Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Hitchcock Project-James Bridges Part Ten: Bed of Roses [9.30]

by Jack Seabrook

"Bed of Roses," the last episode with a script by James Bridges to air in the ninth season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, succeeds by improving on a short story that was very good to begin with. "No Bed of Roses," by Emily Neff, was not published for more than a decade after the show aired.

"Bed of Roses" aired on CBS on Friday, May 22, 1964, and the short story was published in the March 1977 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. As the story begins, George Maxwell is sitting in his office when his secretary, Miss Hinchley, tells him that a man is there to see him. It may be a hot July in New Orleans, but the man gave the secretary an envelope containing a sheet of paper that reads, "April 17."

George welcomes the man into his office and learns that his visitor is a cab driver named Jim Kirby who has been looking for George since he dropped George off at the home of Adele Beaumont a year before on April 17, the night she was murdered. Kirby proposes blackmail and George orders him to leave, so the cab driver suggests that he will speak to George's wife, Mavis. Mavis is described as "fat, nearsighted, and shy," the only daughter of Herbert Rothrock, "head of the shipping company where [George] was a clerk." George married Mavis for her money and received a promotion but she became "a possessive, domineering wife" and he sought "warmth and tolerance and companionship" from Adele.

Patrick O'Neal as George
The prior year, on April 17, Mavis had gone to bed early. The garage door was jammed, so George had to take a taxi to visit Adele. He entered her house and found that she had been murdered. In the months that followed, George was never a suspect in the crime.

After Kirby leaves George's office, George goes home early and finds that Mavis is supervising the digging of a rose garden. He tells her about Kirby and she knows he is lying when he claims that he never knew Adele. Mavis insists that they will have to pay blackmail money to Kirby and she has George telephone him and ask him to come to their house that night. When Kirby arrives, he demands $1000 a month. Mavis enters with drinks and a tray, removes a napkin that covers the tray, and shoots and kills Kirby with a gun that was hidden beneath the napkin.

Kathie Browne as Mavis
George and Mavis bury Kirby's body in the hole that had been dug for rose bushes and then plant the bushes above the corpse. Mavis instructs George to drive Kirby's cab to the top of a bridge and drop his cap, wallet and gun over the side to make it look like he jumped. Driving home, George realizes that Mavis must have killed Adele and then nailed the garage door shut to prevent him from visiting the murder scene.

Next morning, George goes to work, only to have Mrs. Hinchley announce that she tape-recorded his conversation with Kirby and wants a raise.

The title of the story, "No Bed of Roses," has a double meaning: George's marriage to Mavis is no bed of roses, and Kirby's body is buried in a bed of roses. The surprise ending is effective but James Bridges takes it one step further in his teleplay. As so often happens on the Hitchcock show, a flashback in the story is moved to the beginning of the show so that the story can be told chronologically. "Bed of Roses" begins on a dark and stormy night as George makes a telephone call but cannot get through to his party. He checks on Mavis and finds that she is fast asleep. The garage door is jammed so he takes a cab to Adele's house. When he gets there, he gives Kirby a twenty dollar bill and tells him to keep the change after Kirby complains that he cannot break such a large bill for a fare that is under two dollars. This exchange ensures that Kirby will recall his passenger.

George Lindsey as Kirby
Stanley Wilson, the music supervisor, makes great use of Bernard Herrmann's theme from "Behind the Locked Door" in these early scenes, the five-note phrase lending a sense of menace to George's discovery of Adele's dead body. The next morning, George reads the newspaper at breakfast and we see the headline: "Show Girl Murdered," referring to Adele. Mavis joins him for breakfast and, in stark contrast to the story but consistent with other adaptations for the Hitchcock series, the unattractive woman described in print is a knockout on screen. James Bridges not only shifts the scenes around but also compresses the time sequence. In Neff's original, the murder occurs in April of one year and Kirby visits George in June of the next year. In the teleplay, the murder occurs one night and the story is in the paper either that morning or the next. Director Philip Leacock adds a nice touch when George spills coffee and Mavis uses the front page of the newspaper to wipe it up, leading to a shot of coffee running over the dead girl's photo like blood.

Torin Thatcher as Alva Hardwicke
Mavis's father, renamed Alva Hardwicke, comes for breakfast and ends up driving George to work, since the garage door is still jammed. On the ride, Alva admits to his son-in-law that Mavis is not "the brightest girl on the block" and says that "man's eye was made to wander." He counsels discretion and warns George about the consequences of hurting Mavis.

The show then picks up where the story begins. Before Kirby arrives, George examines glamorous photos of Adele and reviews a letter that she wrote to him demanding money. She is the first of three people to do so, followed by Kirby and Miss Finchley. In keeping with the New Orleans setting, George and Mavis have black servants--a maid named Celeste and a couple of gardeners.

Instead of Mavis having George telephone Kirby to ask him to come to the house that evening, George meets Kirby in a bar at Kirby's suggestion. The bar scene includes a humorous bit of business with a drunken old woman named Lulu, who has had enough to drink and has to be dragged away. A scene is added that evening where George and Mavis have dinner at home with her parents; they leave by midnight and Kirby arrives. The murder of Kirby is handled quite well. Mavis offers him a molasses cookie (her father had brought them at breakfast time) from the tray that is covered with a napkin. He lifts the napkin to reveal the gun and she shoots him, causing him to fall back onto the pool table. They bury him and, unlike in the story, Mavis takes charge of the shovel and does the job herself. This version of Mavis is a take-charge gal!

Mavis offers Kirby a cookie
George lifts the napkin

Mavis pulls the gun from the tray

Kirby falls back onto the pool table

The trip to the bridge and faked suicide are deleted, perhaps because of the censor's dim view of suicide. Instead, George parks the cab on a dark street and Mavis drives them both home, admitting to having killed Adele and jammed the garage door. She knew all about George's lover but never suspected he might take a taxi when his car was unavailable. The next morning, she brings George breakfast in bed and, for almost the first time in the episode, George smiles broadly, seeming very happy with his murderous and manipulative spouse. "You can blackmail me all you want," she tells him, " 'cause I can afford it when it's you."

Alice Backes as Miss Hinchley
The final scene contains a surprise for those who have read the story. At the office, Miss Hinchley blackmails George but, instead of the story ending there, George invites her to his house for lunch. He telephones Mavis, tells her to get out the molasses cookies and to have the gardener start digging another bed for roses. The implication is clear: George and Mavis will kill again, though Miss Hinchley is unaware of the plan and is happy to be invited to the extravagant home of her boss. Adding this twist at the end of the show improves on the original story, since it demonstrates that George and Mavis are now a team, a New Orleans Macbeth and Lady Macbeth willing to kill any and all comers to preserve their lifestyle and marriage. The irony provides a satisfying conclusion.

The episode moves swiftly and seems shorter than its hour length, mainly due to the capable direction by Philip Leacock (1917-1990). His career began in 1937 with documentary short subjects. He graduated to feature films in 1948 and made his last movie in 1970. His TV career lasted from 1960 to 1986. Unfortunately, "Bed of Roses" was his only work for the Hitchcock series.

Pauline Meyers as Celeste
Patrick O'Neal is rather morose through most of the show as George Maxwell. He began acting in college before serving in the Air Force. He moved to New York to train as a stage actor but began working in TV in 1951, moving into film in 1954. He appeared in numerous TV episodes and films over the next 40 years, including appearances on The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery. He was in The Stepford Wives in 1975. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series.

Stealing the show as Mavis is Kathie Browne (1930-2003), whose career on screen lasted from 1955 to 1980. She was most active on television, including two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and episodes of Star Trek and Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Speaking of Kolchak, Ms. Browne married Darren McGavin in 1969 and they remained married until she died. Their website is here.

Torin Thatcher (1905-1981) plays Mavis's father, Alva. A familiar face in movies and on TV, Thatcher was an Englishman born in Bombay, where his father was a police officer. He got his start in movies way back in 1927 and had an uncredited role in Hitchcock's Sabotage (1936). Other roles included those in David Lean's Great Expectations (1946) and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958). He was on Thriller, Star Trek, and Night Gallery, and he appeared in three episodes of the Hitchcock show.

Though I will always think of him as Goober Pyle, George Lindsey (1928-2012) is quite believable as the greedy cab driver, Sam Kirby. Born in Alabama, Lindsey started in TV in 1963 and was at the beginning of his career when this episode aired. He was seen on The Twilight Zone and in three of the Hitchcock hours, including "The Jar," but his role as Goober on The Andy Griffith Show from 1964 to 1968 defined him. He played it again on Mayberry R.F.D., the follow-up to The Andy Griffith Show that ran from 1968 to 1971, when CBS canceled all of its rural sitcoms, and he would keep playing the part on and off until 1991. Surprisingly, Lindsey was the sponsor of the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival at the University of North Alabama, a festival that just celebrated its twentieth anniversary this year.

Ethel Griffies as Lulu
Three of the actresses in small roles also deserve mention. Alice Backes (1923-2007) appears as Miss Finchley, the blackmailing secretary. Her screen career stretched from 1948 to 1997 and she was in six episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Jar" and "The Second Wife." Pauline Meyers (1913-1996) plays the maid, Celeste. She was on screen from 1938 to 1992 and this was her only appearance on the Hitchcock series, but she stood out in two small but memorable parts elsewhere: first, as Mamalois, the voodoo practitioner in "The Zombie" on Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and second, in her last role, as the witness who needs thick glasses in My Cousin Vinny (1992). Last of all, Ethel Griffies (1878-1975) gets a couple of minutes to have fun as the drunken old lady in the bar scene before she is dragged off. She turned 86 the year "Bed of Roses" aired and had been acting on screen since 1917. Among her many films were Werewolf of London (1935), Stranger on the Third Floor (1940), The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945), and Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), where she plays the ornithologist, Mrs. Bundy. This was her only episode of the Hitchcock series.

The streak of coffee is like blood on the photo
"No Bed of Roses" has not been reprinted and "Bed of Roses" is not available online or on DVD, but it plays in regular rotation in syndication. MeTV is now running The Alfred Hitchcock Hour on weeknights, so "Bed of Roses" should air in the next several weeks.

Sources:
"Bed of Roses." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. CBS. 22 May 1964. Television.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb. IMDb.com. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.
Neff, Emily. "No Bed of Roses." Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. March 1977. 25-39. Print.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.

In two weeks: Return of Verge Likens, starring Peter Fonda and Robert Emhardt!

6 comments:

Grant said...

Apart from this one, the AHH episode I always associate Alice Backes with is CONSIDER HER WAYS. She was very good as one of the doctors trying to bring Barbara Barrie out of her "delusion."
Along with the blackmail at the end, she also flirts with Patrick O'Neal just a little. So in a way, that's TWO ways she doesn't know what she's getting herself into!

Even though I know Macbeth REASONABLY well, I never thought of the resemblance till I read it here.

Jack Seabrook said...

I saw Consider Her Ways many years ago and never forgot it, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it. You're right that she's a little bit flirty in the last scene.

Jack Seabrook said...

Mike, sorry I hit publish on the next post by mistake! The finished product will be along on schedule.

Mike Doran said...

Jack:

No harm, no foul.

If you've got a spare year, I can fill you in about online misadventures of my own.

Cheers from the audience.

Ed Markiewicz said...

Jack Seabrook...I would like to ask you an off-line question. How may I send you an email? I can't seem to find an active link to your email.

This is reference your article of Thursday, February 7, 2013 ref: Maria
http://barebonesez.blogspot.com/2013/02/john-collier-on-tv-part-six-alfred.html?m=1

Thank you in advance for your reply.
Ed Markiewicz
ed@montgomeryrarebooks.com

Jack Seabrook said...

Ed, please email me at jackseabrook63@gmail.com.