Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep08: Our Cook's A Treasure (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode 108: Our Cook's A Treasure
Original air date: 11.20.55

Written by Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Robert Stevens
Based on a story by Dorothy L. Sayers

Ralph Montgomery...Everett Sloane
Mrs. Sutton...Beulah Bondi
Ethel Montgomery...Janet Ward

After suffering from a sudden and short-lived sickness, hardworking real estate agent Ralph Montgomery begins to suspect that his new housekeeper, Mrs. Sutton, is in actuality Mrs. Andrews, the serial poisoner that has been in the newspaper so much lately. He launches an amateur investigation, but will his discoveries come too late? Have he and his beautiful young wife already been poisoned?

It's a pretty good episode, and I only deduced the ending mere seconds before it was revealed. The episode does a good job of making us think precisely what it wants us to think every step of the way. Everett Sloane does an admirable job in the leading role, as the paranoid--perhaps rightfully so--husband.

This episode made me realize a few things. First off, it's amazing how efficient the better episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents are at telling a compact story. This is a plotline that easily could have been drawn out into feature length, and yet here it is presented in under 30 minutes without plot holes and without feeling rushed. It's actually a pretty fantastic feat.

Secondly, it made me realize how much television has changed. It's very rare to see an episode of a modern TV show that hinges on the performances of middle aged (and older) actors. If this were a modern series, we'd have a pair of pretty but vapid twenty-somethings as the Montgomery's, and, maybe if we were lucky, a seasoned 30 year old as the elder Mrs. Sutton.

Everett Sloane had contributed his voice to numerous radio dramas in the 1940s, including Inner Sanctum Mysteries. He was a member of Orson Welles's Mercury Theater, and appeared in his Citizen Kane and The Lady From Shanghai, and acted opposite him in Prince of Foxes. In 1950, he appeared in The Men, Marlon Brando's first film. He appeared in two episodes of The Joseph Cotten Show, Cotten himself also a member of the Mercury Theater and an Alfred Hitchcock alumnus (see the previous episode, "Breakdown"). Sloane voiced the hawk nosed detective in the animated The Dick Tracy Show, and, interestingly, wrote the unused lyrics to the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show. In 1965, at the age of 55, Sloane committed suicide. This was the first of three appearances that he would make on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Janet Ward was primarily a stage actress, but she did rack up a small list of film and television credits, including appearances on Inner Sanctum, Perry Mason, Kojak and Law & Order. She died of heart complications in 1995 at age 70. This was her only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Beulah Bondi began acting as a child, and continued practically her entire life, until only five years before her death at 91. She appeared in a few genre films, including The Invisible Ray (1936) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and She Waits (1972) with Patty Duke, but made a minor cottage industry out of portraying the mother of Jimmy Stewart, which she did in four different films: It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, and Vivacious Ladies. This was her only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Robert C. Dennis had previously written the episode "Don't Come Back Alive", while Robert Stevens had directed "Premonition". Please see those entries for more information about them.

The source material for this episode was a short story by Dorothy L. Sayers entitled "Suspicion", which has been adapted multiple times. The anthology radio show Suspense adapted it in 1942, though no recordings of this episode are known to exist, and again in 1944 using the same script. They adapted it a third time in 1948 as an hour long episode. The Suspense television show even got in on the act, adapting it in 1949. All of these episodes shared a title with the short story.

"Suspicion" was also adapted for television by The Actor's Studio in 1950, and by Studio One in 1951 (both as "Mr. Mummery's Suspicion"), so even to viewers at the time, it wasn't exactly fresh by the time Alfred Hitchcock Presents took a swing at it in 1955.

"Suspicion: by Dorothy L. Sayers was originally published in 1939, and can be found in various anthology books.


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