There is an old hymn that goes:
Each day I'll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need;
My life on earth is but a span,
And so I'll do the best I can.
--William Golden, 1918
Golden lived in Mississippi and wrote most of his hymns while serving time in jail. In Andrew Garve's 1960 novel The Golden Deed, Frank Roscoe helps those in need but will likely end up sharing William Golden's fate.
Two years later, The Golden Deed was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour by Henry Slesar and Marc Brandel under the title "House Guest." It was broadcast on CBS on Thursday, November 8, 1962.
Garve's novel is an exciting read. It begins as Sally Mellanby and her children visit the Somerset Coast for a day at the beach. They are accompanied by the childrens' nurse, Kira, an 18-year-old girl from Norway. Tony, Sally's eight-year-old son, paddles his raft too far out into the water. Sally tries to swim to his aid but begins to flounder; a man from the beach jumps into the water and rescues them both. He is Frank Roscoe, an ex-Army man of about 40 who is in the area after having been discharged and who is looking to buy land to start a poultry farm. Grateful for his aid, Sally invites Frank to dinner the next evening.
Frank receives a letter from a Colonel in the Army demanding that he repay a 7000 pound loan and he asks John to give him that amount as a reward for saving the lives of his wife and son. John does some checking and learns that Frank's story does not hold up. He confronts the house guest, who tells him: "I saved your wife and child, didn't I? I did my golden deed, and that's what it's damn well going to be--golden!" Frank threatens to harm Sally and the children if John doesn't pay up. Frank slaps John and George appears, furious. He gets into a violent scuffle with Frank and John hits Frank with a chair, knocking him out.
|MacDonald Carey as John Mitchell|
Four days later, a letter arrives for Frank from a London man named Charles Faulkner, who demands that Frank repay the 7000 pounds he owes or else he will go to the police. Fearing an investigation, John goes to see Faulkner in London and pays Frank's debt. John spends the ensuing weeks feeling terrible until an article in the newspaper reports that the place where Frank's body is buried is scheduled to be the site of a road-widening project. John and Sally resolve that they must dig up Frank's body and move it to a safe place. Under cover of darkness, they dig up and move his suitcase first, barely escaping being seen. Before they can move the body the next night, a storm soaks the area, preventing the deed from being done for a couple of days.
|Peggy McCay as Sally Mitchell|
John and Sally drive away but accidentally encounter Charles Faulkner, who claims to be on holiday in the area. They are suspicious and return to the caravan, where they see George, Eve, Faulkner and Frank Roscoe sitting and chatting together. There is a confrontation and the foursome admit to being con artists. The body in the grave was a dummy. Frank insists that John will not report them to the police because he fears scandal and, to seal the deal, Frank gives John a check for 8000 pounds. John and Sally drive away, with Sally upset at John, until he tells her that he has no intention of letting the crooks get away and that he plans to report them to the police. John and Sally drive home, happy to have nothing to worry about at last.
|Robert Sterling as Ray Roscoe|
The adaptation of The Golden Deed, "House Guest," was written by Henry Slesar and Marc Brandel (1919-1994). Brandel was born in London as Marcus Beresford and was active as a TV writer from 1951 to 1979. This was his only contribution to the Hitchcock series, which suggests that he wrote a first draft and that Slesar was brought in to make revisions.
The TV version is similar to the novel but has some important changes. The setting is moved from the southwestern part of England to the central coast of California, around Monterey. The Mellanbys are renamed the Mitchells and have only one child, Tony. John and Sally own a boys' school and live next door to it. In the beach scene, Roscoe, renamed Ray instead of Frank, is swimming in the ocean when Tony ventures in. Sally is negligent and turns her back on her eight-year-old son, who runs into the waves and quickly finds himself in too deep. Roscoe later reveals that he called to Tony to lure him into the deep water, giving his act of salvation a much different cast than the accidental event found in the novel.
|Karl Swenson as George Sherston|
As the show progresses, the changes become more significant, much to the detriment of the televised version. The scene in the book where George and Frank fight in John's house and John hits Ray with a chair and knocks him out is handled much differently. On TV, Ray tells John and Sally that he wants $20,000 and then goes outside to let them talk it over. They hear a gunshot and rush outside to find Ray on top of George, choking him. John pulls Ray off and they tussle; John punches Ray and he falls, hitting his head on a car bumper and losing consciousness. Having John get into a fistfight with Ray seems out of character for John, especially compared to the way he is portrayed in the novel, where he walks with a limp and is very gentle.
|That's no dummy!|
To streamline the story, the teleplay omits any mention of the burial of Ray's suitcase. John receives the letter from Charles Faulkner, but on TV he is an old sea captain and John visits him in a bar and gives him the check. The last section of the TV show is the most different from the novel. John and Sally never discuss digging up Ray's body themselves, nor do they do a dry run by digging up his suitcase. There is no search for George's caravan. Instead, John drives right up to the caravan, which has not left the area. As John drives away, we see Charles Faulkner peering out of the door of the caravan. This eliminates the need for John to run into him in town.
|Ray reveals that he is alive|
Sally realizes that the whole thing was a trick done to blackmail her and John. Ray plans to kidnap Sally so that she can't tell John about them before the bank opens on Monday and he can cash the $20,000 check that John gave to Faulkner. Just then, the police rush in with guns drawn and arrest the four con artists. John had summoned them without telling Sally.
|Billy Mumy as Tony Mitchell|
"House Guest" is directed by Alan Crosland, Jr. (1918-2001), who did much better work on some of Slesar's half-hour episodes. He directed 16 half-hours and three hours in the Hitchcock series.
John Mitchell is played by MacDonald Carey (1913-1994), whose movie and TV career stretched from 1942 to 1994. He played Detective Jack Graham in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and appeared in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in addition to "House Guest," but he was best known for his long-running role on the daytime soap opera, Days of Our Lives, on which he was featured from 1965 to 1994.
|Adele Mara as Eve Sherston|
Ray Roscoe is played by Robert Sterling (1917-2006). Born William Sterling Hart, his acting career lasted from 1939 to 1986. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show but he was a regular on the TV series Topper (1953-1955), playing George Kerby, "that most sporty spirit."
Karl Swenson (1908-1978) plays George Sherston. His acting career lasted from 1935 until his death and he was frequently seen on episodic TV. He was on the Hitchcock show three times, including Slesar's "On the Nose," he had a small role in Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), and he was a regular on Little House on the Prairie.
His wife Eve is played by Adele Mara (1923-2010). Born Adelaide Delgado, this was her only appearance on the Hitchcock series. She was married to Roy Huggins, creator of Maverick and co-creator of The Rockford Files.
|Robert Armstrong as Captain Charles Faulkner|
Finally, the beloved child star Billy Mumy (1954- ) plays Tony. Mumy was on three Hitchcock episodes, as well as three episodes of The Twilight Zone and, of course, he was a regular on Lost in Space. He maintains a website here and he is still acting, making music, and putting out comic books!
"House Guest" is not yet available on DVD but may be viewed for free online here.
"CTVA - The Classic TV Archive Homepage." CTVA - The Classic TV Archive Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
- Antenna TV is airing back to back episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents nightly and will host a 28-hour marathon this "Hitch-O-Ween"! Check out the daily schedule here.
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- Coming in two weeks: "What Really Happened," starring Anne Francis!