James Bridges's second script for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was "The Star Juror," which aired on CBS on Friday, March 15, 1963, It was based on a 1958 French crime novel called The Seventh Juror by Francis Didelot.
Born in Madagascar in 1902 as Roger-Francis Didelot, the author trained and worked as a lawyer but became famous as a writer of novels, plays and non-fiction; he also wrote for radio, television and film and many of his works were adapted for the screen by other writers. The Seventh Juror is his best know novel and, in addition to the adaptation on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, it was filmed in France in 1962 and again for French television in 2008. In 2013, Variety reported that The Seventh Juror was being developed for the big screen again, but to date it has not been released. Didelot died in 1985.
|First edition in English|
News of Lola's murder sweeps through the town and an investigation gets underway. Her boyfriend, Sylvain Sautral, is arrested, and Gregoire finds himself on the list of jurors for the upcoming trial. He becomes determined to prevent Sautral from being found guilty and telephones the defense lawyer to confess to the murder without giving his name. He visits a church in Paris and confesses to a priest, who writes to the judge without revealing Gregoire's identity. He even sends an unsigned letter declaring that Sautral is innocent, but the process of justice moves on and the trial grows near.
|Dean Jagger as George|
|Betty Field as Jenny|
|Will Hutchins as J.J.|
The story is moved from a French town to an unspecified location in the American south and it begins with George (Gregoire) and Jenny (Genevieve) dozing on a picnic blanket. George wanders off, finds Lola and strangles her; she is young, vivacious and clad in a swimsuit, in contrast with Jenny, who is middle-aged, dumpy and snoring loudly. Of course, Lola is not nude, as she is in the novel, but she does flirt with George, offering him a beer. There is a moment of suspense when her boyfriend J.J. (Sylvain) floats by in a rowboat and George cowers behind a bush, but George is able to return safely to the picnic blanket and go back to sleep next to his wife.
|Crahan Denton as the sheriff|
After Lola's body has been found and George is back at home with Jenny, he says that the sheriff is "up to his neck in trouble," ending the litany of neck references. He goes to his favorite beer joint and is accused of being the murderer when he walks in the door, but everyone laughs and it is revealed that each man was accused on entering the room. J.J. is arrested and has a violent fit in his cell, destroying his bedding and requiring George to bring a sedative from the pharmacy. Will Hutchins overacts wildly in these scenes and is much different from the Sautral of the novel, who is philosophical. James Best might have been a better choice for the role. Continuing the theme of having characters say things that mean one thing to George and another to everyone else, J.J. addresses George and states, "You know I didn't kill her." Of course, George knows this all too well but J.J. does not realize it.
|George Mitchell as the judge|
|The sign attached to George's back door|
|Jennifer West as Alice|
George visits the scene of the crime and is tortured by voices in his head accusing him of being a "killer." He visits the sheriff and confesses, to no avail. Meanwhile, young men throw rocks through J.J.'s windows and beat him up before Alice comes outside and fires a gun in the air to scare them off. George visits and prevents J.J. from committing suicide, but in the struggle over the gun George shoots J.J. dead. As in the novel, he is not thought to have been responsible for a second killing, and the show ends with the sheriff telling George that he has been working too hard.
|Katherine Squire as J.J.'s mother|
Starring as George, Dean Jagger (1903-1991) gives a nuanced performance, standing out as the best in the show. He was in vaudeville and on the radio before starting his movie career in 1929 and his TV career in 1948. He won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O'Clock High (1949) and appeared in many films, including Fritz Lang's Western Union (1941). He was also a regular on the TV series Mr. Novak from 1963 to 1965. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series. He also made an appearance on The Twilight Zone.
|Cathie Merchant as Lola|
Will Hutchins (1930- ) was born Marshall Lowell Hutchason and his career on screen lasted from 1956 to 2010. He was a regular on three TV series: Sugarfoot (1957-1961), Hey, Landlord (1966-1967) and Blondie (1968-1969), but this was his only appearance on the Hitchcock series.
|Josie Lloyd as Pauline|
J.J.'s mother is played by Katherine Squire (1903-1995), who was on screen from 1949 to 1989 and who gave similarly odd performances in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Pen Pal" and "Man From the South" (as Peter Lorre's wife). She was also in two other episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and Thriller. Her husband, George Mitchell (1905-1972), plays the judge and was on screen from 1935 to 1973. He appeared in a total of four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "Forty Detectives Later" and "The Black Curtain." Like his wife, he was seen on The Twilight Zone and Thriller; he also appeared in the classic western, 3:10 to Yuma.
|Possibly the tightest pair of shorts|
ever seen on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Finally, George and Jenny's daughter Pauline is played by Josie Lloyd (1940- ), daughter of producer Norman Lloyd. Her brief screen career lasted from 1960 to 1967 and included six episodes of the Hitchcock series.
"The Star Juror" is not yet available on DVD in the U.S. but may be found online at various torrent sites.
In two weeks: "Death and the Joyful Woman" starring Gilbert Roland and Laraine Day!