Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Graduating Class (12/27/59)

Miss Siddons arrives at Briarstone Women’s College to accept a job offer from her old pal who is now the principal.  After a meet and greet with her friend and the vice-principal, she heads to her first class, European Literature.  The VP expresses doubt, but the P says Miss Siddons has had a tough life.  She lost her mother and father when she was in college.  Then she went to Germany to visit her uncle.  Darn the luck, the war started and she was stuck there for the duration.

When Miss Siddons enters her classroom, the well-groomed, neatly-dressed students turn to face the front, stop yakking, and give Miss Siddons their full attention.  Wait, is this AHP or TZ?  Well, it is AHP’s last episode of the 1950’s. Buckle up Al, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. [1]

Miss Siddons gets right to business as if these students were there to learn.  She humorlessly says, “You will find that I insist on punctuality and on attention.  You will also find that at the end of the semester you will have learned European Literature.”

After class, Miss Siddons is standing at the bus stop looking like Mary Poppins with her flat pork pie hat and valise.  A carload of girls pulls up in Gloria’s car and offers her a ride, which she surprisingly accepts.  She says she was under the impression that the students were not allowed to drive cars to school.  Vera says Gloria is PC.  Wait, what?  Gloria explains that means Privileged Character.  Privileged, really?  These girls women were really ahead of their time.  I eagerly await the scene where they pull down the statue of Jedediah Briarstone.

Another girl explains that Gloria’s family is still at their summer place.  So I guess she really is privileged.  Until they come back to town, she is allowed to drive the car to school.  They offer to take her to the malt shop, but she declines.

She asks to be dropped off at her apartment at the Clifton Arms.  As she is searching for her key, her tubby neighbor across the hall introduces himself as Ben Prowdy.  He invites her to the local bar — she says she doesn’t drink.  He suggests a movie — she says she expects to be busy for several weeks.  Wow, I didn’t get this much deja vu from yesterday’s Curious Case of Edgar Witherspoon.

The next day in class, Miss Siddons lectures, “It is not generally known that the author of the classic European horror story Frankenshtein was the wife of the English poet Shelley.”  C’mon, you lived in Germany for years and you say Frankenshtein?  She writes the name on the chalkboard.  Sadly, before I can see if she spells it with an H, Vera sneaks in late.

Miss Siddons admonishes her for this third violation.  To put her on the spot, Miss Siddons asks Vera if she knows who Prometheus was.  Vera says, “Isn’t it one of those funny little things we studied in Zoology?” which got a laugh out of me.  The stern Miss Siddons tells her, “The ancient Greeks regarded Prometheus as the creator of the human race.”  Vera replies, “I don’t see why we have to waste our time on a lot of people who’ve been dead for hundreds and hundreds of years!”  Rather than cowering, apologizing, asking Vera’s permission to go to the restroom, and ultimately resigning, the teacher calmly explains to the immature student that she has just demonstrated why she desperately needs to be educated.  Well, bravo Miss Siddons, but that’s no way to ever be promoted to Administration.

Gloria catches Miss Siddons in the hall after class.  Apparently, the lecture continued on to cover Shelley’s The Last Man.  Gloria was hoping Miss Siddons had a copy she could borrow. Miss Siddons tells Gloria what a great student she is, and Gloria invites her home to have tea with her mother.  While there, Miss Siddons sees Gloria’s mother is sickly and learns that her father is in Iraq — their summer place in Iraq, I guess.  Although I would picture that as more a winter getaway.

Miss Siddons doesn’t have the book Gloria asked about, but cares enough about her to check out an antique bookstore — the book is the antique, not the bookstore . . . the bookstore won’t last long enough to become an antique.  Ben Prowdy happens by and hits on her again.  She says maybe some other night.  We can tell by her rare smile that she actually means it.  She is startled to see, across the street, Gloria going into an establishment called 7th Heaven with a man.  She tries to follow, but the doorman says, “No ladies allowed without escorts.  You wouldn’t want the club to get a bad name, now would you, lady?”  I think this place will have a shorter life-span than the bookstore.

The next day, Gloria dozes off in class.  After class, Miss Siddons asks her to stay.  Gloria lies and says she was up late taking care of her mother.  That night, Miss Siddons goes to a movie with Ben.  Robert H. Harris is a little bit of a mystery to me.  He is 50ish, short, balding, and shaped like a fat potato.  Yet on AHP, he seems to be quite a success with the ladies in more than one episode.  He is kind of shaped like Hitchcock — maybe it was some kind of wish-fulfillment on Hitch’s part.

After the movie, she and Ben again walk down the only street in the city.  She sees Gloria wearing a fur coat, coming out of 7th Heaven with a man and they start swapping spit.  She explains to Ben why this is so upsetting to her.  They follow the couple to an apartment building where they see them as silhouettes in the window until the light goes out.

Seeing Miss Siddons is upset, Ben says, “Let me take you home.  Young people have different ideas about things today.  What was wrong when we were young — .”  Miss Siddons cuts him off, ” — is still wrong!”  Well, there’s the cost of two movie tickets shot to hell.  Miss Siddons enters the building to slide a note under the door.

The next morning, Gloria comes to Miss Siddons’ apartment, furious at being tracked.  When Miss Siddons explains that she was just trying to protect her, she explains that she is secretly married and the man is her husband. She was afraid the shock would kill her mother, so she was waiting for her father to get back from Iraq where he become used to both shock and awe.

The next day, Gloria is absent from class.  She left a letter that the other girls have already read.  There is a twist, but I’ll stop here.  Not to avoid a spoiler, but because the episode is wearing me out.  It is a little bit of a slog, and I’m not sure why.  Yeah, Miss Siddon is a very proper, stoic woman, but she is a believable character.  Prowdy and Gloria both provide some energy and humor.  It just feels like it is 2 hours long.

Back in November.  Or December, but I really prefer the 30-day months.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Yeah, yeah — the quote is wrong in 3 different ways.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Julie Payne and Gigi Perreau have not graduated yet.
  • Marlon Brando’s sister Jocelyn makes her 2nd AHP appearance, and she is even more poorly utilized here.  AHP has one more chance to do right by her.

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