Alfred Hitchcock Presents seems to have been almost completely, but unfairly, overshadowed by The Twilight Zone. I think I will always prefer TZ, but AHP was an impressive body of work, and deserves more recognition.
First of all, look at the sheer numbers – AHP (followed by The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) ran for 10 years, and produced more than twice as many episodes as TZ. And this was back in the days when a season could run up to 39 episodes. Granted, Hitchcock was not scripting almost a third of his series like Rod Serling, but he did appear on screen in every episode and directed 18 of them. Plus, had a day-job.
Having watched much of the first season pre-blog, I am starting here with Episode 1-32 The Baby Sitter. Two things struck me almost immediately in this episode. First, I don’t know how to spell baby sitter. I would have thought it was one word, but Dictionary.com does not even list it as a noun; neither does Merriam Webster; my Kindle’s dictionary grudgingly calls it a derivative, but clearly is not happy about it. Next week on Grammar-Talk: Can you have 2 semi-colons in one sentence (and is there such a thing as an Oxford semi-colon?)? Second, there is no intro by Hitchcock – a rarity as far as I can tell.
Lottie Slocum is a widow who works as a baby sitter, despite being overqualified to the tune of 40 years (suffice it to say, no websites are being devoted to her). She is played by Thelma Ritter who, 2 years before, had been the comic relief in Hitchcock’s Rear Window (not Raymond Burr, as you might have expected).
The story opens with her being questioned by a detective as she is one of the last people to have seen Clara Nash alive. The detective is clearly frustrated that Lottie seems to be carefully doling out info, relishing the attention gained from from her role in this tragedy. Said role being that she babysat for the victim’s son – she is not a witness, not a suspect, didn’t narrowly escape the murderer, wasn’t caught wearing the victim’s jewelry, etc. Yeah, she saw the victim, but she wasn’t Abraham Zapruder.
Lottie’s even less attractive friend Blanche (Mary Wickes) shows up apparently for the sole purpose of cruelly mocking Lottie’s crush on the late Clara’s husband, soon suspecting that Lottie killed Clara out of jealousy.
Lottie gets a visit from DeMario, the man Clara was cheating on her husband with. A tough guy with dark features, I assume he was intended to be one of them menacing eye-talians. IMDb says the actor Michael Ansara was born in Syria. But I’m not sure anyone in 1956 knew what an Assyrian was as Catch-22 wouldn’t be published for another 5 years. BTW, he went on to play Kang in Star Trek and married Barbara Eden, so he was a hero to American males of all ages even if we didn’t know his name.
DeMario serves a dual purpose. He credibly proclaims his innocence, and Lottie does not seem to suspect him. So, when he warns Lottie not to further embellish her stories, it forcefully emphasizes the fact that she is a nut whose attention-whoring could do some real damage to an innocent man. Secondly, his fling with Clara gives at least 2 people a motive for Clara’s murder. OK, innocent of murder, but not a good egg.
Lottie writes a love letter to Mr. Nash – ya know, the guy whose wife was just murdered – prompting a flashback.
And this unfortunate bit of closed-captioning.
I’ll leave the context to your imagination.
Jeez, it only took one blog post to descend to this level.
Still in the flashback, Lottie is at the Nash home with Mr. Nash when DeMario brings Clara back home after a date. Hunh? Bizarrely, Mr. Nash calmly goes to hide in the bedroom, and Lottie seems to think this is a reasonable reaction for a husband. It doesn’t seem to be fear of DeMario – Lottie writes, “It was nice of you not to want to be present when she came in with that boyfriend of hers.” Hunh? Mr. Nash does not seem to have a full name in the episode. Might I suggest Tobias Fünke Nash.
Back in the present, Mr. Nash shows up. Lottie reveals that she had promised to protect him, by omitting certain facts, such as whether he was there the night of the murder. He burns the letter, then kills Lottie. Not a moment too soon, although I would have burned the letter second.
Not positive about this, but despite a fair amount of screen time, I’m not sure Mr. Nash spoke a single word.
Comeuppance: In Hitchcock’s epilogue, he assures the audience that Mr. Nash got his due as he was killed by a train.
Sadly, not a great episode to start with if my thesis is that the show is under-appreciated.