Thursday, January 8, 2004

”Four ways to commit murder…”

Day 7 of “Twenty Days Well-Calculated to Keep You in Suspense.”

You’ll Never See Me Again

Ed Bliss (Robert Young) and his wife Janet (Cathy Lewis) have had their first lovers’ quarrel after only being wed for three months; but the spat is serious enough for Janet to pack her things and leave him, intoning that “You’ll never see me again.” Three days later, she still hasn’t returned—and when he calls her mother (Verna Felton) as to her whereabouts, his mother-in-law has no idea where she is, either…

Originally broadcast September 5, 1946, “You’ll Never See Me Again” is a crackerjack, spellbinding Suspense entry, with a plot guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end. Producer-director William Spier’s script adaptation comes from the 1939 novelette by author Cornel Woolrich who, as has been previously noted, saw over thirty adaptations of his works grace the Suspense airwaves. Modern-day audiences would no doubt be delighted to learn that Woolrich’s work was also a wellspring of creative inspiration for many of Hollywood’s classic noir and suspense films, including Phantom Lady (1944), Black Angel (1946), and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954).

“You’ll Never See Me Again” was an encore performance of a production that had been previously presented on Suspense (September 14, 1944) with “utility man” Joseph Cotten in the lead. (Cotten was used often on Suspense, especially as a last-minute replacement if the scheduled male guest star couldn’t make it.)

I’ve not heard Cotten’s version but I have no doubt that he would be very effective in a part that would capitalize on his memorably villainous turn in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943). But Robert Young equates himself nicely in this 1946 version, showcasing the darker persona that he would later use to great effect in the noir classic They Won’t Believe Me (1947). Once again, he’s backed up by a superb supporting cast—Lewis, Felton, Wally Maher, Bill Johnstone and Joseph Kearns.

About thirty years ago, there was a TV movie on CBS that again used Cornel Woolrich’s novelette as its source material, only this time it featured David Hartman (?), Jane Wyatt, Ralph Meeker, and Joseph Campanella. I started to watch this one time, but never got past the first 10-15 minutes; it wasn’t until years later that I finally found out how it ended, thanks to Suspense.

Hunting Trip

Longtime rivals—they both competed for the affections of a girl named Karen—Stan (Lloyd Nolan) and Eric (Vincent Price) head off for the mountains for a weekend hunting trip. However, Stan has this eerie, unshakable feeling that only one of them will be coming back…alive.

“Hunting Trip,” followed on the heels of “You’ll Never See Me Again,” being originally broadcast September 12, 1946—quite an impressive one-two OTR punch, in my opinion. It went over so well with Suspense fans that numerous requests poured in for the production to be repeated; unfortunately, no encore ever resulted.

Both Price and Nolan turn in terrific performances in this two-man episode, and richly deserved the complimentary gift baskets of Roma (“R-O-M-A”) Wines that they receive from producer-director William Spier at the show’s conclusion. This practice of bribing the big-name talent with the sponsor’s product began with the September 5, 1946 broadcast, according to Martin Grams, Jr.’s Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills. Price is particularly good, and that shouldn’t be too surprising: he appeared in many radio soap operas (Valiant Lady) during his early acting career in New York. Price had a weekly radio gig from 1947-51 playing the part of Leslie Charteris’ reformed-jewel-thief-turned-sleuth Simon Templar in The Saint. He was also one of the few big-name stars to appear on Suspense’s sister series, Escape, including the classics “Three Skeleton Key” (3/17/50) and “Blood Bath” (6/30/50).

Nolan was no slouch to performing before the mike, either; in addition to his work on Suspense he appeared with Claire Trevor in the 1944 comedy-mystery series Results, Incorporated and in the title role of Martin Kane, Private Eye (1951-52) (a part he was also playing concurrently on television). Nolan was at one time the leading contender for the lead on Spier’s other hit series The Adventures of Sam Spade, until Spier’s wife Kay Thompson’s heavy lobbying for actor Howard Duff won him the part.

No comments:

Post a Comment