I like Judith Evelyn. There’s something well… solid and handsome about her. She also has a way of making you feel sympathy but not from a place of desperation,but an elegant, restrained kind of grace.
Consider a career in being scared to death (Angel Street tv 1946) She plays Mrs Manningham in a version of Gaslight, based on Patrick Hamilton’s stage play.
She’s always vulnerable you see. She has that kind of fragile appearance. It was nasty business the way Philip Coolidge playing Ollie frightens poor mute Martha (Evelyn) to death in William Castle’s The Tingler 1959
And playing a Lonely Heart waiting for a love that may never come, in Hitchcock’s masterpiece Rear Window 1954.
Evelyn has done a grand job of picking up the slack where starlets have left gaping holes for the less glamorous woman-in-peril to fill nicely. And here in What Beckoning Ghost? she is in top form, enunciating her words, drawing them out in sophisticated drones, no… not whiny. I didn’t say whining. Judith’s imploring are secret little gestures that make you want to protect her.
What Beckoning Ghost? originally aired on September 18th 1961 and started off Thriller’s second and only other season unfortunately.
It feaures aside from Judith Evelyn, Tom Helmore and Adele Mara. The story was adapted by Donald Sanford, based on a short magazine story by Harold Lawlor (The Grim Reaper, The Terror in Teakwood) and adding to it’s threatening appeal, it was directed by Ida Lupino Ida’s everywhere!
Here Evelyn plays concert pianist Mildred Beaumont (perhaps my particular affection for this character lies in the fact that I’m a pianist, and wouldn’t appreciate anyone fucking around using music in order to drive me crazy!)
Mildred suffered a serious heart attack, and now must convalesce at home, doing mostly bed rest, while her doting sister Lydia and patronizing husband Eric hover over her, like vultures shoving coffee and pills at her, scolding her for being restless, treating her like a muzzy child, all the while waiting to pick her bones dry, as they slowly drive her to her real death. Well that’s what it looks like right… I won’t give away the story til you’ve seen it for yourself.
Mildred begins to see visions of her own funeral, downstairs in the drawing room. There begins a macabre harpsichord waltz by Jerry Goldsmith that becomes the leitmotif for the story. An almost maniacal, or should I say diabolical theme, music to be driven mad by one would say…
She sees herself laid out in a coffin with a large wreath of flowers baring the platitude, Rest in Peace. Is she in such a weakened physical state, and so devoted to her scavenging, philandering husband Eric, that Mildred is too vulnerable to realize that there is a fowl plot under way. It’s almost Shakespearean with its glint of malevolence, madness and sardonic revenge!
The episode opens with Mephistophelean violins serenading Mildred as she hugs a fur coat to herself. She is transfixed in a three way mirror. Mirrors often used as symbolism, representational for the issue of ‘identity’ one in crisis, one that’s dubious of sanity etc.
Enjoying her luxury Mildred is smiling. Waltzing around the room she begins to slip the fur off her shoulders As she sets it on the back of a chair, Eric enters the room with a glass of milk. She turns to greet him as he says, “Hey, why aren’t you getting ready for bed?” “Oh Eric, I feel so unbearably happy!” Eric has a smile like that of a viper about to strike, all fang and no heart.
Mildred sparkles a little, “Happy and whole…” She lets out a little exhausted sigh, her breath strained with a childlike glee, but not the energy to bring it forth.
” I can’t even remember what we saw at the theater tonight, I just sat there and felt the crowd all around me!” She’s ebullient, a sense of having shed a tremendous weight. Months of being ill and finally out on the town with her handsome husband on her satin and crepe draped arm.
Gasping a little for air ” I kept thinking how wonderful it was to be with people again, to be out and ALIVE!!!” Her enthusiasm as she thrusts the word ‘alive’ out of her body seems so out of synch with Eric’s stoic blasé manner.
She asks him to dance with her, wrapping her arms around his shoulders to try and prod him. He becomes a little stern. “Oh no it’s way past your bedtime.” She begs him, “Oh please.”
“Absolutely not!,you’ve had quite enough excitement your first night out. You’ve got to give that heart of yours a chance to keep up with your feet you know.” Finally a little whimsy comes to his staunch fatherly expression. Does he really love her? Does he really care about her health? It would appear so…but this is a Thriller. We know something unsavory is afoot.
“Oh but you promised champagne in front of the fire before we went to bed…”
“You never forget anything do you? An interesting clue, that Eric should remark about her impeccable memory.
She smiles in agreement and tells him, “I asked Lydia to put a bottle on ice before we went out.” She grins like a naughty child. Eric looks at her with his plasticine smile, “You could charm the birds, right out of the trees.”
Grabbing her chin and pinching it affectionately he tells her that he’ll get it. She says, “No, just like old times…I’ll go down and get the champagne and you light the fire.”
“Alright but take it easy on those stairs” ” I already got up them once tonight by myself…thank you.” She blows him a kiss.