspect that Henry might have been murdered and buried in the barn. And it’s a great way to end the scene as it cross-fades.

Sheriff Turnbull pours a bit of whiskey for Bessie

Sheriff Turnbull pours Bessie a drink, “There’s no law that says a man can’t leave town with or without a toothbrush”

Turnbull hands the drink to Bessie. Camila turns it down. Sheriff Turnbull says,  “If I wasn’t on duty I’d join you. You know I think old Doc Adams is doing himself a mistake denying you that good belt of Apple Jack. Two or three times a day you wouldn’t be so darn mean”  Bessie slams the glass down.


Bessie-“She hasn’t had a phone call from him since he left. Or a letter or a postal card… he didn’t pack a stitch of clothing not even his reading glasses And he didn’t leave town by train or bus. we’ve checked.”
Sheriff Turnbull-“Well you have, have you, well that still doesn’t mean that there was any foul play.”
Sheriff Turnbull-“Bessie I’m sorry.”
Bessie “Are you waiting for his body to turn up on the village green?”
Sheriff- “Now if it does, just don’t you hesitate to call me.”



Camilla takes the glass of whiskey from Bessie and tells her that she thinks his body is going to turn up closer to home she adds,  “I still wonder what Samantha was doing in the barn.”

Camilla and Bessie show up at the Wilkins Farm, Bessie holding a jar of preserves, “Peace offering” Samantha says, “I don’t know that I should.” Bessie tells her, “Go on take it whatever else I am Mrs. Wilkins I’m not sneaky… I don’t like doing things behind a person’s back. I was upset when your husband didn’t come for supper two weeks ago, I was puzzled when he didn’t come by to explain. But now a fortnight later and no word from him I must say I am concerned.”


“I’m sure he’d appreciate that… I don’t.”
“I’m sorry, have you had word from him?”
“It’s none of your business.”


“A phone call, a telegram? A letter?”

“Mrs. Carnby I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse me.”

Tempers flair, as Bessie shows her true ire and tells Samantha, “He didn’t fly off this property” Samantha tells Bessie to fly off before she calls the sheriff and hands Bessie back the jar of preserves.

Outside later that night with her flashlight and cane, Bessie goes to do some investigation of the barn.

Herrmann’s score pulsates with low strings and oboe flourishes.




The gray night suddenly turns this sleepy soap opera about small-town gossip and feuding neighbors into a Gothic fairy tale. There are also elements of a classic horror tale. The crickets decry it’s late at night and an eerie solitude abounds as the camera focuses on a window.

A dog starts to bark. Samantha calls out to the dog Penny to quiet down.

Bessie sneaks into the barn with her flashlight and begins looking around.

Once again, Herrmann’s score pulses with lower tones and swells of strings as the flashlight examines the straw-laden barn floor. The strings ask questions too.

Bessie starts poking the ground with her cane, moving a bucket. She feels a spot where the ground is soft.





The classic window shot. Samantha stares out the window framed by the glass. What does she know?








nobody here but us chickens…


Next scene there are crowds of neighbors and police flooding the Wilkins’ barn.


Bessie walking steady and fast with her cane tells the sheriff,
“I knew it when I saw her going back and forth to the barn.”


Men are digging and Bessie asks “How long has he been dead?” She asks Doc Sam who says he can’t tell because quick-lime was used. As photographers snap pictures of the dug-up grave Samantha says “It’s not Henry it can’t be.” Sheriff Turnbull tells her that she did buy quick-lime in town just before Henry took off.


Samantha-“A colt died he sent me for it we buried it out there in the pasture. We had three of them sick at once. I was doctoring the other two. That’s why I was going into the barn. That’s what she saw.”
Sheriff –“You still say your husband went off on a trip somewhere.”
“I do”
Sheriff-“You have no idea where?”





Sheriff -“Maybe you better take a closer look…Do you recognize this, Mrs. Wilkins?…
Who’s is it?” Samantha, “It’s Henry’s ring… Where’d you get it?”
“Afraid so, third finger left hand,” says doc
Sheriff Turnbull shows her something else. “And this button was in the other hand.”



It’s a button that’s been replaced on the vest Samantha is wearing.

We leave you off now with Alfred at the intermission and the Body in the Barn…


I love this episode’s quaint atmosphere that guards an unsettling story of greed, duplicity, and murder, in particular because of the presence of the great Lillian Gish. It’s wonderful to get to talk a little bit about this entry in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour canon for The Lillian Gish Blogathon…


Yours Truly-MonsterGirl

18 thoughts on “Alfred Hitchcock Hour- Body in the Barn: “To bring to the light of day the two lies that together make a truth. “

  1. Holy smokes, does this episode sound good! A body in the barn, antique dealers, spying on neighbors, Kent Smith as a doctor ( when wasn’t he one? ), AND Lillian Gish, what more can you ask for! Thanks for a superb review and for not giving away the ending. Can’t wait to see it now.

  2. Oh my goodness! Looks like a fabulous episode! And Hitch’s intro sounds like a complete riot!

    Thanks so much for the review and those great screen caps. I appreciate what you wrote about Lillian’s voice modulation. Though she was famed as a silent actress, she was just as effective in sound.

    Wonderful post! :)

    1. Thanks for asking me to be a part of your fantastic blogathon. Re-watching Body in the Barn was such a treat. Lillian gave a stellar performance as did the rest of the cast. But she really brought the story to life.

  3. Good write up. I have to say that looking at those screencaps one thing has remained constant in Lillian Gish’s career- it’s all in the eyes! :)

  4. This episode sounds so good! It’s too bad that the Hitchcock series are a little hard to find over here, but when I get the chance to see Body in the Barn I’ll remember you.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

    1. Hi Le- Thanks for stopping by I plan on reading your post. It was a great Blogathon and I still have to curl up and read a bunch of offerings. it’s hard to find all the episodes here too. If you like Lillian Gish you’ll love this episode. I’ll let you know when I’ve read your piece… Cheers

    1. Hey! I spent a month devouring all the television episodes as a marathon. I couldn’t stop watching either Presents or Hour. When I saw this particular one, It instantly grabbed me because of Gish’s performance. Let me know when you’ve seen it. I’d love to hear what you think….

      1. Thanks for the video,time advice. Can annyoe provide detail advice on wordprocessor’s and computers etc. I’m wanting to start my journey as a writer, and among other issues, I have a 2.4ghz laptop that randomly slows and fails to input words or even entire sentences,and my studio PC I built up which is ok, but I can never find a good keyboard. I see the younglady in the video uses an apple mac, annyoe with thoughts/advice on computer’s, software and accessories that compliment a writer.Thanks !

  5. I can only imagine how wonderful Lillian is in this episode, and it sounds like one of the best! I also wanted to repeat what some of the others have said: thanks for not giving away the ending.

    Lillian still looks fab in these screen shots. I’m not sure how old she’d be here, but she’s still beautiful, isn’t she? She aged very well.

  6. Here’s what I don’t get. Was the handyman killed by Henry and he buried him in the barn to frame his wife? I gather that is what he did, but I wasn’t completely sure.

    1. It’s funny you ask, but I found the plot a little convoluted myself. But I tend to think he also killed the handyman. They were a ruthless pair.
      Cheers, Joey

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