Office drone Charley Parkes is slaving away with both hands working his adding machine which is the size of a Thanksgiving tenkey. On his lunch hour he heads over to the museum. Nothing like absorbing a little culture, refreshing your humanity and zest for life. Well, actually he was going to the museum cafeteria. Since the cafeteria was closed he hit the shitter and took in an exhibit.
At the Victorian exhibition he is drawn, as any grown man would be, to a dollhouse. Peering inside he sees a tiny hot piece of ash seated at a piano. As he turns to leave, he hears music. Leaning down to look in the dollhouse again, he sees the doll inside is now actually playing the piano. Fascinated, he asks the guard how they make the doll play the piano. The guard doesn’t cotton to this kind of tomfoolery.
Arriving back to the office late, he finds a note to see the boss. Charley is just too much of a loner, plus he now has this one-time-ever tardiness on his record. So he is let go. Back at home, his mother is outraged. Clearly, he is about as strong and independent as Buster Bluth. His mother turns down his bed, fluffs up his pillows, unties his shoes, makes him cocoa. This is a little strange — according to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, these are things his sister ought to be doing.
The next day, having plenty of time on his hands, he goes back to the museum. He makes a beeline back to the dollhouse. He is momentarily distraught when the doll is not sitting at the piano. However, she makes a sweeping entrance down the staircase and is even met at the bottom by a snappy young maid who she begins to kiss. No wait, now I’m imagining things. As the doll begins playing the piano, the maid lets in a gentleman caller dressed in top hat and tails. Arm in arm, they head out on a date.
The next day, he returns to the museum. Now he begins talking to the doll. The following day, he goes back yet again, this time tailed by his sister. She busts Charlie gazing into the dollhouse. She drags him to a coffee-shop and lays into him about being alone and acting like a child.
The next day, Charley is telling the doll about a blind date his sister set him up on. The gentleman caller shows up again. When the maid protests, he breaks his cane over her head. Wait, what? When the doll sees him, she faints and he carries her upstairs. This is too much for Charley and he claws at the house trying to stop the assault. Finally, he grabs a statue and breaks the glass display case.
Charley’s next stop is at a psychiatrist’s office. This is interesting for two points — the doctor begins by lighting up a cigarette, and Charley is there wearing a robe so he must have been committed. Attempting to convince Charley that the doll is just made of wood, the doctor pulls a box out of his desk and takes out the doll. Charley rubs the doll against his face as tears stream down his face.
The doctor tells Charley’s mother the the constant pressure of trying to be something he wasn’t contributed to his breakdown. He was unable to cope with this world so his mind created another world.
Charley escapes out the window and heads back to the museum. He hides in a sarcophagus until closing time then goes to see his sweetie in the dollhouse.
Really, there is only one way that this story was ever going to end, but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, it was another pretty good episode — where did all the scorn of the hour-long episodes come from? Oh, yeah, sometimes from me in my ignorance. Maybe Charley took one too many trips to the museum, but who cares. It was beautifully written, engaging, and Duvall is always going to be great.
Most surprising were Barbara Barrie as his sister and Lennie Weinrib as his brother-in-law. Both of them took very slight characters and through interesting line readings and minor physical business, created real characters. You know . . . like acting. I’m not usually one to compliment actors, but something about both of them really seemed special.
- Title Analysis: Meh. It is a miniature house, but not really a microcosm of anything. In fact, more of an anti-microcosm: a non-existent world where Charley is comfortable.
- Nine years before Robert Duvall played Tom Hagen in the Godfather.
- Written by Charles Beaumont just 4 years before he died at only 38 years old. Christ, what this guy would have done with another 50 years.