Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Guest for Breakfast (02/23/58)

ahpguestfor011950s housewife Eve is preparing a breakfast that looks like the buffet at the Hilton — actual brewed coffee, toast, eggs, fresh-squeezed orange juice.  All this is very strange in that Eve and husband Jordan are constantly but eruditely sniping at each other and are on the verge of a divorce.  Why would she go to such trouble for him if the last ingredient wasn’t rat poison?

I must say though, the bickering is pretty entertaining, and well-played in that non-plussed British style where each insult is met calmly with an equally pointed retort. Asses will have no caps busted up them in this fine home.

It is strange, though not problematic, that the style changes dramatically at this point. The first scene is played strictly for deadpan laughs.  Once the intruder arrives, it becomes a farce without the laughs — yet remains comical throughout.  Whether it is a failure or brilliant balancing of styles, you can only answer for yourself (hint: brilliant).

They are interrupted by the doorbell.  A man in a rumpled suit immediately elbows his way inside and pulls out a pistol.  When Jordan comes out of the kitchen and sees his wife with a disheveled stranger, his calm response is, “Well now, this is a highly interesting development.”  He assumes Eve is having an affair, but even when he sees the gun, he very calm.

Chester the intruder demands something to eat.  He says, “The cops are after me.  I killed two people yesterday.  Only the first one counts.  You can figure that one out, can’t ya?”

ahpguestfor02Jordan says, “Yes, I think I grasp the general meaning.”  Well he’s one up on me.  What could that mean?  That it only takes one to make a man a murderer? That the second was a cop in pursuit?

Chester plans to take the car, and Jordan says that is fine as he takes the train to work and dismissively says he really must be going before he is missed at an important meeting.  His refusal to buy into this lethal situation really is a unique take.  When he describes how someone at the office will come looking for him, Chester agrees to let him go and keep Eve as a hostage — which is OK by Jordan.

Eve protests to poor Chester — yeah, I’m starting to feel sorry for him — that Jordan won’t come back, or that he will call the police just so Eve will be killed.  “He’s been trying to get rid of me for a year.  Ask him about Sylvia Lester.”

“Who’s that?” asks Chester.

Jordan says Eve is crazy, Sylvia is just an author he works with.  Eve and Jordan start bickering about divorce as if Chester isn’t even there.  Chester gets fed up and tells Jordan to just call in sick.

After Jordan hangs up, Chester admits that the two people he killed were his wife and the guy she was fooling around with.  So I guess he killed the guy second and he was the one who “didn’t count.”

ahpguestfor03Chester thinks maybe having someone in the car would get him through the roadblocks.  Eve says since Jordan was so anxious to leave, to take him.

Chester says he could do that but would have to shoot Eve to keep her from calling the cops.

So then Eve offers to go with him, surely a couple would not be stopped at a roadblock. Jordan points out that the exhausted Chester will need help driving and Eve doesn’t have a license.  Eve assures him that they would never shoot at a woman. Jordan assures him that he will take turns on the driving.  Both of them are playing to Chester and repeatedly throwing the other under the bus.

Finally, Chester decides to take Eve.  As he is leaving with Eve and preparing to shoot her husband, Jordan reminds Chester that he will need money.  Jordan can get the money for him at the bank — and it’s not a joint account.  He offers to write a check for $500, but only at the bank.

ahpguestfor04Eve rats him out that he keeps that much in a box in the bedroom upstairs.  As they go up the stairs, Jordan tricks Chester into chasing Eve downstairs as he locks himself in the bedroom.  There are more twists and turns as Eve and Jordan continually try to get the other killed.

The ending is sweet even if the last line is cringe-worthy.  This really was a great episode in both premise and performance.

Post-Post:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Two outta three ain’t bad; unfortunately all three are dead.
  • Note all the 1950’s tropes — dutiful wife still cooks a full breakfast for a man she hates, she has no job, she has no license, she is not on the checking account. Maybe Hillary was right, this was slavery.
  • Jordan often looks very much like Phil Hartman.
  • The comical screenplay is by Robert C. Dennis who wrote for such other laugh-riots as Dragnet and Perry Mason.  He also wrote four episodes of Batman, oddly all of them featured King Tut as the villain. Maybe he was working pro-buo…..I can’t even write it.
  • For a more thorough review and background on the players and production, head over to bare-bones ezine.

One thought on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Guest for Breakfast (02/23/58)

  1. When Chester said “only the first one counts,” I took that to mean that he was expecting to be executed for the first murder, so he has nothing to keep him from killing anyone else.

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