After the first two Bradbury episodes appeared in quick succession during season one of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the third did not appear until season four, when “Design for Loving” was broadcast on CBS on November 9, 1958. Bradbury wrote the teleplay and adapted it from his own story, “Marionettes, Inc.,” which had been published in the March 1949 issue of Startling Stories.
The original story is set in 1989, a date 40 years in the future at the time of the story’s publication, when one could buy a “ticket for Rio on the Thursday rocket!” Smith and Braling are two men in their thirties, both unhappy in their marriages for different reasons. Braling and his wife do not get along, while Smith's wife is overly affectionate. Braling reveals to Smith that he has solved his problem by purchasing a robot duplicate of himself, one with a ticking sound in its chest instead of a beating heart.
The robot was purchased from a company called Marionettes, Inc., where one may “duplicate self or friends” for prices ranging up to $15,000 for the deluxe model. Braling keeps his duplicate in a box in the basement and takes it out when he wants a respite from the unhappy company of his wife. Smith likes the idea and intends to follow suit until he discovers that his wife has beat him to the punch—the woman lying in their bed has a ticking sound where a heartbeat should be.
At the Braling home, Braling is about to put his duplicate back in its box when the robot rebels, telling Braling that he is in love with his wife and does not want to spend his time in a container. Braling attempts to escape but his duplicate prevents it and tells him goodbye. Ten minutes later, Mrs. Braling awakens to a kiss on her cheek and responds, “you haven’t done that in years.” “’We’ll see what we can do about that,’ someone said.” Not her husband, but someone—leaving open the question of who exactly has replaced Mr. Braling and what his role will be.
Bradbury’s use of the word “someone” in the last sentence adds a sense of menace to the story’s conclusion, which would otherwise end on a note of hope. Recalling the revelation Smith experienced regarding his wife, one is left with the feeling that the future in which these marionettes replace their human counterparts is an uncertain, possibly dangerous one; the robot is said to have “a metal-firm grip” and tells Braling “There’s a lot they don’t know about us.”
The Hitchcock television show, “Design for Loving,” follows the plot of “Marionettes, Inc.” closely, but Bradbury expands the story to fill the half-hour time slot and changes its focus slightly. The show begins with Charles Braling and his wife Lydia (never given a name in the story) sharing an uncomfortable silence in their suburban living room. She works at solving a jangly metal puzzle consisting of three interlocking rings. The puzzle symbolizes their marriage: they are joined together and she cannot figure out how to get them apart or whether she should even try. A contrast is set up immediately with the Smiths when Charles telephones Tom to ask him to meet. Tom and Ann Smith sit together in their living room, Ann paying affectionate attention to Tom, who looks slightly uncomfortable with his situation.
At the Braling house, Charles wants to engage Lydia in conversation and plan travel with her. The lighting on him is ominous, though, suggesting that his intent is selfish. Lydia asks Charles to kiss her hand, telling him she will go anywhere with him if he performs this simple, loving gesture. Yet he refuses, unable to display a token of physical affection that she seems to need. She regrets their lack of children, while he desires a more intellectual relationship. The actors playing Charles and Lydia—Norman Lloyd and Marian Seldes—were 14 years apart in age, suggesting that Lydia married a much older man and now regrets it.
|Marian Seldes as Lydia Braling|
Back at the Braling house, Charles blows a small whistle and his duplicate emerges. The shots where Norman Lloyd appears in both parts are flawless, even when viewed today on a large screen with DVD clarity. Bradbury’s dialogue in this episode is realistic yet eloquent and the actors are completely natural in their delivery. Lloyd’s double in the scenes where we see his back turned to the camera is not as effective as in the trick shots, since he looks slightly taller than Lloyd and his hair does not match well. This was probably not noticeable during the initial broadcast but it may be seen with today’s tools that provide for close scrutiny.
Lloyd demonstrates superb facial and vocal acting skills in this episode. He is portrayed as the villain of the piece, often through ominous lighting choices by director Robert Stevens and director of photography John L. Russell, who often worked with Hitchcock. The televised version is set in a future that looks similar to 1958 America, just with more conveniences, such as the coffee and orange juice spigots that jut out of the wall in Smith’s home. The revelation of Smith’s wife Ann as a robot is not surprising; Barbara Baxley, who plays Ann, is cast in this minor role as the sort of sex kitten she often played on episodes of this series.
|Elliott Reid as Tom Smith|
The robot goes back inside, where Lydia is again playing with her metal ring puzzle, unsure of the status of her relationship with her husband. As he did earlier, Braling grabs the toy away from her, but this time he takes her hand and kisses it, and they drink a toast to their new, loving relationship. Oddly, the conclusion of the television show seems less ominous and more hopeful than that of the published story, as here the robot seems likely to bring the unhappy Mrs. Braling more happiness than her unpleasant husband would have.
|Norman Lloyd as Charles Braling:|
ominous lighting suggests evil intent.
Marian Seldes (1928- ) played Lydia Braling; Seldes has enjoyed a long career on stage and also appeared in films, on television, and on the radio, winning a Tony Award in 1967. This was her only episode of the Hitchcock series.
|Barbara Baxley as Nettie Smith|
Robert Stevens, who did a fine job directing this episode, was at the helm of 44 episodes of the half hour series and another five of the hour series. He won the series’ only Emmy Award (for “The Glass Eye”) and viewing his work as part of the research for this series of articles is providing an education in what a strong director he was for episodic television.
Finally, John L. Russell (1906- ), the director of photography, had that role for 75 episodes of the half hour series, including many of the ones directed by Hitchcock himself. He and Stevens must have been responsible for the careful lighting and superb trick shots in this episode.
The title, “Design for Loving,” is a play on the title of the 1932 Noel Coward play, Design for Living, which was made into a film in 1933 by director Ernest Lubitsch. The play concerns the relationship between two men and a woman; in a sense, that is what “Design for Loving” is about as well, only one of the men is not human.
|Note the orange juice and coffee spigots.|
The radio plays may be heard online here and here; the Hitchcock show is available on DVD and may be viewed online here, and the Ray Bradbury Theatre version is available on DVD and may be viewed online here.
Aggelis, Steven Louis, "Conversations with Ray Bradbury" (2003). Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 1. http://diginole.lib.fsu.edu/etd/1. xxvi.
Bradbury, Ray. "Marionettes, Inc." 1949. Ed. Ray Bradbury. The Stories of Ray Bradbury. New York: Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1980. 159-65. Print.
"Design for Loving." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. CBS. 9 Nov. 1958. Television.
"Galactic Central." Galactic Central. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. <http://philsp.com/>.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. <http://www.imdb.com/>.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Sept. 2012. <http://www.wikipedia.org/>.