Sunday, August 9, 2020

ALFRED HITCHCOCK BLOGATHON: Alfred Hitchcock Presents Banquo's Chair, 1959


Good evening. Our friend Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting her 4th Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon on August 8th and 9th, 2020. Click HERE and dive in! 


The 1950s and 1960s were a Golden Age for television anthology series. Outstanding in the field was Alfred Hitchcock Presents which began on CBS in 1955 and concluded its run on NBC as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1965.


Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette and a lugubrious "Good Evening" from our host, Alfred Hitchcock, ushered the audience into surprising stories by clever writers and directors with interesting casts. Our host was featured in funny and punny introductions to imply that he enjoyed the evening's entertainment as much as the audience.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents was the recipient of several awards and nominations from the Golden Globes, the Primetime Emmy Awards, the Directors Guild of America, the Edgar Allan Poe Awards and the Writers Guild of America.

Rupert Croft-Cooke's 1930 one-act play Banquo's Chair had been adapted for the radio program Suspense and aired first on June 1, 1943, with a cast which included Donald Crisp and John Loder (Sabotage).

BANQUO'S CHAIR, 1959
Season 4, Episode 29
Aired May 3, 1959

Written by Francis M. Cockrell, Banquo's Chair was the final of 18 episodes Cockrell contributed to the series. Other television credits include Perry Mason, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, and Batman. Among his films, you will find Dark Waters, Rhubarb, and Inferno.

Our host, Alfred Hitchcock, the acclaimed director of 58 feature films directed this episode, one of 17 he directed from 1955 to 1961.

The Cast

John Williams as Inspector Brent, retired Scotland Yard
Kenneth Haigh as John Bedford, a one-time murder suspect comes to dinner
Reginald Gardiner as Major Cook-Finch, dinner host
Max Adrian as Robert Stone, actor and dinner guest
Hilda Plowright as Mae Thorpe, an actress with a character to play
Tom Dillon as Sergeant Balton, back-up
George Pelling as Lane, competent butler


Alfred Hitchcock

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to darkest Hollywood. Night brings a stillness to the jungle. It is so quiet, you can hear a name drop, but the savage beasts have already begun gathering at the waterholes to quench their thirst. Now, one should be especially alert. The vicious tablehopper is on the prowl and the spotted backbiter may lurk behind a potted palm. In order to reach the scene of tonight's story, our little safari must now move inexorably and incomprehensively from smoggy Hollywood to foggy London. Fortunately, we make the side trip through the pure, exhilarating air of commercial television."


Reginald Gardiner, Max Adrian, John Williams

Retired Scotland Yard Inspector Brent has invited himself to dinner at the home of Major Cook-Finch. Two years ago this very night in 1901 the home the Major was able to purchase on the cheap was the site of a grizzly murder. The elderly Miss Ferguson was strangled, as was her Pekinese. The main suspect, her nephew and sole heir John Bedford had an unbreakable alibi. Now, Mr. Brent has a plan to solve the one unsolved case on his record.

Kenneth Haigh, John Williams, Reginald Gardiner, Max Adrian

Along with Bedford, the actor Robert Stone will be one of this select group of diners. Mr. Brent makes arrangements with the household staff as to the serving of the meal and the control of the gaslight. A local police sergeant is on hand. An actress named Mae Thorpe is made up to resemble Miss Ferguson. A barking dog is also part of the plan. It is a very theatrical dinner that the former Inspector Brent has arranged this evening.

Max Adrian, Kenneth Haigh, John Williams, Reginald Gardiner

Time passes pleasantly with talk of the Inspector's retirement, and the Major's recent travails which led to a broken arm. Robert Stone, the professional actor at the table fulfills his role magnificently with comments and jokes on the state of the theatre, its playwrights, its critics, and its audiences.

 
Kenneth Haigh

It is a stormy night and the front door is blown open and, per the Inspector's instructions, the gaslight dims. Bedford becomes strangely silent and moody. He has been situated to see "Miss Ferguson" in the next room silently accusing her murderer. As the rest of the party carries on oblivious to the wraith, Bedford is driven to the point of divulging his guilt.

John Williams, Hilda Plowright

The sergeant arrests John Bedford and the remaining three congratulate each other on the success of Mr. Brent's ploy when Mae Thorpe, dressed as Miss Ferguson enters and apologizes for being late. She has only just arrived.

Banquo's Chair is not a little play to puzzle out. When the title references a Shakesperean spectre, the audience knows where the story is going. It is not the shock of the ending, it is the satisfactory journey to that ending where we find pleasure in the polished entertainment.


Of note:


John Williams and Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Dial M for Murder. Their other collaborations are The Paradine Case, To Catch a Thief, and ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.












24 comments:

  1. What a terrific cast! I admire John Williams - in my eyes, he cannot give a bad performance.

    I like what you said about a satisfactory journey to the end of the story. An audience doesn't always need a shocking/surprise ending, as fun as those are, but we do want a satisfying one, in my opinion.

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    1. Indeed. Take us along on the ride, share the joy of the entertainment.

      John Williams is sublime. He got me to buy my first classical albums.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP9u_7eSlTQ

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  2. A fun episode. I do love me some John Williams, he just elevates every film and TV series he appears in. I wish Hitch had used him more often in his films. Thanks for joining me to celebrate the man of the hour, Paddy.

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    1. Thanks for hosting again this year, Maddy.

      In this case, with Hitch and J. Williams, it is the men of the hour.

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  3. One of the movies that I remember JOHN WILLIAMS from is WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? with TONY RANDALL and JAYNE MANSFIELD. The last movie John did was the DISNEY movie HOT LEAD AND COLD FEET. (I have never seen that movie even though the delightful DON KNOTTS is in it.) John plays a character named MANSFIELD.

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    1. I haven't seen the Rock Hunter movie in a long time. It is scheduled on a local channel in the next week. Maybe I'll have time to take a look.

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  4. This is possibly the best of John Williams’ episodes. As you noted, he was frequently on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I’m currently working my way through the entire series again and am two-thirds complete with the second season!

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    1. You spend your time wisely.

      I spent Sunday with a Peter Gunn marathon. We "marathon" in our family; no bingeing.

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  5. Paddy Lee, I hope you are doing well. What a wonderful and enjoyable write-up of one of my all time favorite anthology series. Why was it so good, well you explained why and it is worth repeating. "surprising stories by clever writers and directors with interesting casts. Our host was featured in funny and punny introductions to imply that he enjoyed the evening's entertainment as much as the audience." Yes, indeed and of course Alfred Hitchcock himself, as you say, "ushering in the audience."

    I think credit should be given to the writer who wrote all of those Hitchcock introductions, intermissions, and epilogues that Hitchcock delievered so drolly and masterfully. James B. Allardice was one of the best comedy writers at work during the 1946-66 movie and TV era that we all enjoy so much. Go over to IMDb and take a gander at his credits. Thank you James B. Allardice.

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    1. Thank you for filling in what I neglected in the wonderful work of James B. Allardice. Like the fun episodes, it is a treat to watch and rewatch the introductions.

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  6. Great to have a review of one of the better Hitchcock TV episodes. I remember watching them as a teen and enjoying them so much. I haven't started watching the series yet but that's something on my list to do.Thanks for this review Paddy.

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    1. Thank you. With so much to enjoy from that era of television, I'll be in my next century before I can catch up with today's.

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  7. One of the writers for the two shows that ALFRED HITCHCOCK had was HENRY SLESAR. He was the head writer on THE EDGE OF NIGHT from 1968 to 1984. Henry also wrote for CAPITOL, ONE LIFE TO LIVE and SEARCH FOR TOMORROW. The Edge Of Night was different than a lot of the soap operas back then. The show had some unusual stories(dealing with crime) for a soap.

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    1. Henry Slesar is a favourite of mine. I continue to collect his short stories and novels, and revere the memory of The Edge of Night. His stories for Hitchcock on television and in the mystery digest always had a perfect twist.

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  8. Almost like watching it again! Great choice to revisit.

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    1. Thanks so much. It was great fun to share Banquo's Chair.

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  9. I always enjoyed The Alfred Hitchcock Show episodes. Like The Twilight Zone, they were literate, witty, well-acted, and sometimes had a malicious sense of humor. I'm surprised when I hear of 1950s television referred to as a 'great wasteland,' when if offered such series as these.

    I recall the Banquo's Chair episode, which, as you point out, does end obviously, but seems so APT. And what a quartet of actors Hitchcock assembled for it! I think that says something for the quality of this show.

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    1. Yes. Quality is the watchword. There is an immediacy in the creativity of the best shows of this era that draws me to them.

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  10. ARLENE DAHL is 95 today! She is the mother of LORENZO LAMAS. Arlene has been married to her sixth husband since 1984. RHONDA FLEMING turned 97 yesterday! Rhonda has also been married six times. However, she is a widow from her last two marriages. Arlene and Rhonda-two lovely redheads! I mentioned before that I saw Rhonda in two eps of WAGON TRAIN. I saw the one about Indians and the color one where she played an entertainer. The color one had CYNTHIA PEPPER as her daughter. I saw Rhonda in GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL also. Arlene used to be involved in the beauty and fashion industries including perfume.

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    1. Rhonda and Arlene co-starred in a crime drama called Slightly Scarlet in 1956. Both ladies with their beauty and red hair looked gorgeous in the Technicolor feature. John Payne was the guy worth fighting over.

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  11. LORI NELSON turns 87 today! She worked with AUDIE MURPHY in two movies-TUMBLEWEED and DESTRY. She was in one of your "comfort" movies-BEND OF THE RIVER. It was her first movie and her character was paired up with ROCK HUDSON. Lori also got to work with BARBARA STANWYCK in ALL I DESIRE. Lori was a lovely actress.

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    1. I most recently watched Lori in Underwater!, 1955 opposite Gilbert Roland, Jane Russell and Richard Egan. A treasure hunt filmed in Technicolor that was entertaining.

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  12. Wonderful post! I especially love "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". If only all half-hour shows could have 25 quality minutes of programming as this anthology series did. "I will keep my eye out for "Banquo's Chair", and may have to break down and buy season four on DVD! Thanks again!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words.

      It is a comfort (especially if there has been a sale) to have physical media you can reach to when you need it.

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