🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 – Part Three! Invasion of the Body Snatchers: I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until… until I had kissed Becky

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Don Siegel’s Science-Fiction Shocker– The original nightmare that Threatened the World!

… there was nothing to hold onto – except each other.– They come from another world!

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invasionofthebodysnatchers-

”I’ve been afraid a lot of times in my life-but I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until-until I’d kissed Becky.”

“The dark secret behind human nature used to be the upsurge of the animal… The threat to man, his availability to dehumanization, lay in his own animality. Now the danger is understood as residing in man’s ability to be turned into a machine.” – Susan Sontag

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956 took an ambiguous turn for many who still endeavor to analyze the film directed by Don Siegel, which was inspired by a well-known series in Collier’s magazine printed in three parts in 1954 from Jack Finney’s novel released in 1955. Siegel’s iconic film included a screenplay by Daniel Mainwaring.

Producer Walter Wanger so impressed with Finney’s story, bought the film rights before the third part had been published. Wanger discovered Don Siegel through his 1954 prison noir Riot in Cell Block 11.

The director also considered Invasion of the Body Snatchers as the favorite among his notable films. Body Snatchers has attained its status as one of the most influential alien invasion films and a signature science fiction narrative of the 1950s, that tapped into the cultural and historical zeitgeist of that decade. And although Siegel’s film can be seen as an intellectual film, ”it derives its strength from a nightmare situation – the sort of nightmare which a child tearfully explains as ‘It was like you, only you were horrible!” (Raymond Durgnat -The Subconscious: From Pleasure Castle to Libido Motel 1958)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers features a great ensemble of actors including Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, King Donovan Larry Gates, Jean Willes, Virginia Christine, Ralph Dumke, Tom Fadden, Everett Glass, and Dabs Greer.

Sam Peckinpah acted as dialogue coach and Carmen Dragon’s evocative film score has influenced both filmmakers and television directors alike. You can hear Dragon’s ethereal piano in such television shows as The X-Files and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

Ultimately in 1994, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was among the 25 ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films’ that are annually anointed as part of the US National Film Registry at the Library of Congress under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act of 1988.

The film plants the seed for the theme of paranoia, fear of ‘the other’, and invisible invaders who can swiftly replace individualism and individuals and transport them into a hive mind, a collective of unemotional, hollow pod people. The essence of this truly resonated with the sweeping anxieties of 1950s American culture.

On the set of Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1956.

Siegel’s protean ‘Invasion’ film sparked a range of political and social analyses of the alien ‘infiltration’ sub-genre of Science Fiction films, one that emphasizes the ‘take over’ where ‘we’ would no longer have a soul or any spark of humanity. It triggers for us… the fear of the death of ‘self.’ and the death of the ‘soul.’

Other classic Science Fiction with alien ‘infiltration’ themes of being ‘taken over’ is the most notably Invaders from Mars (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) and The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963).

“Made in 1956 in the middle of the decade, peopled by men in gray flannel suits, the silent generation, the status seekers, Senator McCarthy, and the lonely crowd, Siegel’s science fiction thriller was a cry of frustrated warning against the conformity and uniformity of a society that was blissfully living in the best of all possible worlds.” (Vivian Sobchack cites Charles Gregory)

Don Siegel managed to complete the shooting of the film within a tight schedule of just 19 days. To enhance authenticity, all the exterior scenes were filmed in natural locations around Los Angeles, specifically selected to resemble the small Northern California suburban town of Santa Mira. The city square featured in the film was located in Sierra Madre, east of Pasadena, while the chase sequence up the hill and staircase took place in a section of Hollywood known as Beachwood.

The 1950s witnessed a significant surge in mass migration to newly developed suburban areas, which in turn only strengthened the process of conformity, unrestrained with a vampirism of the soul creating an atmosphere that ‘bred apathy. (Kier-La Janisse) What writer Bernice M. Murphy called  ‘Suburban Gothic.’

Invasion of the Body Snatchers thrives on its ability to skew what is ordinary about American life in the 1950s and impregnate the screen with an unsettling narrative of paranoia and fear.

Paranoia was symptomatic of the late 40s and 50s postwar American science fiction ‘invasion’ films. We saw the perceptible tropes of the internal invasion of our human bodies that were transformed into imperceptibly altered bodies in a world plagued with suspicion, distrust, and paranoia.

“The imperceptibility of the altered body is a staple of the paranoiac world. Daniel Paul Schreber’s Memoirs of My Nervous Illness 1903 became the most famous paranoiac text, due to Freud’s analysis of it in his 1911 essay “Psychoanalytical notes Upon an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia (Dementia Paranoides) Within Schreber’s paranoiac system he perceives himself surrounded by replicant humans he terms ‘fleeting improvised men.’ Creatures resembling ordinary humans but who, in his view, are souls put down temporarily on earth by divine miracle.’’ (From Cindy Hendershot’s article From the Invaded Body: Paranoia and Radiation Anxiety in Invaders From Mars, It Came From Outer Space and Invasion of the Body Snatchers)

Siegel manages to make the tedious, hint at the terrifying, which reverberates in a seemingly normal scene; for instance when Miles and Becky go to visit her cousin Wilma played by Virginia Christine. “Memories or not, he isn’t my Uncle Ira.” Uncle Ira is missing ”a special look in his eye.”

Becky is haunted by the sense that her Uncle Ira (Tom Fadden) is not really her Uncle anymore. It is all very unremarkable as he affects the role of a suburban everyman mowing the lawn, mouth straddling his pipe as he leisurely remarks about the weather.

 “But Miles, there’s no emotion—none. Just the pretense of it. The words, gestures, the tone of voice, everything else is the same but not the feeling.” 

Continue reading “🚀 Keep Watching the Skies! Science Fiction Cinema of the 1950s: The Year is 1956 – Part Three! Invasion of the Body Snatchers: I didn’t know the real meaning of fear until… until I had kissed Becky”

It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 4

See PART 1 & 2 & 3 Here

💥SPOILERS

*The Lonely Hours -Gena Rowlands & Nancy Kelly- s1e23 – aired May 8, 1963

Gena Rowlands Bio:

The alchemy of Gena Rowland’s acting style is how she integrates her craft with an indescribable beauty and presence that is reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Before the emotionally distilled and complex actress emerged as an icon, Gena Rowlands set out with her husband John Cassavetes to create a new naturalistic landscape of independent American movies in the 1970s, that inspired generations of filmmakers. She began showing the attractive pull of her strength in dramatic teleplays for early television programming.

Shows like Robert Montgomery Presents, Ponds Theater Armstrong Circle Theatre Studio One The United States Steel Hour Goodyear Playhouse General Electric Theater, and of course Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She had a regular stint on the television police procedural series, 87th Precinct playing cop Robert Lansing’s deaf wife. In 1975 she starred alongside Peter Falk (One of Cassavete’s inner sanctum of actors along with Ben Gazzara) in Columbo’s season 4 episode Playback.

In feature films, she was cast as Jerry Bondi in Lonely Are the Brave in 1962, in Cassavetes’ A Child is Waiting in 1963, and in Gordon Douglas’ Tony Rome 1967 starring friend Frank Sinatra and Richard Conte.

Working since the mid-1950s Rowlands began to give shades of the forceful performances to come in the three episodes of Hitchcock’s series, in particular, The Lonely Hours playing off veteran stage actress Nancy Kelly.

Gena Rowlands was nominated for two Academy Awards for her performances in director/actor husband John Cassavetes’ films. In 1974 for A Woman Under the Influence and in 1980 for her gutsy portrait of one tough broad in Gloria 1980.

She was also nominated for eight Golden Globes having won two, and eight Emmys winning three. On November 14th, Gena Rowlands was finally given an Honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards ceremony.

“With her bold bone structure and the curtain of her wheat-gold Jackie O coif, Gena Rowlands is the classic Hollywood icon that got away…. Had she been born into the Studio ear of the 1930s or 1940s, one suspects that she would have sured up a career running across the grand roles, from the tough boots molls through to the stoic others and peppery femme fatales. She has the angular hardness which typifies the best of them in that period- one can imagine her, as easily as Crawford, Davis, Stanwyck or Bacall.” -bfi.org.uk

“I’d never seen anyone that beautiful with a certain gravitas. It was particularly unique in that time, when many women were trying to be girlish, affecting a superficial, ‘I’m a pretty girl’ attitude. It seemed to be the best way to succeed, but Gena did none of that. There was a directness—not that she wasn’t fun and didn’t smolder—but it came from a place that was both genuine and deep.” – Mia Farrow

Director Sidney Lumet in an interview with critic James Grissom, said: “The highest compliment I can pay to her—to anyone—is that the talent frightens me, making me aware of the lack of it in so many and the power that accrues to those who have it and use it well. And the talent educates and illuminates. She is admirable, which can be said of only a few of us.”

In Faces 1968, nominated for 3 Oscars, Rowlands plays prostitute Jeannie with director Cassavetes with something like steel and fearlessness behind her eyes asserting a challenge to try and reach her after being crushed by men. Rowland manifests a performance ‘aching with wordless solitude’ (Ebert)

In the visual poem about loneliness and the feeling of isolation, Minnie & Moskowitz 1971 stars Rowland as the edgy blonde Minnie who perceptively flickers with co-star Seymour Cassel and displays her captivating sensuality under Cyclopean sunglasses.

Minnie works in a museum and has never forgiven the movies for selling her a bill of goods. “The movies lead you on,” she tells her friend Florence. “They make you believe in romance and love . . . and, Florence, there just aren’t any Clark Gables, not in the real world. Still, Minnie dreams, and keeps a romantic secret locked in her heart: She’s glad the movies sold her that bill of goods. (Roger Ebert)

Rowlands garnered her first Oscar nomination for her unforgettable performance as Mabel Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence 1974 co-starring Peter Falk who is in the grips of Mabel’s mental illness.

“It left me exhausted and depressed-feeling. Some of the time, when you’re walking out there where the air is thin, you just hope you can walk back again.” -Gena Rowlands

From an interview with Matt Zoler Seitz – talking about A Woman Under the Influence-

“That was my favorite movie. I loved doing that movie. I loved it because I loved working with Peter Falk, I loved the mix of comedy in it, that was sort of real comedy. 

The film was about a woman who was obsessed with the love of her husband, for her husband. And he was a regular guy, worked for the city, had to do his work at night, or in daytime when there was a call for it. She plans so heavily for a romantic night, gets her mother to take her children over to her house, gets house in tiptop shape—she was a woman who was really obsessed. Then he got a call that the water line had broken and had to call her and say that he couldn’t come home later, and then he came back the next morning with all of his friends, and she was very happy to see him to offer them all breakfast, but mostly because she wanted to please him always, and she offers to make them spaghetti. Do you remember that scene?

Yes, I remember the spaghetti scene. Everybody remembers that scene, it was a great scene.

”It’s so wonderful to do a scene like that, where it feels so true. You can tell a lot about her in that scene. You see that everything she did was to please him…

I also liked the fact that in that film, I was a little wacko, but my husband understood that and he loved me, and it didn’t bother him that I was as strange as I could be. When I have this terrible breakdown and have to go away for a while, leave him and my children, oh—that’s a hard scene. We’re showing a hard moment in a person’s life, a terribly hard moment. Then she comes back and they try to make it easy for her as possible. It’s just so good, all the scenes.”

As Myrtle Gordon, Rowlands gives another masterful performance in Cassavetes’ Opening Night portraying a successful stage actress’s ‘final agony of bottoming out’ (Ebert), rehearsing a production of The Second Woman in New Haven, whose life is turned upside down after she witnesses a 17-year-old fan’s death outside the theater.

Gena Rowlands in Opening Night 1977.

Rowlands plays the role “At perfect pitch: She is able to suggest, even in the midst of seemingly ordinary moments, the controlled panic of a person who needs a drink, right here, right now.” (Roger Ebert)

She captures the restless energy that imbues the behind-the-scenes world of the theater and the ‘dreary perspective of Myrtle’s uninspiring production she stars in.’ (Chris Wiegand- The Guardian).

“All while descending into a prolonged crack-up involving binge drinking, consultations with mediums, and a repeat hallucination of a young girl… Early on, when Myrtle is first confronted with the hallucination/girl, there’s a closeup of Rowlands’ face that is an example of her unique genius. Even very talented actors feel the need to show an audience “what a moment is about.” Not Rowlands. In that closeup, Myrtle stares at the girl, wondering if she has finally lost her mind, and then she puts an almost welcoming expression on her face, before mouthing the word, “Hello!” It’s hair-raising.” Ebert)

Nipping at booze, Myrtle trips between reality on and off stage, drenched in an alcoholic delirium – “Rowlands’ drunkenness in “Opening Night” is in the pantheon of Great Drunks onscreen.” (Roger Ebert).

Myrtle drifts in and out of character conjuring visions of two women who do not exist. Virginia the role for which she is wary of, struggles to portray an older woman for the first time, a character who is aesthetically defined by her age. And embracing the phantom of Nancy, the young girl who died, whose youthful receptiveness is what she seeks to direct, all within an oppressive environment driven by the men she works with, director (Ben Gazzara) and ex-lover co-star (Cassavetes).

How can you bring a character alive if you don’t believe in them – Myrtle asks playwright Sarah Goode played by Joan Blondell. Myrtle needs to reclaim her identity on stage and for herself.

“The scenes in which Myrtle in Opening Night consults first one and then another spiritualist are typical of Cassavetes’ genius in filming madness. He gives us characters who are clearly breaking apart inside, and then sends them hurtling around crazily in search of quick fixes and Band-Aids. (In “Love Streams,” the hard-drinking Cassavetes surrounds himself with hookers, while Sarah (Rowlands), as his sister, fills a taxicab with animals she has “rescued” from a pet store; in “A Woman Under the Influence,” a crowd of basket cases sit down to eat a big dinner that has been whipped together under the delusion that life is normal and everybody is having a great time.” Roger Ebert

Gena Rowland in Gordon Douglas’ Tony Rome 1967.

In Gloria 1980 directed by John Cassavetes, a film Rowlands considers a ‘gangster comedy’ gets to play the hard-edged gun moll she would have perfected in the best film noirs of the 1940s. The film takes an unexpected approach to motherhood- as Gloria Swenson becomes the reluctant guardian of a little boy whose family is murdered by the mob. The two go on the run in the gritty streets of New York City in possession of a book that the mob wants. Rowland is never fake while she roars and swears at the thugs chasing her on the subway, moving like the wind down the sidewalks of New York in her silk suits, handling her gun like an uncompromising pro. ‘‘I don’t want to be a victim! Victim, that’s passe, I’ve played a victim. I don’t want to be a victimized, you know, a victimized person again…This is a victimized person isn’t it?’  he assures her -‘’ No, it’s not a victimized person. A very strong person. You’re not a victim, you’re an ‘anti-victim.” ”Good, don’t get it in your mind that I’m a victim!’” (Rowlands from a conversation with husband John Cassavetes).

Cassel and Rowlands in Minnie and Moskowitz in 1971.

Gloria for Gena Rowlands is where she gives flight her roles rooted in vulnerability and deep psychological storms. In the film, she attains ascendency and puts a gun to the head of the personal victimization, and defies some of her older collaborative roles with Cassavetes interpreted by instability and downward spirals. She wouldn’t allow herself to be trapped by stereotypes of ‘eccentric, middle-aged women.’ which was a role that established her on-screen persona in the 1970s.

“Love is a stream. It is continuous. It doesn’t stop.”

In 1984’s Love Streams, directed by John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands portrays Sarah Lawson, a character whose life has been unexpectedly upended when she finds herself in the midst of a divorce from her husband Jack, portrayed by Seymour Cassel.

Adding to her pain, her young daughter Debbie (Risa Martha Blewitt) chooses to live with her father instead. At a time when she questions whether she is worthy of love, experiencing an emotional breakdown she reaches out to her brother Robert (Cassavetes).

Rowlands objected to Cassavete’s script finding herself once again playing a ‘victimized person’, but he assured her that Sarah was truly strong.

Sarah’s divergence from the past ‘madwoman archetype’ is in her resilience from her earlier roles in the 70s – as Mabel in A Woman Under the Influence whereas her therapist in Love Streams has a similar commentary that her love is “too strong for her family,’’

And unlike Minnie who is stripped down by Cassel in Minnie and Moskowitz in 1971, and Myrtle Gordon whose mind becomes fractured during the New York premiere of her play in Opening Night, Sarah comes to a reckoning about how love flows and can be reached. And no one but Rowlands could compel heartache to emerge out of a smile.

Source Andrew Key

Source Chris Wiegand The Guardian

Source: RogerEbert.Com

Nancy Kelly Bio:

Actress of radio, stage, film, and television, Nancy Kelly with her whisky voice became a Hollywood child actress who performed alongside Gloria Swanson she was talented enough to appear on Broadway in a revival of Macbeth Macbeth in 1926 and was Tyrone Power’s leading lady in John Ford’s western Jesse James 1939. And cast in the lead role in the low-budget horror movie about a woman who claims the is the reincarnation of a witch burned at the stake 300 years ago in Woman Who Came Back 1945. Having worked on the radio on The March of Time between 1932-37 and appearing on stage drawing great reviews for her performances as Blossom in Susan of God and for Clifford Odets’s The Big Knife, and Season in the Sun 1950, her most unforgettable role was as Christine Penmark, Rhoda’s (Patty McCormack gave a delirious performance as the sociopathic Rhoda) mother in director Mervyn LeRoy’s psychological drama The Bad Seed 1956.

Nancy Kelly in John Ford’s Jesse James 1939.

Kelly’s performance is a riveting at times cringeworthy examination of a mother cornered by maternal conflict when she discovers that her seemingly innocent little blonde angel is in fact a cold-blooded psychopathic murderer.

“virtually everyone in the film becomes so fantastically abnormal that it grows ridiculous and grotesque. Little Patty McCormack, who plays the murderer, not only acts with incredible sang-froid but she also postures with such calculation that it is hard to see how anyone could mistake her show of innocence for a fraud.” – Bosley Crowther

Nancy Kelly wore the role of Rhoda’s mother in both the theatrical Broadway, 1954-55 stage production and the adaption to the big screen.

Walter Kerr of the New York Herald Tribune wrote of her Tony Award-winning stage performance:

“Though Miss Kelly has done attractive work on Broadway before, she has never really prepared us for the brilliance of the present portrait” (Walter Kerr-New York Times, January 14, 1995).

In contrast to Kerr’s take on Kelly’s performance, the often unforgiving Bosley Crowther wrote this scathing assessment of her work in the film:

“Nancy Kelly makes the mother of this child so saturnine and so foolishly fatalistic that her outbursts of frenzy toward the end when little darling coolly compounds her murders, deprive her of the sympathy she should have. This reviewer had the inhuman feeling that this poor woman oddly got what she deserved.”

In 1956, she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance in The Bad Seed but lost to Ingrid Bergman in Anastasia.

Kelly dove effectively into television starting in the 1950s by appearing in episodes of Studio One, Playhouse 90, Climax!, Suspicion, Alcoa Theatre, and a particularly tense performance as Janet Willson who is daunted by an unseen manic during one dark rainy night in

As sure as my name is MonsterGirl, this is a Boris Karloff Thriller! “The Storm”

The Boris Karloff’s Thriller episode The Storm. She also appeared in the Edmund O’Brien series Sam Benedict, Medical Center, and her next last appearance in Jack Palance’s underappreciated cop show Bronc. And lastly, the made-for-TV movie Murder at the World Series in 1977.

She died in 1995 of complications from diabetes at the age of 73.

NANCY KELLY DIALOGUE:

Vera-“Michael and I are leaving now Mrs Henderson, I’m taking him home with me. Oh, I am sorry for you because I think in your own way, you’ve grown really fond of my baby. But you see Michael is my child. I’ve known that from the very beginning….”

SYNOPSIS:

Amidst the chaos of family, confusion, and anxiety, Murray’s music is tragically beautiful and stretches you in deep places.

Directed by Jack Smight this is perhaps one of the most disturbing yet poignant performances for  Nancy Kelly The Bad Seed 1956 as Mrs. J. A. Williams/Vera Brandon alongside Gena Rowland as housewife Louise Henderson. Louise finds herself in conflict with the cryptic Vera Brandon who lives under the cloud of delusion, and despair.

Joan Harrison had envisioned a narrative that is entirely woman-centered, and the story is framed within the world of women, a tribalization of motherhood, viewed through the eyes of women and by using an all-female cast.

The episode which is driven by a sense of extreme unease was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Program – Drama. It is considered to be one of the best episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Joyce Van Patten is delightful, playing Louise’s next-door neighbor Grace, and it’s always fun to see her do anything. Juanita Moore has a bit part as Mrs. McFarland. And character actress Jesslyn Fax plays the landlady, Miss McGuiness.

Based on a novel by Celia Fremlin called The House Before Dawn with a screenplay by William Gordon, and a most extraordinary soundtrack music by composer Lyn Murray.

The Lonely Hours features the work of two masterful actresses, Rowlands who is solid and intuitively manages to tap into the wavelength that something is just not right with Kelly’s character. Nancy Kelly, while a menacing figure who threatens Rowland’s breezy yet frenetic suburban world, manages to come across as a sympathetic, damaged woman who is haunted by loss.

It is perhaps one of the most intense teleplays, the story and its performances of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour series, aside from perhaps Teresa Wright’s performance in Lonely Place, interesting that both titles include loneliness as their theme.

The Hendersons had considered renting a room upstairs to a student to bring in extra money. Louise’s husband is out of the picture for the entire episode except when Louise invokes his existence during their sparse one-sided phone calls.

When the curious Vera Brandon shows up looking for a quiet room to rent in order to finish her thesis, she spots Louise’s little boy Lonnie and the camera catches her fixating on him in his high chair. It strikes us as well, that little Lonnie has dark curly hair, looking more like he’d be the saturnine Vera Brandon’s child than the polished blonde Louise.

Once the dangerous, deranged Vera Brandon moves in the suspense begins.

but first…

The episode opens with Tchaikovsky blasting on the record player. Rowlands is on the phone trying to make arrangements and going over the minutia of life, taking care of the house and her two little girls who are a distraction running around. Nancy Kelly walks in on the din of the crazy life of an upper-middle-class housewife.

Though obviously a tireless mother and housewife, Louise Henderson is purely flawless, dashing around the kitchen serving breakfast, feeding her 7-month-old little boy named Lonnie, and keeping tabs on her girls, she still manages to look like the cover of Good Housekeeping with her chic sleeveless dress and fetchingly coifed golden hair. The telephone rings and it’s her husband calling long distance, he is away on a business trip and will be gone for another week.

The harried Louise is trying to wrangle the precocious and imaginative girls, one of them is Joyce Van Patten who comes over most days to play. All three keep her busy while her husband is away on business. We never meet him, he is a phantom on the phone to us.

Miss Vera Brandon (Kelly) enters comely, polite, tailored, and a bit more old-fashioned, she is a bit of a contrast next to Louise who is more bourgeois and chic. The girls let her in while their mom Louise is still talking on the phone. Vera Brandon already transforms the space as she begins to take control in tiny ways. She immediately turns off the record player, then she concentrates on Lonnie.

As Vera inquires about the room to let, and when Louise remarks that she and her husband had only been thinking about renting a room, Vera explains that someone at the university must have mentioned it. She explains to Louise (Rowlands) that she needs a quiet place to work on her thesis.

After seeing the room, which is a bit small and cluttered at first, Vera decides to rent the room for $30 a month.

Shortly after Vera Brandon moves in, Louise becomes very suspicious about the woman in her house and why she seems so engrossed in Lonnie.

In the next scene, Vera pulls up in front of a different house carrying a bassinet bundled up in blankets that she watchfully holds close to herself while she goes into this other secret apartment that she is renting under the name of Mrs. J.A. Williams.

Her landlady Miss McGuiness (character actress Jesslyn Fax known for Rear Window (1954), Kiss Me Deadly 1955 and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) is renting it to the mysterious Miss Brandon for an extra month and has been told that it’s for her and her baby son Michael.

Something strikes us as off with the way she is holding the bassinet, we sense there is no baby. There is something tangible about Vera – she is deranged and may even be dangerous.

When Miss McGuinness knocks on Vera’s door she seems alarmed. She tells her that Michael is asleep and keeps her landlady at bay standing outside the door, but takes the toy from her that came in the mail that day. After she tells her that they’ll be staying longer and that she and the baby will be staying with a friend for a few days. Vera puts the toy next to the bassinet and the baby is revealed to be a doll.

Miss McGuiness seems curious about the baby peeking in the baby’s room just a little to try and catch sight of him. Miss Brandon takes out a brand new musical toy horse, winds it up, and places it by an almost lifelike baby doll covered in the blanket.

Later while having coffee together with Grace (Van Patton), Louise mentions that Miss Brandon knows her professor’s husband but she tells Louise that Vera Brandon’s name doesn’t mean a thing to her.
Although Miss Brandon said she knew Grace’s brilliant husband. Brandon also seemed to know both she and Mark are blondes. Vera Brandon is very dark like Lonnie who has very thick dark black hair.

Joyce Van Patten – “If this woman is going to arouse all your latent hostility why take her in?”
Rowlands “In the first place it wasn’t hostility It was idle curiosity and in the second place I need the extra money in the first place.”

Vera Brandon arrives with her suitcase, and Louise introduces her to her friend, Mrs. Grace Thorpe

in a telling moment, explains the topic of her doctoral dissertation to Grace, who looks on blankly and then turns and invites Louise to a fashion tea. Vera is portrayed as a slightly older, educated woman, who does not fit in among the vapid suburban housewives.

Grace (Joyce Van Patten)“Louise tells me that you’re writing your doctoral thesis.”

Vera “Hmm, I’m a few years behind my original schedule.”

Grace “In what field?”

Vera “Oh, I’m doing a comparative study of the effects of alien philosophy. I’m in history – Greek origins really.”

Perhaps allusions to the classical myth of Medea about the woman who murdered her children.

Grace looks completely struck dumb by Vera’s intellectual nitty gritty. She switches to a topic she’s more comfortable with and tells Louise that she really wants her to come to the fashion tea tomorrow and so Vera Brandon uses the opportunity to volunteer to watch Lonnie and Louise agrees to it.

Vera Brandon goes into Lonnie’s room while he’s fussing and she quiets him down, “I’m here now. I’m here with you and I’ll never leave you. I’ll never leave you – sshh Michael.” She holds Lonnie’s hand as he looks up smiling at her.

The next morning the girls joke that Miss Brandon is ‘a spy… a secret, atomic spy’ but Louise is used to the girls and their wild imaginations and the games they play with each other.

When Louise leaves for the fashion tea, Vera is left alone with Lonnie, and she is able to call him Michael. She drives him to her other home and now can freely show him off to her landlady, no longer a doll hidden in a blanket. Vera is thrilled when Miss McGuiness tells her that Michael is ‘just the image of you.’ Once inside, she takes Lonnie into the room she has turned into a nursery with a crib and toys. Vera’s neurotic motherly attachment to the baby only intensifies the tragic and disturbing nature of her actions.

We assume that Vera has finally taken off with Lonnie but at the end of the day she has returned to Louise’s home, Vera opens up Lonnie’s door. It is a surprise to us that she has brought him back to his mother. Louise finds Vera holding Lonnie very dearly.

The moment is a tense one and Louise seems disquieted by Vera’s attention on her son, then she sees the toy horse in the crib. “Where did this come from?” She asks the little horse. Vera Brandon tells her she bought it while she was out and that it has a music box and plays a lullaby. Louise seems visibly struck in a weird way. Her Intuition?

At night, Louise is reading in bed when she hears Lonnie crying. She goes to his room to find Vera holding him and walking back and forth, trying to comfort him. Louise gives Vera a quick lesson in parenting and Vera internalizes her antagonized by this.

cross Fade:

Late at night, Louise hears Lonnie crying. When she goes in to check on him she finds Vera Brandon holding him.

“I was awake Mrs. Henderson. I thought I might reach him before he disturbed your sleep.”

Louise seems vexed and grabs Lonnie from her arms and admonishes her.

Louise “It’s wrong to pick up a baby every time he cries, Miss Brandon. I’m trying to coax him to sleep through the night.” But she replies, “I think the baby is hungry Mrs. Henderson.”
Louise “I’m sure he is, I’ll take care of it. “

Vera Brandon looks wounded. Louise calls upon her maternal privilege to put Vera in her place.

Louise is quickly developing a more heightened sense of distrust, and drawing on her instincts that something’s off with this woman in her home.

Her girls find a little book with a few men’s names in it, including their father’s name. Louise assures her daughter that Miss Brandon is not a spy. But even her little girl notices that there’s something strange about Vera. And senses that her mother doesn’t like her.

Vera overhears that Mark will be home in a couple of days.

When Louise and Grace go out for the day and Lonnie is left with Katie, a babysitter that Louise specifically hired to watch Lonnie instead of Vera.

But Vera takes Lonnie out of the house again, telling Katie that Louise said it would be okay for her to take him out with her shopping. Vera takes Lonnie back to her secret apartment again.

When Louise returns home and finds Lonnie gone, Katie tells her, “Miss Brandon hasn’t come back yet.”
Louise “Yes I noticed her car was gone.”
Katie  (Willa Pearl Curtis) “But the baby’s with her.”
Louise “What!”
Katie ”Well Lonnie was fussy and she had some shopping to do, so she thought the fresh air might do him good.”
Louise yells “Katie!”
Katie “What, What’s wrong?”
Louise “Wrong! She has Lonnie”
Katie “Well she said it would be alright with you.” Shaking her head
Louise “Katie you had no right to do this.”
Katie “Do what?”
Louise “How could you let her take him out of your sight?”
Katie “Well she said it was alright with you.”
Louise “Katie I changed your day this week so you would be here with him YOU, not HER!”
Katie “But you never told me, Mrs. Henderson.”
Louise “Oh Katie.”

Grace “Louise Louise you’re falling apart.”

Louise “You haven’t seen anything yet!”

Grace “What are you going to do?”

Louise “I’m gonna call the police.”

Grace “Louise don’t you think you should find out what happened first before you make a fool of yourself?”

Vera Brandon walks in with Lonnie.

“Mrs. Henderson.”

Louise “Where have you been?’’

Vera Brandon “Surely Katie told you we went for a little walk.”

Louise “How dare you take my baby out of this house without my permission!”

Louise grabs him away from Vera Brandon. 
Vera Brandon “It just never occurred to me that it would upset you. I was out shopping and I found your little bakery. Well, we’d a been home earlier but I stopped to buy you some of that coffee cake you like so much.”

Louise looks over at Grace. Feeling guilty and Grace looks back like she believes that her friend has overreacted to a very nice gesture. She has embarrassed herself momentarily but trusts that she’s right about the situation and her suspicions about Vera Brandon.

Louise is snooping through the drawers in Vera’s bedroom and finds the small black book with three names and addresses in it and tears out the page. Her husband, Mark Henderson is one of them.

As Louise does some investigating she finds out that Vera Brandon has given three different reasons including her renting the room from her, for trying to get close to each of the three families, each with a boy 7 months old.

Louise goes in search of the two other names in the book. Looking for some answers and hoping to find a connection between the three people and Vera Brandon.

Louise hunts down Sandra Mathews, (Jackie Russell who appeared on episodes of Thriller and The Night Stalker, as well as the episode with Diana Dors- Run for Doom of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) a young mother who accomplishes looking upbeat and snapping gum in her mouth while filling Louise in about her encounter with Vera Brandon. Sandra recalls that Vera came to the house when her baby was three months old to offer him a modeling contract. Robbie is a little blonde boy.

She tells Louise –“Oh yeah did she come after you too? That one with that baby modeling pitch?”

Louise “Well she’s rather tall and dark.”

Sandra “Yeah that’s her. She came around when Robby was about 3 months old. I told her when Robbie’s six months I’ll sign, but I didn’t expect to see her again.”

Louise “Why not?”

Wife “Well I mean my little guy’s real handsome, I mean a real doll, but this Miss Brandon hardly even looked at him. Like nothing.”

Next Louise goes to the McFarland Motel. There she meets Juanita Moore. Her son Joel is 7 months too, like Robbie and Lonnie.

Louise “I’m looking for some people name McFarland.”

Mrs. McFarland (Juanita Moore) “I’m Mrs. McFarland.”

Louise “Oh how do you do I’m Mrs. Henderson. Your name was given to me by Vera Brandon.”

Mrs. McFarland ‘‘Oh yes, I remember her.”

Louise “Was she working with a modeling agency?”

Mrs. McFarland “No, she didn’t mention that. She read my husband’s advertisement and telephoned for part-time secretarial work We’re in insurance and real estate, we run this Motel.”

Louise “But she never worked for you?”

Mrs. McFarland “She came by to see us but then she lost interest right away.”

Louise “Oh well thank you I won’t take any more of your time. Bye-bye Joel. He sure is a healthy looking one.”

Mrs. McFarland “He really is. I had him with me from the very first. I think it makes a difference.”

Louise “So did I. That’s why I love St. Dominics.”

Mrs. McFarland “St Dominic Hospital? That’s where I had Joel.”

Suddenly Gena has a flash, “St Dominics?”

She goes to the hospital and asks about the other two mothers she finds from the book and
questions the sister if she remembers a Vera Brandon. The sister tells her, there was a Vera but, “it wasn’t Brandon, it was Williams.” She goes to look at the records. Louise finds out that Vera lost her baby named Michael.

The sister, “Oh yes I remember her now. She was one of our sad ones. Her husband had deserted her and her baby died.”

Later on the phone with her invisible husband “Oh no Marc I’m not afraid, it’s just that I don’t want her here any longer.” Louise plans on gonna asking her to find another place to live.

Vera Brandon comes into the room once Louise hangs up with her husband, and informs Louise that she’s leaving. “Actually Mrs. Henderson I’d like to talk to you about the room. I do hope you won’t be offended, but I spend almost the entire afternoon looking for another place to live.”

Louise, “Well no, we said we’d try it, and if it didn’t work out.”

Vera Brandon “Well if it weren’t for my work I’d be pleased to stay, but I did see a place this afternoon that I think will be a little better for me.”

It seems that Vera is planning something with Lonnie and it’s about to happen.

Louise seems relieved, a light comes over her she doesn’t have to deal with this problem anymore –

Louise “When would you be leaving?”

Cinematographer John F. Warren always seems to frame the two women’s faces using low-key lighting to emphasize their eyes.

Gena Rowlands sparkles and Nancy Kelly is deep and sadly hollow. The dramatic exchange between these two marvelous actors throughout the episode is remarkable as it is disquieting.

Vera Brandon “Oh tomorrow, the weekend is a good time to get settled.”

She asks for a cup of coffee, then she laces it with sleeping pills to knock Louise out so she can grab Lonnie/Michael.

In Louise’s stupor -half sleep-half woozy from the drugs she hears Vera Brandon speak to her

“Michael and I are leaving now Mrs. Henderson. I’m taking him home with me. Oh, I am sorry, I really do feel sorry for you. I think in your own way you’ve grown really fond of my baby. But you see Michael is my child. I’ve known that from the very beginning. From that first day 7 months ago. See they brought me your baby and they told me it was mine. Oh, that poor pale weak little thing. But I knew they were lying.”

Louise figures out where Vera Brandon has taken Lonnie after the girls tell her that ‘the spy lady’ left her coat behind with a piece of paper with her address on the rent receipt in the pocket. She calls the police and tells them that Vera has kidnapped Lonnie, and Grace comes over for support.

Louise confronts Vera.

Louise “If you’ve harmed that baby.”
Vera “Harmed, you think I’d harm my own son.”
Louise “That baby’s not yours.”
Vera Mrs. Henderson everybody in this neighborhood knows my son. We’ve lived here for over a month. They know him at the candy store, they know him at the drug store, at the toy store, and even my own landlady knows him. “Would you like to talk to her?”
Louise Mrs. Williams, Miss Brandon, You’re Michael is dead.”
Vera “Your Lonnie is dead. Oh, I know how hard it is for you to face it. I know but you have a beautiful home and a lovely family.”
Louise “Hospitals don’t make mistakes.”
Vera “It was deliberate they meant to do it.”
Louise “No you’re wrong.”
Vera “No I was conscious every minute when Lonnie was delivered I saw him before he took his first breath I know. Mrs. Henderson, I don’t think there’s any point in continuing this. Now I want you to go away and I want you to stop annoying us and if you still persist in coming here I’m gonna have to take steps to see that you stop.”

Finally, a policewoman arrives pretending to come help clear everything up and to take Vera to the hospital to get the birth certificate for Michael so she can prove he is hers. She convinces Vera to come with her to St. Dominics.

The turmoil wakes up Lonnie but when Vera picks him up, she cannot quiet him, becoming frustrated she begins to shake him violently. Hysterical, Vera yells at him “What’s wrong with you!”

Vera speaks not to the two women, but to herself, “That’s another terrible thing that they’ve done, they’ve let him stay with them for all these months he doesn’t even know me.”

Louise comes out of the nursery holding the doll swathed in the blanket and offers him to Vera, “He’s quiet now.’ The pain of watching Vera Brandon quietly disassemble is unbearable to watch. His pain is palpable. She is lost in a state of agonizing delusion. Nancy Kelly’s performance is absolutely heart-wrenching.

The policewoman takes Lonnie and hands him to Louise, then there is a shot of the creepy lifelike doll sitting in a playpen.

Vera walks toward the door of her apartment, accompanied by the policewoman, and Louise returns to the nursery and holds Lonnie tightly in her arms.

CREDITS:

Starting in 1960, Gordon added writing for TV to his repertoire in addition to his acting career. He went on to pen scripts for a range of shows, such as Thriller, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, among others, until 1981. During this time, he also took on roles as story editor or consultant for various series, including The Fugitive, and directed a couple of TV shows. Moreover, Gordon produced a total of 32 episodes of The Fugitive. Among his notable writing credits are six teleplays for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, the first being “Bonfire,” co-written with Alfred Hayes. He followed up with “The Lonely Hours,” adapted from the novel The Hours Before Dawn.

In 1958, Celia Fremlin Gollar published her debut novel, The Hours Before Dawn, which she wrote during sleepless nights spent pushing her baby around London. Inspired by her own experience with parental sleeplessness, she crafted a story exploring this theme, which became her first published work.

The Hours Before Dawn was adapted for television for the first time as a live broadcast on the U.S. Steel Hour on September 23, 1959. The cast included Colleen Dewhurst as Vera, Mark Richman as Mark, Teresa Wright as Louise, and Jack Carter as another character, with Philip Lewis credited as the teleplay writer. Unfortunately, this live broadcast is now lost.
The second TV adaptation of Fremlin’s novel, titled “The Lonely Hours,” aired on CBS as part of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on Friday, March 8, 1963. The teleplay was written by William D. Gordon.

Joyce van Patten plays Louise’s friend, Grace; she was a busy actress in film and television from 1946 to 2018 – Her TV roles included parts on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Odd Couple.

Alice Backes plays the policewoman at the end of the episode. She is a familiar face on television having worked in radio and then in film from 1948 to 1978. Her busy television career lasted from 1952 to 1997 and included roles in Boris Karloff’s Thriller, The Night Stalker, and six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including one of the most eerie, The Jar.

Willa Pearl Curtis plays the babysitter, Katie, this was the only episode of the Hitchcock show in which she appeared. She had a part in The Wages of Sin 1948 as the Bordello maid. She appeared in Second Chorus 1940 with Fred Astaire and Paulette Goddard, as Mrs. Wertheim’s Assistant in The Lost Weekend with Ray Milland 1945, also a maid in The Pirate 1948, and as Hannah Thomas in Native Son 1951.

Juanita Moore (1914-2014) as Mrs. McFarland, is featured in 3 of this series starring in Where the Woodbine Twineth. She plays the second woman whom Louise visits after seeing her husband’s name and number in Vera’s little black book; she had a six-decade career on screen from 1939 to 2001 and is best remembered for co-starring in Douglas Sirk’s remake of Imitation of Life (1959). She was also in four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including Where the Woodbine Twineth.

Playing the role of Miss McGuinness, Vera’s landlady, was Jesslyn Fax (1893-1975) who appeared on screen from 1950 to 1969. She had minor roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and North By Northwest (1959), as well as on five episodes of Hitchcock’s TV show, including “Coming. Mama”. Fax also made an appearance on the TV show Batman.

Alice Backes plays the policewoman at the end. She had a busy career in television, including roles on Thriller, The Night Stalker, and six episodes of the Hitchcock series in particular the odd installment entitled The Jar.

Continue reading “It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 4”

It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 1

This is Part 1 in a series. See also Part 2 and Part 3.

The CMBA Presents the 2023 Spring Blogathon: Big Stars on the Small Screen — In Support of National Classic Movie Day

SILVER SCREEN STAR’S JOURNEY TO A SMALL GOLDEN BOX

1955 Headliner Alfred Hitchcock film director © Copyright CBS Broadcasting Inc.
All Rights Reserved Credit: CBS Photo Archive

“This is the way of television… Half-hour shows were becoming one-hour shows, so it was decided that ours was to become a one-hour show. I don’t recall whose idea it was. I cannot say I know how the arrangements were made. In television the problem is to maintain a standard (especially after seven years). We were always pretty offbeat, but people get used to us being offbeat.” —Alfred Hitchcock (as quoted in “The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion,” 2001)

“TV has done more for old movie stars than plastic surgery,” -Popular TV critic for the LA Mirror Hal Humphrey wrote his articles based on network and press agent publicity, defended television’s stars in comparison to films during the time in the period when big screen actors were transitioning to television.

The Anne Sothern Show began in 1958.

Citing the examples of Joan Blondell, Ann Sothern, and Joan Crawford, Hal Humphrey claimed that these actresses were not “has-beens.” It might be more apt to describe them as mistakes made by the movie industry and rectified by television.”

During the 1950s after decades of escaping the world and its worries within the vastness of the darkened movie theater, television delivered the actors we imagined vividly on the big screen and altered the illusion by fitting them inside a little box in our homes.

Television of the 1950s brought the big screen stars into the inner sanctum of our living rooms.
The emergence of television in the 1950s and 60s transformed the entertainment industry, leading many iconic Hollywood actresses to transition from film to TV.

In the 1950s, the transition from film to television was still a relatively new concept, and many Hollywood actresses were hesitant to make the switch.

“The dominant tendency in star studies has been to denigrate the stature of television stardom, to argue that television does not actually produce stars of the complexity, depth, and cultural value that film does, largely because of the medium’s lesser cultural status and its essential familiarity and intimacy…

Television studies scholar Susan Murray rightly comments suspiciously on these theories:

“. . . it would appear as though, while the cinema’s star system was delineated by a complicated aesthetic, industrial and economic history, the television star is simply a fall from grace.”

Therefore, it would seem essential for television to boost the images of such marginal stars by drawing on authenticity as a value superior to the artificiality of constructed glamour and by underscoring television’s ability to rediscover or uncover the genuine talents of the film world’s castoffs and supporting players.”

While some actors perceived TV work as an abdication of their star power, others recognized it as an avenue to sustain their careers and connect with a fresh audience.

Early television frequently recruited performers from various entertainment media, enlisting film actors, radio personalities, and Broadway/stage performers to provide programming talent for the burgeoning medium. Radio had previously offered such a space for Hollywood stars to supplement their film work, but television increasingly took over this role. (Becker)

Until the mid-1950s, studios purposefully kept their stars away from television. However, this claim overlooks the significant number of actors who were no longer bound by contracts with major studios due to the upheaval in the industry.

As a result, these actors were able to seek employment wherever opportunities arose. With labor changes in Hollywood and a decline in overall film production, television became an attractive and viable option for Hollywood actors who were out of work. Studios relented provided the stars received the opportunity to plug the studio and its recent releases. Variety also cited the decision to allow the 1953 Academy Awards to be aired on NBC as a sign of the film industry’s acceptance of television’s credibility.

Television desperately trying to establish itself big Hollywood name became an incredibly exploitable asset as famous actors discovered a new outlet that eagerly sought their skills and their drawing power Hollywood actors played a crucial role in contributing the nuance of prestige to their anthology shows and dramatic teleplays.

Early television strategically leveraged the fame of numerous Hollywood film actors to generate publicity for specific shows, attracting viewers and driving the sales of television sets. Simultaneously, television presented a convenient new job market, offering a fresh lease on life for supporting actors and former stars who needed to revitalize their careers, maintain their popularity, and make money from the emerging medium of television.

Several iconic actresses from classic Hollywood successfully made the swift transition including Joan Crawford, Loretta Young, Bette Davis, and Barbara Stanwyck, all made the leap to television during this period. One of the most notable actresses was Lucille Ball, who starred in the popular sitcom I Love Lucy from 1951 to 1957. Television actually made Lucille Ball a household name.

There were obstacles these actresses encountered, such as adapting to the demands of the smaller screen and managing the more accelerated production schedules of TV shows.

Their performances retained every ounce of their impact, if not enhanced, as they continued to evoke profound emotions and captivate us with the same level of skill, quality, and substance

In fact, given the advent of dramatic teleplays featuring exciting directors and writers who either adapted classic stories, challenging content, or groundbreaking camerawork much of the performances were enhanced by the live format.

The assumption that only displaced film stars would agree to appear on television is challenged by a diverse array of stars who wound up making a foray into that medium. So what precipitated the union between Hollywood movie stars and television programming during the first commercial decade of TV? And how did television showcase the abundance of screen royalty that ran the gamut of beloved character actors to the reigning stars on the big screen? They were able to transfigure stardom and draw audiences with the same desire to see their iconic stars continue to shine but on a more intimate level.

Joan Crawford and The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse on ABC from 1953-1955.

“It is commonly assumed that only dethroned film stars would ever consent to appear on television, but the wide range of stars listed above certainly complicates this hypothesis and raises myriad questions. What industrial circumstances made possible this substantial marriage between Hollywood film talent and television programming in TV’s first commercial decade, and how did early television present this plethora of film talent, from the character actor to the reigning star? What can we learn about concepts of stardom by closely analyzing the activities of film stars at the discrete historical moment when television began as a mass medium, borrowing programming formats, corporate methods, and talent from radio and theater, while simultaneously trying to forge a unique institutional and cultural identity?…

…despite an avowed stigma attached to film stars appearing on television, a significant number did appear on the infant medium… and television’s presentations of these stars, along with the public discourse that surrounded them, helped to expose and even alter the parameters of the filmic star system as it was developed to that point, an aspect which audiences surely perceived.” – Christine Becker: Televising Film Stardom in the 1950s

Alfred Hitchcock’s anthology television series, which aired from 1955 to 1965, was a popular show that featured a variety of Hollywood actresses in its episodes.

These actresses had already made a name for themselves in classic Hollywood films but found a new audience and showcase their talents. Anthology series typically featured a new story and cast of characters in each episode, allowing actresses to take on a variety of roles.
One of the more regular actresses to appear in Alfred Hitchcock Presents was Barbara Bel Geddes, who starred in the episode “Lamb to the Slaughter” in 1958. Barbara Bel Geddes’ performance in “Lamb to the Slaughter” episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents has also received acclaim, with critics noting her ability to shift between a sweet and innocent demeanor to a more understated sinister one as her character’s composed homicidal streak are revealed.

Bel Geddes previously starred in films such as “I Remember Mama” and “Vertigo,” and her appearance in Alfred Hitchcock Presents helped cement her status as a talented actress with a range of skills.
Another actress who appeared in the series was Vera Miles, who starred in the iconic episode “The Perfect Crime” in 1957 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents the very first episode, Revenge. And the episode that I will cover here Don’t Look Behind You. and in Part 4 of my series, Death Scene co-starring John Carradine.

Teresa Wright appeared in perhaps 2 of the most enthralling episodes one darkly disturbing and one darkly humorous. And Mildred Dunnock appeared in 3 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and 1 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Jeannette Nolan is in 5 of the series and Jessica Tandy appeared in 3. That’s a lot of star power in a small box.

Miles had previously worked with Hitchcock in the film “The Wrong Man,” and her appearance in Alfred Hitchcock Presents helped establish her as a talented actress who could hold her own in a variety of roles.

In addition to Bel Geddes and Miles, several other classic Hollywood actresses appeared in the series, including Joan Fontaine, Teresa Wright, Lillian Gish, Mary Astor (who also appeared in the Boris Karloff Anthology series Thriller) Gladys Cooper, Anne Sothern, Gloria Swanson, Anne Baxter, and Bette Davis, just to name a few.

Bette Davis in Out There-Darkness for Alfred Hitchcock Presents S4E16 1959.

Gloria Swanson in Behind the Locked Door S2E22 1964.

Lillian Gish in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Body in the Barn S2E32 1964.

These actresses brought their star power and talent to the Hitchcock series and helped to establish it as one of the most popular anthology shows of the era. When Hollywood wasn’t giving them the scripts and not renewing their contracts, they found a chance to continue showcasing their versatility and kept themselves a continuing familiar face with their fans new and old alike.

The success of Alfred Hitchcock Presents helped pave the way for more classic Hollywood actresses to make the transition to television in the 1950s and 1960s. It also helped to establish television as a legitimate platform for entertainment and helped to blur the lines between film and television.

Other actresses who appeared in anthology series in the 1950s include Barbara Stanwyck in “The Barbara Stanwyck Show,” Bette Davis in “The Bette Davis Show,” and Joan Crawford in “The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse.”

These shows allowed actresses to showcase their versatility and reach audiences on a regular basis, helping to solidify their status as Hollywood legends and both critics and fans have praised these actresses’ abilities to transition from film to television

Acting in front of the camera wasn’t the only transition powerful Hollywood actresses made, Ida Lupino – pioneering actress, director, and producer, known for her trailblazing work in the male-dominated Hollywood industry of the 1940s and 1950s stepped into the episode of The Twilight Zone with its scathing mediation on the Hollywood system that chewed up actresses and spits them out as they aged out of their perceivably viable roles. In The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine starring Lupino – the opening narration goes as follows:

The Twilight Zone S1E4 1959 Ida Lupino The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine.

“Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, a once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.”

Lupino plays aging film star Barbara Jean Trenton a recluse who lived in her private screening room reliving her old movie roles from the 1930s over and over. When she is offered a part in a new movie playing the mother, insulted by the callous film mogul who tells her she’s living in the past, all the while Martin Balsam tells her she’s wishing for things that are dead… Barbara vanishes into a movie reel with her old co-stars descends the stairs and blows Balsam a kiss goodbye throwing down a scarf toward the camera and vanishes.

Not just on screen but behind the scenes Lupino who worked avidly with the camera directed several of the Hitchcock episodes. Another influential woman in the technical side of Hollywood, Joan Harrison made the transition from film to television. She came on board to produce the show and create the legacy that both series became in American Television.

“Seeing a murder on television… can help work off one’s antagonisms. And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.”

“T.V. has brought murder back into the home where it belongs.”

“It seems to me that television is exactly like a gun. Your enjoyment of it is determined by which end of it you’re on.”

“Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.”

“A glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality.”

What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.

“I’m sure anyone who likes a good crime, provided it is not the victim.”

Suspense is when the spectator knows more than the characters in the movie.”

“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”

“I can’t read fiction without visualizing every scene. The result is it becomes a series of pictures rather than a book.”

“I’m a writer and, therefore, automatically a suspicious character.”

“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”

“You think she’s pretty, you ought to see my slingshot!”

Promotional portrait of British-born American film and television director Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980) as he sits on a stool inside an open steamer trunk, next to an unidentified woman in a top hat, short, satin outfit, and fishnet stockings, for his anthology program ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,’ August 10, 1962. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

“… I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle.” – Hitchcock according to designer Edith Head who dressed Grace Kelly, Doris Day, and Ingrid Bergman in Hitchcock’s movies. The two reportedly clashed heavily over wardrobe ensembles.

— Alfred Hitchcock

“No one is writing good suspense stories these days… I don’t know what has happened to the great story tellers — people like Kipling and Stevenson. We have to take stories and shape them to our needs. Meanwhile, we must go on. We can’t wait for the great ones to show up. I must take the scripts as they land on my desk. I’m responsible for sixteen programs, and I have only seven properties on hand. [Lloyd and Harrison produced all but four episodes from the first season] I’ve managed to get several fine stories, I believe. One is a gambling tale, A Piece of the Action, starring Gig Young and Martha Hyer. It has bitter irony in it. Another is The Final Yow, in which Carol Lynley plays a nun involved in a search for a stolen statue. It has a delicious twist.” —Norman Lloyd (The Newark Evening News, August 26, 1962)

Here are a few quotes from classic actresses who starred in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Alfred Hitchcock Presents:

Joan Fontaine & Gary Merrill in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode The Paragon S1E20 1963.

Fontaine and Hitchcock on the set of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

  1. “Working with Alfred Hitchcock was a great honor and an unforgettable experience. He was a master of suspense and a true genius of filmmaking.” – Vera Miles
  2. “Appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Presents was a unique challenge as an actress, as each episode was its own story and character. But it was also a great opportunity to showcase my range as an actress.” – Barbara Bel Geddes
  3. Alfred Hitchcock had a way of bringing out the best in his actors and actresses. He knew how to create tension and drama on screen, and he trusted his performers to deliver their best work.” – Joan Fontaine
  4. Alfred Hitchcock Presents was an exciting and innovative show, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. It allowed me to work with some of the best actors and directors in the business.” – Anne Baxter

Vera Miles and Hitchcock on the set of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Hitchcock made the shift from a half-hour show to an hour format without much issue. “When we had a half-hour show, we could do short stories…{…} Now, in an hour, we have to go to novels.” His staff read through thousands of crime novels to find the right script. Yet frequently it became necessary to utilize a short story and expand it, in order to fill out the hour.

In the opening set of each episode, the fabulist Hitchcock is given props against an empty stage. At times he himself becomes the prop or main focal point where he imparts either sage elucidation, comical warning, or sardonic advice. A witty prelude to the evening’s tale or just a frivolous bit of shenanigans to put one in the mood for the evening’s program. As he drolly introduces the night’s story, his monologues were conceived of by James B Allardice.

Jessica Tandy in Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode The Glass Eye s3e1 1959.

THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR — “The Trap” Episode 18 — Aired 02/22/1965 — Pictured: (l-r) Anne Francis as Peg Beale, Donnelly Rhodes as John Cochran (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Triumph Episode 9 Aired 12/14/1964 Pictured: Ed Begley as Brother Thomas Fitzgibbons, Jeanette Nolan as Mary Fitzgibbons (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Patricia Collinge in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow -S2E25 1964

Repeat Performances:

*Jessica Tandy 3 episodes Alfred Hitchcock Presents The Glass Eye and not included Toby S2e6 and The Canary Sedan S3e37.

*Patricia Collinge 4 episodes Alfred Hitchcock Presents –The Cheney Vase, The Rose Garden, Across the Threshold, and The Landlady–  The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – 2 episodes Bonfire – and not included The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow April 17, 1964.

*Anne Francis 2 episodes Alfred Hitchcock Presents Hooked and not Included Keep Me Company and The Trap S7e5 Feb 22, 1965, aired Nov.7, 1961.

*Mildred Dunnock 3 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents – None Are So Blind, Heart of Gold and not inlcuded The West Warlock Time Capsule S2e35 and 1 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – Beyond the Sea of Death.

*Vera Miles 1 episode of Alfred Hithcock PresentsRevenge and 1 episode of  The Alfred Hitchcock HourDeath Scene.

*Margaret Leighton 1 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents Tea Time and 1 episode of  The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Where the Woodbine Twineth.

*Barbara Bel Geddes – 4 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Lamb to the Slaughter, The Morning of the Bride and not included The Foghorn s3e24, and Sybilla S6e10 aired Dec. 6, 1960.

*Gena Rowlands – 1 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Doubtful Doctor and 3 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock HourRide the Nightmare, The Lonely Hours, and Murder Case.

*Doris lloyd 5 epsiodes of Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Impromptu Murder, and not included Dip in the Pool, Safety for the Witness, The Shartz-Metterklume Method and The Silk Petticoat. And 4 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – One of the Family, Thou Still Unravished Bride and not included The Dark Pool s1e29, and Isabel s2e31.

*Gia Scala – 2 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents -Deathmate and not included Mother, May I Go Out and Swim? s5e26 and 1 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour not included The Sign of Satan s2e27

*Jeannette Nolan –4 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Right Kind of House, The Morning After, and not included The Young One s3e9 and Coming Home s6e35. 1 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock HourTriumph.

*Teresa Wright – 2 episodes of  The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – Three Wives Too Many and Lonely Place.

Mildred Dunnock in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – Beyond the Sea of Death -S2E14 1964.

Teresa Wright and Bruce Dern in Lonely Place The Alfred Hitchcock Hour S3E6 1964

Married American actors Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes (1929 – 1989) in an episode of the television anthology series ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’ entitled ‘Murder Case,’ January 24, 1964. The episode, directed by John Brahm, was originally broadcast on March 6, 1964. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents renamed The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (between 1962-1965), is a classic American television anthology series hosted by preeminent filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, the show was also an Alfred Hitchcock Production produced by Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd, airing on CBS and NBC between 1955 and 1965. The series premiered on CBS in October 1955 and went through several changes during its long run. It switched over to NBC for the 1960-61 season. It then returned to CBS with its hour-long format from 1962-1963. Getting whiplash it turned back to NBC once again to finish out its final season.

“One must remember that in the early half-hour days, we were getting the cream of the crop… Some of the best stories of their type in English literature, such as The Glass Eye. In the latter days of the hour show, however, we occasionally had to develop stories from scratch, and the results didn’t always measure up. The half-hour show, which ran twenty-two and a fraction minutes, was sometimes a delight in its brevity and its point, but that doesn’t mean it was a better format.” —Norman Lloyd (as quoted in “The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion,” 2001)

Both series have become seminal works in television history, known for their unique blend of suspense, mystery, and dark humor. The show often revolved around murder plots, mind games, gaslighting, and visceral intrigue, featuring psychological dramas, suspenseful thrillers, and crime-oriented stories often framed through a noir lens and written by celebrated authors featuring a far-reaching cast of Hollywood stars and electrifying performances by beloved character actors.

Both series’ earned a fistful of Emmy, Look Magazine, Golden Globe, and Television Champion awards for the best anthology and/or mystery program during their decade-long run.

Known for its suspenseful and thrilling stories that often revolve around murder, mystery, and psychological intrigue that often framed crime-oriented stories through a noir lens.

”I much preferred writing for the half-hour show… There was always the possibility of doing what I call ‘gems.’ The half-hours were compact and full of sharp point-breaking, bringing the audience in at the middle and then hitting them with the climax. Very clean. This got a little difficult to achieve in the hour shows, which were more like features except that they weren’t, not really. They were actually more like extended half-hours. More was told about the same thing. I think the show suffered because of it, and I think the Hitchcock people felt so, too.” —writer Henry Slesar (as quoted in “The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion,” 2001)

Initially, a variety of the stories adapted for the show appeared to be written with the implication that ‘crime does pay if you’re clever and lucky enough to get away with it – clincher. But this did not sit right with the network censors, not to mention Hitchcock’s regular derogatory indictment of their commercials which put him at odds with the sponsors. So… by the postscript he would update us on the fate of the villains, evildoers, and culprits to assure us that there was a moral code that existed on the show, and ultimately these malefactors paid a price for their immorality.

In other stories, not all the players were inherently malicious, wicked, twisted, greedy, or conniving. Innocent bystanders and some protagonists were set down in a story that challenged them to come out on the other end of their unnerving or sinister circumstances, and ultimately either found redemption or were delivered from their ordeal. Instead of fate’s unwavering day of retribution, anyone who deserved a break got one, and the sympathetic characters found a silver lining to their storm cloud. Many of the show’s stories, revealed their humanity

The episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents cover a wide range of genres, including crime- drama, mystery, suspense, psychological thriller, and the occasional horror story. Many of the episodes are adaptations of short stories and novels by famous authors, such as Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, and Cornell Woolrich, among other notable novelists and screenwriters.

One of the trademarks of the series is its surprising turnaround of events and twist endings, which are often unique, cleverly crafted, and carefully calculated plots that keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The show’s stories often explore the darker aspects of human nature, delving into the psychology of the characters and their motivations. Themes of guilt, paranoia, revenge, and moral ambiguity are often explored, creating a thought-provoking viewing experience, framed with masterful understatement all wrapped up with Hitch’s deliciously droll commentaries, dramatic musical flourishes, and palpable fade-outs.

“Alfred Hitchcock Presents” has been highly acclaimed for its innovative storytelling, compelling performances, and Hitchcock’s masterful direction.

Hitchcock’s strictly British sense of humor, the deliciously wicked tone of the series, and his attitude toward directing television had carried over from his big-screen work in a similar vein for small-screen audiences.

At first, Hitchcock was hesitant about the idea of appearing on TV as his primary interest rested with film. Hitchcock biographer John Russell Taylor wrote the revelation Alfred Hitchcock Presents could work came from MCA’s Lew Wasserman who had been Hitchcock’s former agent and friend. In 1955, Wasserman was putting his mind to potential programming during the early days of television. “We ought to put Hitch on air.” The idea of putting the master of suspense hosting a weekly show had a great deal of good sense.”

Hitchcock had signed a contract with Richard Decker allowing his name to be the image of a monthly magazine Decker published featuring short stories with a mystery theme written by established or up-and-coming authors. In return for allowing his name to be used Decker hired Hitch’s daughter Patricia as assistant editor. The publication would be called Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

In the mid-fifties, very few of Hollywood’s major studios were actively involved in producing series for television. In 1959 MCA under President Lew Wasserman’s leadership added Universal Pictures to its growing list of subsidiaries, and MCA/Revue was changed to Universal Television which then released Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

According to biographer John Russell Taylor, Hitchcock was not pretentious about his success in the motion picture business, however, the iconic director was aware that not many filmmakers who had maintained visibility on his level were actively working in that industry’s medium. While other directors wouldn’t want to be associated with television, Hitchcock had faith in his friend Lew Wasserman and agreed to delve into the world of the small screen, and the series was born.

Alfred Hitchcock named the new telefilm company Shamley Productions after the summer home he and Alma owned in a small village in Shamley Green south of London.

*For most in Hollywood, tv was considered a spurious and unauthentic medium, a commercial junkyard suitable only for unknowns and has-beens.”(from John McCarty and Brian Kelleher from Alfred Hitchcock Presents – An Illustrated Guide to The Ten-Year Television Career of the Master of Suspense)

Wasserman viewed the show and Hitchcock’s hosting of it as a logical, intuitive outgrowth of the very successful Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. In fact, many of the series’ episodes were adapted from stories that first appeared in the magazine.

And Hitchcock’s attitude toward directing television was that it was a bit of jolly devilry and fooling about from directing feature-length films, as it was far less a painstaking endeavor.

Though Hitchcock still brought his methodical work ethic to the table-

“He took enormous pride in doing these things very fast on a tight TV schedule without going a moment over. I remember when he did Lamb to the Slaughter” and he finished on the nose at six o clock quitting time, he turned around and said “there’s your picture” Then he looked at everybody as if to say, “So don’t comet o me with any ideas that you need an extra hour or two for something else. “It was all in fun, but the message was clear: all of you had better be able to finish at six too.” – Norman Lloyd

Vera Miles in the premier episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents ‘Revenge’ S1E1 in 1955.

After its debut on October 2 1955 with the first episode “Revenge” directed by Hitchcock himself, each week gained devoted viewers who were thrilled with the show’s sense of the macabre.

Hitchock’s well-known public persona while considered the archetype of genius over collaboration, boldly moved into the realm of television and was part of a team that created an anthology series with a team of extraordinary writers & directors who were perceptive, literate, and witty.

Hitchcock directed only 18 episodes during its run including Revenge with Vera Miles, Breakdown with Joseph Cotten, The Case of Mr. Pelham, and Back for Christmas starring Isobel Elsom and Hitchcock regular, English gentleman John Williams. The series was an instant hit and ran for five seasons on CBS, and three on NBC. It won three Emmy Awards and was nominated for 11 more. The series is considered a classic of American television and has been praised for its suspenseful stories, Hitchcock’s iconic introductions, and its illustrious and stellar cast, to say nothing of the outstanding resource of imaginative writers like – Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Garson Kanin, John Cheever, Henry Slesar, Ellery Queen, Charles Beaumont, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West, Barré Lyndon, Morton S. Fine, Evan Hunter, Margaret Manners, Robert C. Dennis, Francis M. Cockrell and Columbo’s Richard Levinson and William Link.

Above are two images of Jessica Tandy and Tom Conway in The Glass Eye S3E1 1957.

Robert Stevens who directed 145 episodes of a similar theme show Suspense which ran between 1949-1954 directed over thirty episodes in Hitchcock’s series more than any other director overall, including some of the most memorable like the chilling installment – The Glass Eye starring Jessica Tandy which is a ghoulish adaptation of the classic theme of the ventriloquist who is bedeviled by his dummy. This installment of the show’s second season earned Stevens an Emmy as best director of a half-hour show. He was the only director ever to win an award for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

In 1959 Stevens took time to direct the pilot for Rod Sterling’s Twilight Zone with Earl Holliman in Where is Everybody. He did another of the show’s most memorable episodes, Walking Distance.

They helped establish Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour as one of the great classics of American television – distinctive for their sardonic prologues with Hitchcock as the master of ceremonies conducting the series of sketches, and macabre tableaus that invited you into the evening’s story. Hitchcock intoning impish incentives by writer Jimmy Allardice. The show offered a collection of Mephistophlean teleplays, infused with suspenseful, often darkly humorous masquerades.

The series also features a collection of impressive directors: Ida Lupino, Paul Henreid, Herschel Daugherty, John Brahm, Arthur Hiller, Alan Crosland Jr., Leo Penn, Joseph Pevney, Robert Stevenson, Stuart Rosenberg, Bernard Girard, Robert Florey, John Newland, Don Medford, Francis Cockrell, Boris Sagal, Alf Kjellin and George Stevens Jr.

Hitchcock, Joan Harrison, and actor/producer/director Norman Lloyd preferred stories about unextraordinary people, their lives outwardly not illicit or taboo however they become involved in dubious, unlucky, or dangerous situations like murder, blackmail, or misguided schemes that descend into a darkly ironic conclusion.

Norman Lloyd, whose speech and singularity carved out a niche as typically British and thoroughly sardonically impish appeared in several of Hitchcock’s films, most notably Saboteur 1942 as the menacing Frank Fry who meets a spectacular cinematic end.

Norman Lloyd in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur 1942.

“Around 1955 they got Hitchcock to say he’d do television which was a big thing. And in ’57 the order for the half hour show was amplified, with a new series called Suspicion. I think Suspicion had many shows. Hour shows. And MCA took ten of them. New York took ten and so forth. And with the ten he was adding on they used to do 39 half hour shows a series. It was his producer Joan Harrison, is how I really learned how to be a producer. Divine. She was beautiful, exquisitely dressed, in perfect taste for the set. She was divine. She was a writer for him, and she was now his producer. And they needed someone else to come in an help her because of the quantity of the work not for the half hours, but now the hour. So she and Hitch decided, they wanted me to do it. Cause I also knew Joan very well. And so they presented my name… however… And this was told to me by Alan Miller who headed television at MCA, he came back, Alan Miller from the network and says ‘there seems to be a problem about Lloyd’ and Hitch said, ‘I want him!’ that was the end of the blacklist!” -Norman Lloyd

The television series also consisted of several episodes that featured both Hitchcock and Lloyd’s daughters Patricia and Josie.

The show is characterized by its Aesopean host- “Televisions jovial undertaker” (McCarty and Kelleher)… offering his solemn ‘Good Night.’

Alfred Hitchcock’s cheeky little teasers featured its iconic musical initiation with Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette” as Hitch’s silhouetted kisser merged with the quirky little line drawing which was led into one of Allardice’s offbeat fun size segues.

Hitchcock emerges mischievously at the beginning and end of each episode, delivering satirical introductions and conclusions, with his signature tongue-in-cheek reaction to that evening’s stories. His dry and sardonic presence effectively compliments the show’s featured parable and displaces any tension from the seriousness of the episode with Hitch’s comic relief.

The show was ravenous for stories trying to compete with its rivals The Twilight Zone and Boris Karloff’s Thriller. The insistence on only published stories.

One of Hitchcock’s primary producers was a British-American film producer, screenwriter, and casting director, Joan Harrison. She met Hitchcock in 1935 after answering his ad in a London newspaper for a secretary. She may have begun her career as a secretary to Alfred Hitchcock in 1939. Harrison gained momentum, forging ahead with her career, and by 1940 she was Hitchcock’s associate producer.

But it was her ultra-motivated astuteness and keen administrative proficiency that helped advance herself until in 1939 she became his closest collaborator co-writing several screenplays for Jamaica Inn, Rebecca 1940, Foreign Correspondent Suspicion 1941, and Saboteur. Additionally working with Hitchcock on several films, including Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope 1948 and Strangers on a Train (1951).

In 1942 she pursued her own career as an independent producer, a position not held by many women, then. Much of her films fall under the influence of a mystery bent, with one of her finest films being They Won’t Believe Me 1947 a psychological film noir directed by Irving Pichel and starring Robert Young, Susan Hayward, and Jane Greer.

Joan Harrison produced one of the most underrated film noirs Phantom Lady 1944, directed by Robert Siodmak, based on a novel by Cornell Woolwich author of Rear Window, and scripted by Bernard C. Schoenfeld, who would both later write many of the show’s episodes. Another highly effective and sorely underrated noir Harrison directed is Ride the Pink Horse 1947.

The Very Thought of You: Andrea King in 4 Fabulous Unsung Film Noir Gems!

In 1944, she left Hitchcock’s production company to start her own, producing several films, including The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), and The Locket (1946). 

One of the aspects of both the half-hour and full-hour series’ magic was the brilliant cast, borrowing from some of television’s outstanding dramatic character actors of that period, but notably, the stars who made the transition from the big screen to television’s more intimate venue.

Working with Hitchcock on The Trouble with Harry clearly foreshadowed the direction Hitch’s show was going to take. In 1955 Joan Harrison rejoined him as an associate producer both knowledgeable about mystery and suspense literature – she became actively involved in the story selections.

In 1955, Harrison not only produced the show but she served as the casting director for Alfred Hitchcock Presents for its entire run from 1955 to 1965.

She helped cast some of the show’s most famous episodes, including Back For Christmas, Lamb to the Slaughter, and “Hitch Hike”

Isobel Elsom and John Williams in Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Back for Christmas s1e23 1956.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Hitch Hike S5E21 1960 starring Suzanne Pleshette, John McIntire, and Robert Morse.

Joan Harrison lends the show its engaging charm which credits Harrison’s keen eye for selecting the best possible actors to fit the archetypal characters for the compelling ironic murder mysteries, nail-biters, and crime-driven stories.

Harrison who progressed from secretary to screenwriter to independent producer signed onto the show where she was fully able to materialize her vision of some of the most suspenseful dramatizations. She retired from the film industry in 1965.

Norman Lloyd started producing and directing a limited number of episodes each season. At this same time, Gordon Hessler was elevated to associate producer.

Gordon Hessler who had a tv background that included a period where he was enlisted as a story editor, director, and production associate also joined the show as a producer. Once Harrison started to phase out her involvement on the show and move back to England with her husband British mystery writer Eric Ambler,  she passed it on to Lloyd while he continued to assist as associate producer.

“At the end of this time, there was a rearrangement at Shamley and I was made a producer equally with Joan Harrison. It was also around this time that the show went to an hour. We both produced alternately. Then, for the final two years, I was made the show’s executive producer alone.”

Eventually, he moved on to directing horror features- The Oblong Box 1969, Scream and Scream Again 1970, Cry of the Banshee 1970, Murders in the Rue Morgue 1971, and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad 1974.

The series often used writer Robert Bloch who began working on the show in 1959 in the middle of its ten-year run. The writer hadn’t met with Hitchcock while filming the adaptation of his novel Psycho 1960. Two of Bloch’s published stories had been bought for the series and adapted by others before his arrival in Hollywood later that year.

He began adapting his own published stories and his work was dramatized for the series. He was heavily involved in the show and mutually committed to writing screenplays and contributing to Boris Karloff’s similar anthology series Thriller both programs produced at Universal Studios.

Boris Karloff’s anthology tv series: It’s a THRILLER!

“Shortly after I began my own work as a novice television writer for a little-esteemed syndication series, I was summoned to Hitchcock’s Shamley Production office and offered an assignment to do a script based on Frank Mace’s story ‘The Cuckoo Clock.’– Robert Bloch

“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Continue reading “It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 1″

John Carradine-I am a ham! Part 1

Read Part Two here

Actor John Carradine attends the premiere of Dark Eyes on March 23, 1981, at Warner Beverly Theater in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

“I am a ham! And the ham in an actor is what makes him interesting. The word is an insult only when it’s used by an outsider – among actors, it’s a very high compliment, indeed.“

In the history of cinema, there are stars that burn white hot. Then there are those who wind up taking a detour – yet they’ve earned the vibrancy and a willingness to explore even the vast floor of the ocean’s bottom – this is emblematic of a beloved cult B actor. Those who tickle us with a zeal for chills and chagrins, guffaws and gadzooks, individualism and inimitability, captivating and crapola!

In his later years, John Carradine would come to be known as one of these… the crime is… he was a damn sensational actor!

“I never made big money in Hollywood. I was paid in hundreds, the stars got thousands. But I worked with some of the greatest directors in films and some of the greatest writers. They gave me the freedom to do what I can do best and that was gratifying.”

In regards to his horror legacy, this is what he had to say in 1983 in an interview for KMOX tv:

“That’s the least of my work. I’ve done almost 400 films and only 25 have been horror.”

When you think of John Carradine you might recall his brilliant performance as Casy in The Grapes of Wrath. Carradine had worked with some of the most notable actors and directors in the history of cinema and by the end of his career, he also managed to plumb the depths with some of the crummiest.

Then again you might be excited by his translation of the Dracula mythos in five films: two from Universal’s finely tuned House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and three from the later decade’s trash heap – Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966), Vampire Hookers (1978), and Nocturna (1979).

On Bela Lugosi in 1956: “Lugosi was a craftsman. I’ve known him for 25 years. He was a considerate and kind gentleman. As for the parts we both played, he was the better vampire. He had a fine pair of eyes. Nobody will ever be able to fill his shoes. He will be missed by us all.”

Like Whale’s Frankenstein monster, Carradine actually missed out on playing the monster and the lead role in Dracula (1931).

With 354 film and television credits to his iconic career, John Carradine was known for his distinctively deep baritone voice and tall, thin frame, a ‘towering, craggy frame’ which often earned him roles as villains and sinister characters, mad doctors, Draculas, hobos, drunks and a slew of nefarious Nazis devils!

At times he had the charm of a jaunty Grim Reaper. Even those smart pale blue eyes that flicker cannot be obscured by that quizzical squint.

William Beaudine on the set of The Face of Marble 1946.

He often worked with director John Ford but you’ve no doubt seen him playing a mad scientist in Captive Wild Woman 1943, The Face of Marble 1946, and The Unearthly 1957.

But one thing that links all these archetypes together is Carradine’s range of either an austere penetrating reserve or a flamboyant spirit framed by his willowy shape. Carradine can intone with either his whispering rumination from a well-written script or summoning his grandiose voice as he reads aloud the trashiest, tackiest dialogue that only he can make appear as a highfalutin soliloquy.

His nicknames were the Bard of the Boulevard and The Voice.

The Face of Marble (1946) An Odd John Carradine Obscurity with an “Identity Crisis”

Carradine’s career includes significant Academy Award-worthy roles, but in contrast, once he started his descent into the madness of acting obscurity, he embodied figures of grotesques and unsavory types. Eventually, he appeared in films more like a drifter just passing through in overambitious garbage Z movies. And now, he will always be considered one of the big-time heavies of the horror genre.

Still, he has left behind a legacy of striking screen performances: the sinister Sgt. Rankin in The Prisoner of Shark Island, and the somber “Long Jack” of Captains Courageous. He played a melancholy Lincoln in Of Human Hearts, a treacherous Bob Ford in Jesse James, the curious stranger Hatfield of Stagecoach, and one of his greatest contributions to the acting craft, as earnest dispirited preacher Casy in The Grapes of Wrath. All masterful characters in Hollywood’s golden age of filmmaking.

Carradine appeared in eight Oscar Best Picture nominees: Cleopatra (1934), Les Misèrables (1935), Captains Courageous (1937), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), Stagecoach (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Ten Commandments (1956), and Around the World in 80 Days (1956). Only the last of these won.

He has appeared in eight films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant: The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Stagecoach (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Court Jester (1955), The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962).

Though he was known for his ability to bring a kiss of intensity and an air of mysteriousness to his characters, often cast in villainous and sinister roles – he was highly regarded for his versatility and range as an actor. Despite his status as a horror icon, Carradine was more than just a genre actor and never wanted to be known for his long involvement with horror pictures, as he called them.

He was transitional in all genres such as historical dramas, war and spy films, film noir, westerns, horror, sci-fi, mystery thrillers, and romantic comedies. His career ran the spectrum of storytelling.

Carradine was capable of serious dramatic reverie, and earnest and sober performances til ultimately – schlocky b movies, ‘The ‘Divine Madness’ of this flamboyant, grand old man of the theater and Hollywood, Carradine’s persona emerged as a confluence between the individualist and distinguished gentleman.’ (John Carradine: The Films edited by Gregory Willam Mank)

But after all this superior work in an industry that chewed up and spits out great actors, even after his contribution to the horror genre that once saw him as one of the ruling class in Universal’s horror films such as House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula. There is a place for him amongst the aristocracy of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing, though he might be considered the vagabond of the horror pantheon, as he will undoubtedly be remembered for his role in B horror and exploitation films.

“I have shot, strangled, or otherwise disposed of many a victim on the screen in my day. However, more mayhem has been committed on me than I ever committed on anyone else. I have been poisoned, drowned, shot, pushed off cliffs, hanged, strangled, electrocuted, and run over by subway trains.”

05 May 1983, Los Angeles, California, USA — 5/5/1938- Los Angeles, CA: Screen villain sculptor in spare time. John Carradine, who plays the part of a sinister scoundrel in the movies, is quite a sculptor on the side. He is shown here putting the finishing touches to the head of his five-year-old son, Bruce. This work is included in the current art show by non-professional artists in the film industry at the Stanely Rose Gallery here. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

John Carradine is a noble eccentric, a cult icon who enjoyed photography and painting, sang opera, loved sculpting, knew the Bard’s work by heart, and could recite Shakespeare at every opportunity. Interviews and commentary from other people in the industry would relate stories of John Carradine getting potted with a drink in hand and spouting Shakespeare and funny anecdotes. “He had a repertoire of bad jokes and off-color reminiscence of Old Hollywood.” He was famous for that as much as for his acting.

Carradine is known for his theatricalizing, his out-of-control drinking, and his private life which was a circus. A life bombarded with non-conformity, chaotic marital trials and tribulations, arrests for not paying alimony, drunk driving, prostitution scandals, and bankruptcy that left him destitute.

With all the disorder in Carradine’s life, the reputation that the actor built from his earlier career took a ruinous insult over the years.

By the end, the actor didn’t bother to read a script, he learned his part no matter how ridiculous yet he took anything that came his way so he could pay the rent, finance his dream of having his own theater company and support his boys.

“An opera cape, top hat, ebony stick, and glittering diamond studs set John apart in a town where a tuxedo is considered formal dress. At intermissions, he stands gracefully in the lobby, smoking a long Russian cigarette and twirling his cane… It is the kind of exhibitionism that made Hollywood, in its colorful beginnings, the most talked about town on Earth…”

John Carradine with his actor sons, John, Keith, and Robert courtesy Getty Images date unknown.

Fred Olen Ray: “He was both a prince and a rascal” …” He was colorful and dramatic… He had a sweeping, majestic personality and an extraordinary voice that somehow managed to make the worst dialogue sound good.”

Keith Carradine: “Here was this Shakespearean actor who, in the 1950s to feed his children, did a lot of horror movies. That’s mostly what he’s known for. I think it sort of broke his heart.”

We know him for his deep voice, that low-pitched booming voice that sounds like well-worn leather and warm spices-cinnamon, sandalwood, and clove. He delivers his dialogue more like a fustian oratory, a sagacious silver-tongued scholar intoning a sermon instead of reading his lines straight.

From an interview with KMOX tv:

What do you think made you so successful as an image that I think maybe that incredible voice?

“I think the voice helped and another thing that helped I think was the fact that – well my face Darryl Zanuck was once heard saying when he came out of the rushes for something that I was in. He said “that guy Carradine got the god damndest face (He laughs) What he meant by that I don’t know but I think that was part of it. Well I think the voice helped a lot. Cecil DeMille said I had the finest voice in the business and he was right I did have the finest voice in the business. Still have. But it’s because I had been because I spent so much time in the theater and because I did Shakespeare. As I told my boys if you want to. Be an actor play all the Shakespeare you can get your hands on. Cause if you can play Shakespeare you can play anything. And I did a lot of Shakespeare. Cause that’s why I became an actor because I wanted to be a Shakespearean actor.”

John Carradine is an actor that commands a parade of imagery and similes. He’s just that darn interesting. I find him to have an almost regal symmetry that strikes me as handsome.

He is wraithlike and sinewy, withered, worn to a shadow, and as thin as a rake yet his presence is boundless.

A lanky actor wafting around the screen like a willow tree, hollow-cheeked, rawboned, and lantern-jawed, the opposite of Herculean – but make no mistake his presence is immortal.

And in a not-so-flattering light, he’s been referred to as cadaverous.

“I wasn’t eccentric in those days. I was just trying to learn my craft and improve what I had… cadaverous I’m a very thin man Cadaverous means looking like a cadaver and at least I do look alive. I look like I might live another five minutes!”

Continue reading “John Carradine-I am a ham! Part 1”

John Carradine “I am a ham!” Part 2

Carradine found himself accepting ludicrous parts in Poverty Row and low-budget chillers in order to fund his ambitious theatrical productions, by the 1960s he was degraded by taking on roles just to pay the bills.

He traveled to Africa for Paramount’s Tarzan the Magnificent and acted on Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone 1960 episode ‘The Howling Man.’

When David Ellington (H.M Wynant) seeks refuge at a remote monastery where Carradine is the solemn Brother Jerome in a heroic white beard, robes, and staff and the brotherhood stands guard over the devil (Robin Hughes) whom they trapped and locked away. Ellington disregards their warning and unwittingly releases evil upon the earth. This was a more sedate role for Carradine.

He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6240 Hollywood Blvd. on February 8, 1960.

In 1962 he returned to Broadway in Harold Prince’s production A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He played Marcus Lycus the scheming whoremaster of a Roman house of ill repute. The show saw 964 performances in New York’s Alvin Theatre.

“A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum” – Zero Mostel, right, is the lead performer in the Broadway musical “A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum”, along with (left to right:) John Carradine and Jack Gifford.

Carradine also appeared in several television series. Lock Up 1960 – as James Carew in the episode ‘Poker Club.’  He made an appearance in The Rebel 1960 as Elmer Dodson in episodes ‘Johnny Yuma’ and ‘The Bequest.’

These were bare times for Carradine. He wasn’t making it financially for all the film and television work. He took a role in NBCs Wagon Train in 1960 in an episode called ‘The Colter Craven Story’, directed by John Ford.

Considered his favorite experience working in the horror genre – was appearing in Boris Karloff’s superior horror/film noir anthology series Thriller 1961, which ran from 1960-1962.

From an interview with KMOX in 1983:

What was your favorite horror film that you did?

“Oh god I don’t know. Eh, I don’t think I had one. I think it’s probably something I did with Boris. I did several for Boris. He had his own series that he introduced as a host and on a couple of them he worked also on as an actor. And I did two or three of those with him and for him. And I think that was the best part of the horror genre that I did.”

What was he like to work with.?

“Oh, charming. He was a charming man. And I first worked with him on the first thing he did in this country. We had a play down in Los Angeles, the old Egan Theater which was a 400-seat theater down on Figueroa street. And we did a play together called Window Panes which he played a brutalized Russian peasant immigrant unlettered. And I did a Russian peasant half-wit and there was a character sort of a Christ-like character who was wanted by the authorities as he was, was a rebel. But the ignorant peasantry took on him almost as a Christ figure and I did that for ten weeks and we moved over to the Vine Street Theater which is now the Huntington Hartford in Hollywood. And Boris played the brutalized Russian peasant and played it to the nines. And we became very good friends then. And that was in 1928. And we remained good friends until he retired and went back to England.”

For Thriller, Carradine was cast as Jason Longfellow and Jed Carta in ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ starring Jo Van Fleet and directed by John Brahm, and ‘Masquerade’ starring Elizabeth Montgomery and Tom Poston directed by Herschel Daugherty and blessed with a whimsically macabre score by Mort Stevens.

Carradine as Jason Longfellow with Hal Baylor in Thriller episode ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ 1962.

Above are two images: from the episode ‘Masquerade.’

For the series, Carradine appeared in two of the most comic and compelling episodes. In ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ and ‘Masquerade’ he was both sardonic and sinister.

In Masquerade airing in 1961 Carradine plays Jed Carta, leader of a depraved family of murderers and cannibals who entraps wayward travelers, stealing their money and butchering them like hogs. When Tom Poston and Elizabeth Montgomery stumble onto the creepy dilapidated house to get out of a rain storm, Carta greets them with dark glee, trading menacing cracks with Montgomery. What lies beneath the surface might be something more nefarious than the mere suggestion of evil cloaked in black humor that surrounds the Carta family and Carradine’s spooky wisecracks. He’s magnificently droll, skulking around the dreadful house, with Poston, and Montgomery being assailed by disembodied cackling and dimwitted Jack Lambert who wields a large butcher knife lumbering around. Dorothy Neumann plays the feral Ruthie chained to the wall spewing animosity for the Carta clan and demonstrating an itchy type of lunacy. It’s both comical and arouses jitters simultaneously. In my opinion, it is one of Carradine’s most underrated roles in the horror genre, emphasizing his ability to shuffle both dark humor and horror equally.

Boris Karloff’s Thriller The Remarkable Mrs Hawk: A Modern Re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey, Circean Poison with a Side of Bacon.

In ‘The Remarkable Mrs. Hawk’ starring Jo Van Fleet as Mrs. Hawk/Circe, Carradine plays Jason Longfellow an erudite transient who stumbles onto the true identity of Mrs. Hawk, and the secret of her ‘Isle of Aiaie Home of the Pampered Pig.’

Cultivated and shrewd, Longfellow is a scheming vagabond who plans on using his revelation about Mrs. Hawk to his advantage – much to an ironic end.

It’s an inspiration for writers Don Sanford and Margaret St. Clair to transform a classical tale from Greek mythology and position it within a southern Gothic rural setting, using a hog farm and a visiting carnival/State Fair that adds a layer of mystique and mayhem. There’s a great scene that utilizes theatrical anachronism wonderfully when Cissy Hawk (Van Fleet)  carries the bowl, or ‘Circe’s cup’ the night she feeds the pigs grapes and proceeds to turn Johnny (Bruce Dern) back into a man for a while. Under the moonlight, she conducts an ancient rite on modern rural farmland as Pete (Hal Baylor) watches in fright and disbelief from his window.

Not only is this particular episode so effective because of Jo Van Fleet’s performance as the modern-day witch but it’s also due to the presence of the ubiquitous John Carradine, whose facial expressions alone can be so accentuated by his acrobatic facial expressions that make him so uniquely entertaining to watch not to mention listening to his Shakespearean elucidations, hard-bitten insights, and crafty machinations.

Carradine enters the story: A train whistle is blowing in the backdrop. There is a close-up of Jason’s (John Carradine’s) face. Carradine is the perspicacious  Jason Longfellow, an erudite transient, shabby and unshaven, dressed like a gypsy with white tape holding his black-framed glasses together. Skinny, almost skeleton-like, and lanky. Longfellow’s razor-sharp acumen betrays his urbane sensibilities that travel incognito like a stowaway. He may look like a scraggly bum, but he is a highly educated defector of society. He also enjoys giving his companion Peter grief, waging his intelligence that he uses as a refuge. Pete is a  wayward boxer who looks to Longfellow as a mentor. This horror-themed, fable-like episode is overflowing with ironic, comical repose until the baleful scenes leap out at you when Circe wields her powerful magic.

A Pan flute is trebling a child-like tune, a delightful wisp of scales. To the left of the screen are a pair of black & argyle socks with holes worn in the toes, tapping out the melody in the air with his feet. A fire is burning in the trash can. This is a slice-of-the-night mystique of the hobo’s life. Carradine as Jason Longfellow is sitting in a cane back fan rocking chair, a junkyard living room, and a cold tin coffee pot atop an oil drum.

Suspecting their friend Johnny’s disappearance is connected to Mrs. Hawk (Jo Van Fleet) and the rumors about her young handymen all gone missing.

”If I knew Johnny’s fate, my friend, I’d understand why Mrs. Hawk’s farm is designated Caveat Accipitram among the brotherhood ” Jason’s eyes bulge out of the sockets with glee and rancor.

Carradine manifests an exquisite mixture of the facial expression of a malcontent. Pete seems stupefied –” Hhm?” “Come on.. speak American would ya” Jason raises his voice and changes his tone to indicate the hierarchy in their educational backgrounds. ” Caveat Accipitrum… Caveat Accipitrum   BEWARE THE HAWK….” Longfellow ends his little lesson for Pete with emotive punctuation.

He grunts/laughs dismissively “Oh…Hey!” and looks away and takes a drag of his cigarette with his bone-like fingers, squinting his thoughtful blue eyes (not obscured by the black and white film) as if in deep contemplation about the matter. Longfellow was written for Carradine.

Following Thriller, John Carradine made 9 guest appearances on the popular The Red Skelton Hour 1961.

Carradine as Major Starbuckle in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 1962.

Ford found working with Carradine a trial because of his free-spirited style but he cast him once again, this time joining him in 1962 with The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance starring James Stewart and John Wayne. Carradine played the bombastic Senator Cassius Starbuckle.

Carradine’s cameo happens toward the end of the film in a scene at the political convention with him kicking up a fuss “soldier, jurist and statesmen” he’s a mouthpiece for the cattle ranchers opposed to statehood. This would be Carradine’s last significant role with director John Ford.

“Offering up a caricatured portrayal of a bombastic Southern blue-blood blowhard, he strikes poses, grandstands, and dishonestly paints his political foe (Stewart) as a killer not fit for government. Without half trying Carradine was capable of exuding just the right sort of seedy grandeur in this pompous scoundrel role; his theatrical oratory enlivens the final reel of a movie. “ (Mank)

In 1963 he directed Hamlet at the Gateway Playhouse on Long Island where he performed the melancholy Dane.

Carradine made appearances on the television series The Lucy Show in 1964 as Professor Guzman in the episode ‘Lucy Goes to Art Class.’

Also in 1964, he appeared with Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, and Richard Widmark with Carradine playing Major Jeff Blair a gambler who joins James Stewart in a card game in Ford’s western Cheyenne Autumn 1964.

The Wizard of Mars, and Curse of the Stone Hand where he appeared for one minute as part of director Jerry Warren’s added footage in order to use Carradine’s name in the credits for his movie pieced together from two French dramas creating an incoherent mess.

Throughout the 1960s he worked constantly in Summerstock – appearing in Enter Laughing, Arsenic and Old Lace 1965 and in Oliver as the sly Fagin in 1966.

Carradine in John Ford’s Cheyenne Autumn 1964 starring Carroll Baker.

Carradine with Andrea King in House of the Black Death 1965/71.

in the low-budget House of the Black Death Carradine had more of a prominent role as Andre Desard, plays the patriarch of a family of Satanists and werewolves, with Lon Chaney, Jr. playing his evil brother Belial who sports a pair of horns and battles over their ancestral home. The film also stars Tom Drake and noir star Andrea King.

1966 saw Carradine cast as a smarmy Dracula once again in the bottom basement horror/western Billy the Kid vs Dracula directed by William ‘one shot’ Beaudine, with supportive roles by Virginia Christine and Marjorie Bennett. Carradine is painted as looking like a pasty-faced, maniacal magician with a greasy satanic goatee mustache, widow’s peak, frills, cravat, and top hat. Traveling by stagecoach in the Old West, Dracula meets James Underwood on his way to the cattle ranch to see his niece Betty (Melinda Plowman). When the passengers are killed by Indians, he assumes Underhill’s identity and seeks out Betty as his next undead bride. Carradine comes under suspicion for a series of unexplained murders. His Dracula sleeps in a bed not a coffin and moves around in broad daylight. Whenever Carradine exerts his hypnotic stare, Beaudine used a colored spotlight that turned his face a bright red, with Dracula dashing in and out of the frame, in a badly designed special effect.

“I have worked in a dozen of the greatest, and I have worked in a dozen of the worst. I only regret Billy the kid versus Dracula. Otherwise, I regret nothing… it was a bad film. I don’t even remember it. I was absolutely numb.”

He had a small role in Munster, Go Home in 1966 for Universal where he played the oddball butler Cruikshank. On television, he appeared on episodes of Daniel Boone in 1968 and Bonanza in 1969 as Preacher Dillard.

In 1967 he hosted five horror tales as part of Gallery of Horrors – Not to be confused with the superior portmanteau – Amicus’ Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. Five short tales of the supernatural introduced by Carradine, who does appear in the first edition as a 17th century Warlock in ‘The Witch’s Clock’ about a young couple who find a cursed clock that can raise the dead.

‘The Witch’s Clock’ segment of Gallery of Horrors.

Continue reading “John Carradine “I am a ham!” Part 2″

31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 4 The last Killing in a Lineup of unsung noir

Read: Parts One, Two & Three

☞SPOILERS!

27-The Killing 1956

Daring hold-up nets $2,000,000! Police baffled by fantastic crime! Masked bandit escapes with race track loot! These 5 Men Had a $2,000,000 Secret Until One of them told this Woman!
Narrator – At exactly 3:45 on that Saturday afternoon in the last week of September, Marvin Unger was, perhaps, the only one among the hundred thousand people at the track who felt no thrill at the running of the fifth race. He was totally disinterested in horse racing and held a lifelong contempt for gambling. Nevertheless, he had a $5 win bet on every horse in the fifth race. He knew, of course, that this rather unique system of betting would more than likely result in a loss, but he didn’t care. For after all, he thought, what would the loss of twenty or thirty dollars mean in comparison to the vast sum of money ultimately at stake.

The Killing is an enigmatic tour de force directed by the fiercely independent Stanley Kubrick, who also penned the screenplay adapting its non-linear story structure from Lionel White’s novel ‘clean break.’ Kubrick chose Jim Thompson for the atypical style of writing in his pulp fiction books and had a great ear for dialect and an original approach to dialogue.

{about writer Jim Thompson} “At the time he was just another bitter alcoholic wordsmith living on paltry advances for paperback originals like Savage Night, The Grifters and The Killer Inside Me. Kubrick recognized his affinity for desperate characters and the great gallows humor in his dialogue. Thompson had a nasty falling out with Kubrick after Kubrick took a screenwriting credit, and reduced Thompson’s credit to merely – dialogue by…” (Eddie Muller)

Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick on the set of Paths of Glory 1957.

Thompson and Kubrick came together two years later to collaborate on his break-out film Paths of Glory 1957. Working within the Hollywood system there would always be strings attached, initially, Kubrick and writer Thompson’s screenplay (Thompson was popular as a writer of hard-boiled paperback crime novels) did not include a narrator, but the studio insisted they use one in order to lessen the audience’s confusion.

Kubrick’s insistence on staying true to White’s novel and his style of writing made him bang heads with United Artists who were distributing the film. They thought they were getting an unambiguous film noir heist picture, not a rip-off story told in the middle of a time warp.

Kubrick cleverly disrupted the studio’s demand for a Narrator and only used Gilmore when the narrative became linear, making him an unreliable storyteller, which had the outcome he was looking for from the beginning which was – to confuse the audience.

When Kubrick turned in his final cut United was furious and insisted he restructures the film so it wouldn’t mess with the audience’s heads. After a bit of a debate, Kubrick held his ground and stuck with White’s vision. The result was rather than spending any more money editing the film, United Artists marooned it under the half of a double bill with Robert Mitchum’s western, Bandito directed by Richard Fleischer who made some interesting B noir/crime movies His Kind of Woman 1951 with Robert Mitchum, The Narrow Margin 1952, Compulsion 1959, Crack in the Mirror 1960, and The Boston Strangler 1968.

Continue reading “31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 4 The last Killing in a Lineup of unsung noir”

31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 3

☞Read Part: One & ☞Part Two, & Part Four

💥SPOILERS!

21-HE RAN ALL THE WAY 1951

A lonely girl — a man on the run and 72 hours reckless hours that shock you with the impact of unleashed emotions!

Directed by John Berry (Tension 1949), with the screenplay by two victims of HUAC Dalton Trumbo (The Prowler 1951, The Brother’s Rico 1957, Papillon 1973) and Hugo Butler (The Southerner 1945.) Based on a novel by Sam Ross. All three men’s names Berry Trumbo and Butler were struck from the credits due to the blacklist, but have since been restored.

Garfield stars in his final film, as Nick Robey and Shelley Winters as Peg Dobbs. Wallace Ford plays Fred Dobbs, and Selena Royle as Mrs. Dobbs. The incomparable Gladys George is Mrs. Robey. Norman Lloyd as Al Molin. With music by Franz Waxman, it is not overwrought but has a beautiful, restrained melody. The film is shot by prolific cinematographer James Wong Howe ( The Thin Man 1934, They Made Me a Criminal 1939, King’s Row 1942, he shot Garfield in Body and Soul 1947, The Rose Tattoo 1955 Sweet Smell of Success 1957)

While under contract to Warner Bros. John Garfield could have had his pick of any major studio in Hollywood, RKO, 20th Century Fox even MGM wanted him to sign, but being the tough, rebellious everyman, in 1946 he did not renew his contract with Warners, and since none of the other studios would touch He Ran All the Way, Garfield released the film under his own new independent production company with Bob Roberts (Body and Soul 1947, Force of Evil 1948, All Night Long 1962) and Paul Trivers.

In an interview with Look magazine, he said, “I wasn’t carrying a chip on my shoulder at Warners. I appreciated the fact that they made me a star, but they didn’t pick me up from a filling station.”

“When an actor doesn’t face a conflict, he loses confidence in himself. I always want to have a struggle because I believe it will help me accomplish more.” – John Garfield

A kid from the streets of New York, during John Garfield ‘Julie’s career between Body and Soul 1947 and He Ran All the Way 1951, he did not work in Hollywood when HUAC targeted the actor as a communist sympathizer. Garfield suffered at the mercy of the blacklist when he refused to name names. Criminal considering he not only raised money for the war effort during WWII, but also co-founded the Hollywood Canteen. The stress of the constant persecution he endured led to him suffering a massive heart attack leading to his tragic death at only 39, less than a year after He Ran All the Way.

In 1946, John Garfield a naturalistic actor was box-office gold, ( I think he set the stage for Dean and Brando) having a successful run as a superstar in Hollywood with Humoresque, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Nobody Lives Forever. Garfield was able to transform an unsympathetic guy, into a heavy, might-have-been, and deeply humanize him. And though the fatalistic creed of ‘film noir’ is that no flawed anti-hero can escape their dark destiny, we feel for their consequences.

Film historian Eddie Muller calls Garfield the ‘pied piper’ because he led the way for all the actors from New York’s Group Theater and the Broadway scene. Not only a bold actor on screen, but he was also a terrific stage actor as well having used sense memory a lot.

John Garfield was magic because of his authenticity at playing brooding, defiant, working-class guys, his Nick Robey is a lost soul – living in a claustrophobic nightmare that he can’t outrun, that he cannot escape. Even while he’s asleep. The nightmares chase him into a frightened sweat.

Set in Southern California over a 72-hour time frame, under the sweltering summer heat, the film opens A fevered dream, running so hard… “my lungs are burnin‘ up.”

Mrs. Robey –“Nick, Nicky you were hollering in your sleep.” Nick- “Alright Mom so I was hollering in my sleep what’s wrong with that?” Mrs. Robey –“It’s 11 o’clock Mr. Robey you can’t lay there all day.”
Nick –“Beat it, blow.” (She rolls the shades up to let the harsh morning light into the room)
Hey Cut that out!


Gladys George is an intense searing beam of deplorable as Nick’s mother who swills cheap beer like a well-oiled lush and treats him like she resents having given birth to her loser son. Mrs. Robey persistingly harassing Nick. Later she even tells the cops to “Kill him! Kill him!”

Mrs. Robey –“If you were a man you’d be out looking for a job.”
Nick- “If you were a man I’d kick your teeth in.” Mrs. Robey “There’s coffee on the stove, Don’t ever talk to me like that Nick.” Nick- “You’ve been talked to worse.”
Mrs. Robey –“Only by you dirty punk.” Nick -“Oh knock it off Mom you just got too big a hangover.” (She slaps him) Mrs. Robey –“I’ll kill ya if you talk like that.” Nick-(Laughs) “You’re losing your punch Mom.”

Continue reading “31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 3”

BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 4: The Dark Goddess-This Dark Mirror

 BARBARA STEELE   – BLOODY WELL BELOVED

The role Barbara Steele plays in the legacy of Italian Gothic cinema of the 1960s achieving cult status, is arguably her most recognizable contribution to the sub-genre of the horror film. She’s been christened The High Priestess of Horror, Queen of Horror, and The Dark Goddess, the latter, the implication being her prowess is proof there’s a link between beauty (a woman’s power) and evil. Steele’s persona is suitable as a femme fatale, and the sum of her work is extremely feminist.

According to journalist Maitland McDonagh, she is The Face that Launched a Thousand Screams. She is the sadomasochistic Madonna of the “cinefantastique”; the queen of the wild, the beautiful, and the damned.”

“Of all the stars of horror cinema, Barbara Steele may have come the closest to pure myth {…} she suggests a kinky and irresistible sexual allure” – (David J Hogan)

“With goldfish-bowl eyes radiating depraved elfin beauty, and what she calls herold, suspicious Celtic soul burning blackly within, Steele played the princess in a dark fairytale.” ‘They sense something in me’ she once said of her fans, but surely it was true of her directors also. Steele followed with ‘Maybe some kind of psychic pain. The diva Dolorosa of the 1910s, reincarnated as a voluptuous revenant.’ – (from David Cairns and Daniel Riccuito for Sight and Sound)

“Angel Carter (1982) named the three surrealist love goddesses as Louise Brooks first and foremost followed by Dietrich and third Barbara Steele. With regards to Steele however, not all the following descriptions emanate from surrealists caught in the grip of amour fou” (obsessive passion).- (The Other Face of Death: Barbara Steele and La Maschera Del Demonio by Carol Jenks from NECRONOMICON edited by Andy Black)

“The very symbol of Woman as vengeful, alien and ‘other’.” (Nicholls 1984)

“Steele perfectly embodies both the dread and the desire necessary to imply alluring and transgressive sexuality.” (Lampley-Women in the Horror films of Vincent Price)

“It’s not me they’re seeing. They’re casting some projection of themselves, some aspect that I somehow symbolizes. It can’t possibly be me.” Barbara Steele quoted-(Warren 1991)

“You can’t live off being a cult.” Barbara Steele

“When did I ever deserve this dark mirror?”

 

Continue reading “BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 4: The Dark Goddess-This Dark Mirror”

31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 2

By now with Parts 1 and 2 under my belt, it’s pretty clear that one theme has emerged. It is my love for three shamefully underrated noir actors that really carry the genre, John Garfield, Victure Mature, and Richard Conte! Victor Mature is a swarthy jewel in his darker noirs, The Long Haul, I Wake Up Screaming, and Kiss of Death. Even in the western noir masterpiece My Darling Clementine 1946 where he plays the brooding Doc Holliday. Conte possesses a sublime brutality, with the lure of a Minotaur charging. Think of him In The Big Combo, Thieves’ Highway, and Brothers Rico. Garfield is deeply vulnerable and edgy, giving off an existential sensuality as in He Ran All the Way, Force of Evil, Body and Soul, and They Made Me a Criminal. I think I’ve fallen in love with all three!

JUST A HEADS UP: THERE ARE SPOILERS!

Read: Parts One, Three & Four

12-Cry of the City 1948

From the heart of its people comes the … cry of the city.

Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers 1946, Phantom Lady 1944, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry 1945, The Spiral Staircase 1946, The File on Thelma Jordon 1949) with a screenplay by Richard Murphy from the novel The Chair for Martin Rome by Henry Edward Helseth, and an uncredited Ben Hecht.

Editorial use only.No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock (5876973e)
Robert Siodmak, Victor Mature Cry Of The City 1948 Director: Robert Siodmak 20th Century Fox USA On/Off Set La Proie.

The moody black and white photography is by cinematographer Lloyd Ahern Sr. and the music is by Alfred Newman. Eddie Muller refers to Cry of the City as “Siodmak’s most operatic noir.” It is Siodmak’s most focused work, and the first film noir he shot extensively on location. The film reunited Siodmak with producer Sol Siegel who worked on three Paramount B pictures together after the director settled in Hollywood during the early 1940s. The song ‘Street Scene’, a recurring motif heard in several noirs and written by composer Alfred Newman, plays at the opening of the film. The song can be remembered in I Wake Up Screaming, also starring Mature. It is an urban melody that evokes dreamy nightscapes of the city. Siodmak loves a rain-soaked street in his noir films, with its themes of fatalism and obsession, and the shocking story of the clash between law and lawlessness. The story borrows from a familiar plot device which sets up an opposition between two characters who come from the same background as children, but wind up clashing in their adult life.

Cry of the City is the most ‘operatic’ (Muller) film noir not just stylistically, but the theme its essential that you not hate Marty Rome’s character. The whole idea is that these are two boyhood friends who come from the same neighborhood and it’s just through circumstance one becomes a criminal and one a lawman, but they’re basically the same guy. That’s the whole point of the film. It’s essential that he play someone with that swagger (Conte) and that criminal intent, but he also has a vulnerability you can see in both of them. You can see the boy in the man. It ends so tragically that it feels operatic…You could see that Siodmak is using the street like this huge stage.”

Cry of the City stars Victor Mature as Lt. Vittorio Candella, and Richard Conte as the ruthless Marty Rome. Fred Clark plays Cadnella’s partner Lt. Jim Collins whose tongue is fast on the trigger. Shelley Winters is Marty’s old flame Brenda Martingale. Brenda is Martin’s loyal ex-gal who spirits the wounded Conte around the city, while an unlicensed doctor works on his bullet wounds in the back seat of her car.

Betty Garde is Nurse Frances Pruett, and Berry Kroeger is the unsavory, amoral lawyer W. A. Niles. Debra Paget plays angelic Teena Riconti. Tommy Cook plays Conte’s cop-hating kid brother who worships him, and it’s clear is heading down the same doomed path, as his older brother Marty.

Garde and Emerson worked together in John Cromwell’s Caged 1950. Garde is Conte’s sympathetic nurse And Hope Emerson is the darkly imposing Rose Given. Emerson, a masseuse and a sadist, is the nefarious Amazon who desperately wants the jewels that Conte has lifted from sleazy lawyer Kroeger. One of the best supporting roles in Cry of the City is Hope Emerson as the ‘monolithic’ (Dinman) Rose Givens who dominates the scenes with Conte.

In Robert Siodmak’s sublime noir Cry of the City 1948 Emerson plays Madame Rose Given who runs a massage parlor, loves to cook, is a pancake eatin’ -looming ‘heavy’… who loves jewels and just wants a little place in the country where she can cook, eat pancakes and fresh eggs… ‘yeah that’s livin’. From her brawny swagger to her grumbling yet leisurely voice, Emerson’s deliciously diabolical performance is the highlight of the film!

Continue reading “31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 2”

31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure You In! Part 1

Read: Parts Two, Three & Four

“A man could spend the rest of his life trying to remember what he shouldn’t have said.”- Force of Evil

“All that Cain did to Abel was murder him.” –Force of Evil

“He pushed me too far!… So I pushed him just far enough.” –The Lineup

“You’re like a rat in a box without any holes” – I Wake Up Screaming

“From now on, no one cuts me so deep that I can’t close the wound.” – I Wake Up Screaming

“I’m gonna give you a break. I’m gonna fix it so you don’t hear the bullets!”- The Big Combo

“I was born on a Monday, I might as well go out on a Monday. Like dirty laundry.”- Man in the Dark

Heads up… this feature includes spoilers…💣

1-I Wake Up Screaming 1941

I Wake Up Screaming is the first official noir produced by Fox, directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (he worked on Charlie Chan programmers and B-movies) who was not considered a noir director. With a screenplay by Dwight Taylor based on the novel by Steve Fisher. Eddie Muller said it personified film noir and calls the 1941 film – Proto-noir, as it was the first of its kind.

Darryl F. Zanuck wanted the film’s location changed to New York City, so it wouldn’t reflect badly on L.A. There are a number of sleazy characters involved and he wanted to shift the story from Hollywood to Broadway.

The film was remade as Vicki in 1953 (with Jeanne Crane and Jean Peters, though it lacked the highly stylized artistry) Photographed by Edward Cronjager (Seven Keys to Baldpate 1929, Hell’s Highway 1932, The Monkey’s Paw 1933, Island in the Sky 1938, The Gorilla 1939, Heaven Can Wait 1943, Desert Fury 1947, Relentless 1948, House by the River 1950, The Girl in Lovers Lane 1960) pours out murky noir shadows, darkened streets, unusual camera angles, low key lighting and the high contrast, one-point lighting that illuminates the ink black threatening spaces. The film is stark yet dynamic.

With music by Cyril J. Mockridge, you’ll hear the familiar often-used noir leitmotif, the melody Street Scene by Alfred Newman. I Wake Up Screaming stars Betty Grable as Jill Lynn, Victor Mature as Frankie Christopher, Carole Landis as Vicki Lynn, and Laird Cregar as Ed Cornell. The film also co-stars Alan Mowbray as Robin Ray and Allyn Joslyn as Larry Evans. Quirky character actor Elisha Cook Jr. plays Harry Williams the desk clerk in Vicki’s apartment building who’s a real weirdo. William Gargan plays Detective Jerry ‘Mac’ MacDonald.

Cook is great at playing quirky oddballs (Cliff the crazed drummer in Phantom Lady 1944, George Peatty in The Killing 1956, anxious trench coat-wearing Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon 1941, Watson Pritchard in House on Haunted Hill 1959).

I Wake up Screaming bares a resemblance to a whodunit, as the killer is chased down with the story playing a bit of a shell game with us. There are common noir themes of obsession, perverse lust, corruption, and homicidal jealousy. The film also has a preoccupation with images and artifice, tossing up flashbacks like a circus juggler.

Right before model, Vicki Lynn heads to Hollywood to reach for her rising star, she is brutally murdered. Delicious Betty Grable in her first non-music role, plays Jill Lynn, Vicki’s sister, who is drawn to the man (Victor Mature) who is presumably her sister’s murderer.

Vicki functions as an essential part of the narrative early on in the film and is resurrected by way of flashbacks. Frankie knows that while there are images that still exist of Vicki she is no longer present. In fact, Vicki is a myth and a manufactured deception in some ways. Jill on the other hand is genuine, unpretentious, and warmhearted.

Carol Landis who died at 28 from an overdose, plays murder victim Vicki Lynn. I Wake up Screaming backflips into the weeks leading up to her death. The film is also somewhat of a noir variation on Pygmalion, as Victor Mature who plays Frankie Christopher, sports and show business promoter, discovers a beautiful girl waiting tables and gets the hot idea of turning Vicki into a celebrity and society girl. Vicki’s appeal is the sphere of influence that drives the plot. Mature always makes the screen sweat with his sexy brawny build, swarthy good looks, strong jaw line, and the aura of his glistening obsidian hair.

The film opens with a sensational news headline ‘MODEL MURDERED’ Right from the top Frankie is being grilled by the cops in the interrogation room. Burning white hot lights are up close in his face. He says to the shadow of Cornell (Cregar) who’s a bulky shadow shot with single source lighting) to his opaque figure, “You’re a pretty tough guy with a crowd around.”

The flashbacks begin. Frankie goes back to the first time he meets Vicki at the lunch room on 8th Avenue while eating with Larry Evans (Alan Joslyn) and Robin Ray (Alan Mowbray). Vicki asks “Is that all?” Lary Evans says “No, but the rest of it isn’t on the menu.” She handles his come on, “You couldn’t afford it if it was.” Frankie pours on the charm. He gets the notion to take Vicki and mold her into a celebrity. “You know I bet in 6 months I could take that girl and put her on top of the ladder.” Mature and Landis worked together in One Million Years B.C.

Has-been actor Robin Ray (Mowbray) and ruthless gossip columnist Larry Evans (Joslyn) decide to get involved in developing Vicki Lynn’s mystique and cultivate her glamour on the road to fame. Of course, both men wind up having a yen for her. A cynical Ray (Mowbray) complains that all women are alike. Evans (Joslyn) tells him, “For Pete’s sake, what difference does that make? You’ve got to have them. They’re standard equipment.”

Frankie takes Vicki Lynn out into New York cafe society – All three schemers, the columnist, the washed-up actor, and Frankie, bring her to the cafe and make a big noise, grabbing the attention of Lady Handel (May Beatty) who invites them over to her table. In order to give the impression that Vicki will now be a new sensation, Larry Evans brags in front of the table, that he’ll plug her In his column. They also think that it’ll help Vicki to get noticed if she’s seen on Robin Ray’s arm. The outing is a success. When they bring her home to her apartment building they meet the squirrely desk clerk Harry Williams (Elisha Cook), who takes his sweet time, getting up for Vicki. Frankie gives him a hard time after being so disrespectful. Williams sneers, “She ain’t nobody.”

Back to the present and Frankie’s still in the sweat box. They’re questioning Jill too. She’s telling the cops about Vicki’s plans. She’s got, “Grand ideas about becoming a celebrity.” They ask about Frankie’s involvement. Another flashback – the sisters are talking about Vicki’s new venture. Vicki tells Jill, “They’re gonna glamorize me.” Jill tells Vicki that she doesn’t trust Frankie’s promises, and apologizes for sounding stuffy. She warns Vicki about having unrealistic aspirations. Flashback even further. Frankie shows up at the cafeteria. Vicki keeps dishing out the wisecracks. He shows her the newspaper article about her making a splash at the El Chico Club.

“Why all the cracks you don’t even know me?” “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like.” Back in the present day, at the police station. Jill continues to tell the cops how successful Vicki’s climb was. Backward once again-

Jill Lynn I don’t want to tell you your business, but don’t you think you’re making a fool of yourself?
Vicki Lynn What do you mean?
Jill Oh, this Frankie Christopher. People like that, what have they got to do with people like us?
Vicki Jill, they’re going to help me!
Jill In what way?
Vicki They’re gonna’ glamorize me. They may have started this thing as a gag, but, after taking one look at those million-dollar debutantes tonight, I realized I can give them cards in spades and still come out on top.
Jill Vicky, you’ll never come out on top by any shortcuts. One week your picture’s on the cover of a magazine, the next it’s in the ash can.

Frankie arrives at the girl’s apartment, and Vicki breaks the news to Frankie that she’s going away to Hollywood. She’d done a screen test and signed a long-term contract. He’s angry. She went behind Frankie’s back after everything he did for her. She defends herself “Some people think I’m a pretty attractive girl. I’m no Frankenstein you know!” Frankie comments, “I wonder.”

Jill tells the cops she was pounding a typewriter breaking her fingernails, and Vicki did get the Hollywood contract, so she might have been right about taking the risk with an acting career and becoming a star.

Another flashback The three men are sitting around the bar.

Robin Ray [indignant] Can you imagine her walking out on me, after all that I’ve done for her? Me!

Larry Evans [slightly incredulous] “You’ve” done for her? What have *you* done for her?

Robin Well, I took her out to all the bright spots, I let her be seen with me everywhere… It made her feel important.

Larry Why, you parboiled old ham! You don’t think anybody thought there was anything between *you* two, do you? If it hadn’t been for my plugging in the column, people would’ve thought she was your trained nurse.

Robin Why, you ink-stinking word slinger! I was famous when they were changing your pants 20 times a day!

Jumping to the present again, Jill is still being questioned by the cops. They want to know if Vicki had anyone in her life. Jill remembers a peculiar thing that happened. She tells them she was sitting at the table in the cafeteria waiting for Vicki to get off work. The peeping prowling, Ed Cornell’s giant shape stares at Vicki through the window. He has a queer look on his face. Jill maintains her stare, holding her coffee cup, she is unable to put it down as she studies him, uncomfortably. Once he notices Jill catching him ogling Vicki, he skulks away. Mockeridge’s score undergoes a sinister change, with emphasis on the rhythmic accents of a classic horror picture.

Jill tells her sister, “You seem to have an admirer there’s some guy looking through the window like the wolf looking for the 3 little pigs.” The girls are walking on the street, Cornell is leaning against a wall, and Jill points out to Vicki that he’s the one. “He gives me the creeps,” Vicki says, “You’ll have to get used to that, they’ve got more wolves in New York than they have in Siberia,” She tells the cops she saw him several times after in odd places. He never said anything but watched Vicki, it frightened Jill. There was something strange about him, the way he looked at Vicki. Always turning up in strange places. The cops look skeptical about her “mysterious stranger.”

The cops think Jill is trying to protect Frankie “I just don’t believe he did it, that’s all” They ask if she’s involved with him, and accuse her of being in love with him and wanting Vicki out of the way. Jill demands to see someone in authority, so they tell Mac to get Cornell. Who walks in? The creep who watched Vicki through the plate glass!

Enter rabid, self-righteous homicide Detective Ed Cornell (Cregar). Once he sets his sights on Frankie he begins to mercilessly hound him to the ends of hell if necessary, going after him with a flaming vengeance, trying to pin the murder on him. Cornell knows that Frankie is innocent but he is determined to persecute him. Cregar made an all too short career out playing imposing characters. He died at 28 in 1944 due to complications from a crash diet, always struggling with his weight, striving to obtain leading man status.

Jill is startled, the room is smoky and this massive shape looms over her with his girth “That’s him, that’s the man!” They think she’s crazy. First, it’s a mysterious stranger peeking through windows and now it’s Ed Cornell. “That’s my job to look at people.” Leaving the dark corner of the sweat box into the smoke factory with Frankie, things become more visible as Cornell emerges as a menacing force. She insists, “I did see you.” “Alright Alright, I’m a peeping tom.”

Jill Relates what happened on the car ride with Frankie, the night he learned Vicki was leaving, and she tells him he’ll be glad to get rid of her because Jill is in love with him. Jill is just covering up her feelings. Frankie says Jill being in love with him, never entered his mind. Vicki is sure, “I know it’s much deeper than that. That’s why it’s so dangerous. Anything might happen.”

Cornell writes down everything on his pad. Jill says that Vicki didn’t mean the line about being glad to get rid of her, but he corrects her, “What she meant doesn’t count. It’s what she said.”

The night Jill found Vicki, as soon as she came out of the elevator she got a feeling something was wrong. There was music blasting from the radio. Frankie was there already – ”Jill you don’t think I did it, do you?” Jill is in shock.

Cornell goes back into the interrogation room with Frankie and tells him he knows about Vicki’s ‘get rid of me’ statement. The obsessed Cornell comes up with a scenario. Frankie’s mind got more and more inflamed with jealousy and hurt pride. Went up there and killed her in cold blood. Cornell loses his cool and lunges at Frankie, ”I’ve got a mind to kill you right now.”When Cornell gets rough, the other cops have to break it up. They all like Frankie and ask if he’s got any tickets to the fights. They ask Cornell “What’s the idea of riding him, so hard?” “I have years of experience in this racket. If that isn’t the look of a guilty man, I’ll take the rap myself.” The District Attorney winds up getting his back up with Cornell when he focuses so much on Frankie’s guilt.

The District Attorney (Morris Ankrum) apologizes to Frankie. Jill is in the office too and tells him they think they know the identity of the killer. It’s the switchboard operator at the sisters’ apartment building. They think it’s Harry Williams. Jill leaves the police station and Frankie asks why they think it’s Williams. The D.A. tells him, William’s been missing since 5 pm last night, probably hiding out scared and shaky.

Frankie is released and later that night, Mature wakes up to find the huge, menacing Cregar sitting beside his bed, “Well that’s the first time, I had a bad dream with my eyes open.” “Someday you’re going to talk in your sleep, and when that day comes I want to be around.” The scene hints at Cornell’s repressed homosexual passion.

Cornell tells him he’ll get all the evidence he needs and tie him up like a pig in a slaughterhouse. Frankie unrattled, tells him, ”You’re the bright boy” and reminds him that they think Williams murdered Vicki. Victor Mature is so smooth, so mellow when he’s playing at being sarcastic, He says, “You’re like something out of a museum you ought to have a magnifying glass and one of those trick hats with the ear flaps” Frankie throws Cornell out after he calls him cocky, and has had it his way too long. First with Vicki, then Jill. Cornell’s resentment is showing.

Jill finds Harry Williams who’s returned to the apartment building. She’s moving out, but he has already packed up her bags and taken them down to the lobby. Williams is a suspiciously hollow little insect who Jill finds strange. Frankie meets up with Robin at the police station. The cops show a reel of Vicki singing at a nightclub. Cornell watches her longingly which gives Frankie a window into Cornell’s longing for the dead girl. Cornell looks at Frankie with contempt.

The film of Vicki appears in the dark room filled with cigar smoke that makes wispy clouds float, and the rays of light from the projection booth. The light cast on Frankie’s eyes is like an illuminated mask, it accentuates his epiphany — that Cornell is obsessed with Vicki. He catches something in his stare. The light on Cornell’s face as HE stares back at Frankie, unmasks only half of his face, revealing the duplicity Cornell projects throughout the picture. It’s a brilliantly framed shot by Cronjager.

The film reel resurrects Vicki from the dead, like a ghost haunting the room. Robin Ray squirms in his chair and runs to get out. The door is locked. His behavior hints at his guilt. They put the lights on and bring him into the D.A.’s office. Ray tells them how he felt about her. She laughed at him. Called him “a has-been and didn’t want to hitch her wagon to a falling star.” He’s the one that arranged the screen test but she went down there alone. He is obsolete, they decided they didn’t need him. While he talks about her, Cornell looks out the window. Daylight casts patterns from the Venetian blinds that cut across his face. Odd angle profiles tilt the two-shot of Cornell and Mac off-kilter. Ray has an alibi. He was at a sanitarium. Cornell checked it out already and is gleeful that it rules out yet another suspect. He wants Frankie to fry for it. Cornell would have Frankie in the death house by now. “That won’t prevent you from going to the hot chair.” 

As Frankie is leaving the police station Cornell asks him for a lift uptown “Sure, always happy to oblige a goon”

Ed Cornell [bumming a ride in Frankie’s car] “I’m sorry to have to ask you to do this, but I’m a little short on cash lately. You see, I’ve spent so much of my own dough, trying to build up this case against you.”

Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) Well, if there’s anything you need, just let me know.”

Ed Cornell Oh, I imagine they’ll make it right with me when I bring in the material for your trial. They usually do in these cases. I nick a guy on my own time and send him up to the chair, then I get back pay.”

Frankie Christopher “Must be a great life – like a garbage man, only with people!”

Ed Cornell “I got practically all the evidence I need now. I could arrest you today for that matter, but you might get some smart mouthpiece and get off with life instead of the chair. I won’t be satisfied until I’m *sure* it’s the chair.”

Frankie Christopher “You’re a gay dog, Cornell. You make me feel as if I’m driving a hearse!”

Ed Cornell Oh, I know your type. I’ve seen hundreds of them. I don’t scare you enough to make you commit suicide, but I worry you just the same. And when the day comes they all act different. Some scream, a few faint, some light a cigarette and try a wisecrack. But it sticks in their throats – especially when they’re hung.”

Cornell shows up at Jill’s new apartment to intimidate her. Jill “What’s the good of living without hope?” Ed Cornell signals his own personal torture- “It can be done.” He advises her to just play along, insisting that she’s not even sure Frankie’s innocent. Once he’s left, Jill pulls out a note from behind a framed painting on the wall. It’s from Frankie to Vicki, “After what you did last night, the sooner you’re out of the way the better it will be.”

Frankie takes Jill to the fights and then out on the town. She asks if he ever brought Vicki to the fights, and tells him it’s the first New York nightclub she’s ever been to. The El Chico club, he first took Vicki to. She sees how nice he is without all the flashy bluster and pretense. He’s actually very real. Cornell follows them. Frankie asks her why she suddenly called him, “The trouble with you is that you pretend you don’t care about things but you do. You were very upset about Vicki’s death weren’t You? He tells her he’d like to find the guy, “Save the State on its electric bill. She was a good kid” Jill doesn’t want him to be guilty. “Did you love her? “No, do you think if I’d loved her I would have tried to exploit her the way I did?… Vicki was pretty, gay, and amusing She had lots to offer and I wanted to put her in the right place on the map. After all, that’s my business But when a man really loves a woman, he doesn’t want to plaster her face all over papers and magazines. He wants to keep her to himself.”

Looking into her eyes, he tells her he’s in love with her. Larry Evans sees them together and calls in the story “Stepping out… Dancing on the grave.”

Frankie takes Jill to his favorite swimming spot. It’s a lovely scene, that brings some lightness to the external space in the story. She shows him the note he wrote to Vickie and he asks why she didn’t turn it in to the police. Jill tells him she knew he was innocent and what the note meant, at the moment they were dancing at the nightclub. When they are back at the apartment, Cornell walks in and takes the note. They cuff Frankie. Cornell who is obviously framing him is just waiting for the chance to catch him. Frankie tells him anyone could have written a note like that. He was burned up when Vicki dropped the bomb that she was leaving. He finds out that Cornell has planted a set of brass knuckles in his apartment. Vicki was hit hard behind the ear with a heavy object. The depraved Cornell punches Frankie in the guts. “You’re like a rat in a hole.”

As Cornell is about to take him downtown, Frankie is on the ground after Cornell’s hostile assault, Jill hits Cornell from behind and helps Frankie escape. Big fat head bullying him, she says.

Frankie proposes, “Mind marrying a hunted man?” She tells him, “Most married men have a hunted look anyway.” He tells her his real name – Botticelli, the son of Italian immigrants. Then he shows her how to hide in the city. They duck into an adult movie house, watching the same picture over and over. Then they decide to split up for the time being and she goes to the public library. The cops find her, and Frankie sees them taking her away. The newspaper headline says “Christopher eludes police dragnet.” Cornell stalks the streets. Frankie sneaks up on him. “Let Jill go”, and he’ll turn himself in. Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar) “I’ll follow you into your grave. I’ll write my name on your tombstone.” “You’re not a cop you’re crazy trying to frame an innocent man.” Frankie throws a tootsie roll at him and takes off. Cornell assures him, he’ll eventually get him. Always smirking like the devil.

Cornell tells the D.A. a parable about the African Butterfly and how to trap the male to set the female free. He wants him to let Jill out of her box to lure Frankie. She goes home, sneaks out through the window, and surprises Frankie at the adult movie house. At the apartment, she has found little cards from flowers that were sent to Vicki, and at the funeral. She shows them to Frankie. The message on the cards says, “Because I promised.”

They go to Rosedale Cemetery and when he meets the caretaker, Frankie pretends to be a reporter and asks if anybody lately has been around Vicki’s grave. There were many flowers at the funeral, and the caretaker tells him that the grave’s been getting flowers each day since she died. Frankie learns where they were sent from, and goes to Keating Florist. It turns out that Larry sent them. Frankie confronts Larry who admits he was with Vicki the day she died. He had promised to send her flowers every day when she left for Hollywood, and he wanted to keep his word. Larry winds up giving Frankie a clue about the killer, and he goes to the old apartment and gets Mac to give him a half hour. He has a strong hunch.

The next scene is ripe with atmosphere when Frankie leans against the wall in Vicki’s old apartment. The lattice shadows fence Frankie in. Harry Williams is sleeping at the front desk. Vicki rings the desk and speaks in Vicki’s voice “Hello Harry, this is Vicki” He’s visibly shaken. Frankie watches his reaction. His eyes open wider as the buzzing mocks him, “Harry this is Vicki. Why did you do it, Harry? Didn’t you love me?” Frankie confronts Williams. “You let yourself in with your passkey and waited for her. You loved her. She panicked and screamed.” Williams admits,  “I told the cop that when he chased me to Brooklyn. Cornell knew all along it was Williams. The dirty Cornell told him to just come back and keep his mouth shut. Mac hears the confession. Frankie tells him, he wants 5 minutes alone with Cornell.

He goes to his apartment and finds a perverse and macabre shrine to Vicki. Her image is like a talisman in his suffocating little apartment. He discovers the prominent photograph of Vicki in an elaborate frame. Cornell unaware that Frankie is there, comes in and places fresh flowers underneath the photograph, as an offering. Frankie watches then emerges, “You knew. Why’d you want to fry me?”He tells Frankie, “I lost Vicki long before Williams killed her. You were the one who took her away from me” Cornell wanted to marry her. Had this furnished apartment set up. Bought her perfume. “Til he came along and put ideas in her head. She thought she was too good for me. He could have killed him then.” Frankie puts it to him, “Why didn’t ya?” “Cause I had the hook in your mouth and I wanted to see you suffer.”

Cornell resented Frankie’s closeness to Vicki and inhabits a world that excludes him. In contrast to the suave Frankie Christopher, he is a lumbering and awkward outsider. To Cornell, Vicki will always be as unattainable as the first time he gazed upon her through the window. He was struck by her beauty, but she was completely and forever out of his reach. Cornell is like a lurking monster straight out of a classic horror movie. His uneasy presence lends to a surreal and menacing mood.

A Trailer a day keeps the Boogeyman away! I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

Continue reading “31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure You In! Part 1”